Why Does My Water Heater’s Pilot Light Keep Going Out?

Getting the cold shoulder from your shower? You’ve discovered it’s because your water heater’s pilot light has gone out…again. You keep lighting it, but it does not want to stay lit.

So, what’s the problem?

There are two common sources.

1) Problems with the thermocouple
Usually, a problem with the thermocouple causes the pilot's light to go out.

The thermocouple is the small copper rod that the pilot light hits. The thermocouple’s job is to shut a gas safety valve if the pilot light goes out.

That’s important because gas is always being supplied to the pilot to keep the flame lit. But if the pilot flame goes out, then the gas would still be released. After a while, the gas could collect in your home and become a health hazard.

However, if there’s an issue with the thermocouple, the safety valve will shut even if the flame is still lit.

Use the schedule service button to get back in hot water!

Common thermocouple problems include:

a) Dirt/soot on the thermocouple– Any buildup on the thermocouple can block the flame, preventing it from being properly heated. To fix this, wait for the thermocouple to cool down and gently clean it with a wire brush or sandpaper.
b) Thermocouple is bent– The gas valve will shut if the thermocouple is bent away from the flame where the flame can’t reach it. Wait for the thermocouple to cool down and bend it back.
c) Damaged thermocouple– If the above two aren’t the problem, the thermocouple may be malfunctioning and needs replacing.

2) Dirty pilot opening
A dirty pilot light opening (called an “orifice by HVAC contractors) will cause the pilot flame to become a wavy yellow flame. This flame isn’t hot enough and can’t properly heat the thermocouple.

Wait for the pilot light to cool and use a needle to remove anything blocking the pilot opening. The flame should now be a steady blue cone.

Need help from an expert plumber?

Ask our water heater experts for advice if this article didn’t solve your problem.

Mr. Plumber provides quality service for all of your metro Atlanta plumbing needs.

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