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Why Does My Pilot Light Keep Going Out?

Heating control on a heater with a damaged pilot light.

There is nothing worse than attempting to take a warm shower and suddenly realizing you are only getting freezing cold water out of the showerhead. If you’re experiencing this issue, it’s likely because your hot water heater’s pilot light is going out. 

There may be several reasons why your hot water heater pilot light is experiencing complications. It can be as simple as a wind gust in your home, or it could be something more serious, such as a bad thermocouple.

It’s important to identify the source of the problem and find a solution to it. Let’s explore why your hot water heater pilot light keeps going out and how to solve the issue.


What is a Pilot Light? And What Does it Do?

Gas and propane-fueled hot water heaters use a small flame to ignite the burner. This small flame is called a pilot light, and it should stay lit at all times. When you run the hot water faucet, the water heater needs to heat the water within the tank, so it ignites the gas burner with the help of the pilot light. 

Think of the pilot light like a match. Without a match, you won’t be able to start a fire. The same is true with a pilot light. If the pilot light goes out, your water heater won’t be able to ignite the gas burner, and therefore, won’t be able to heat your water.


What Causes a Pilot Light to Go Out?

There are multiple reasons for an extinguished pilot light. Here are some of the most common:

  1. Change in gas pressure: It’s not uncommon for your pilot light to go out if there’s a natural change in gas pressure. Although it won’t happen often, it does occur, and relighting the pilot typically resolves the problem.
  2. Draft: A burst of air may extinguish a pilot light. Since the pilot light is simply a small flame, it can easily be blown out if the heater is located in a drafty area.
  3. Thermocouple: The thermocouple’s primary role is to act as a safety device by shutting down the gas valve should the pilot light go out. If your heater’s thermocouple begins to malfunction or is bent or dirty, it may be extinguishing the pilot light even if everything else is functioning properly. If you are experiencing this issue, it may be time to replace the thermocouple.
  4. Lack of air: Water heaters require air to safely operate. If your unit is located in a closet or other area where it doesn’t have access to oxygen, the pilot light may not stay lit. If this is your situation, we highly recommend calling the Cates team to help you with troubleshooting. This situation has the potential to be dangerous, as it could lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide in your home.


Call Cates

Water heaters are responsible for providing your home with the hot water you use daily. The experts at Cates Heating and Cooling can help with any issues surrounding your hot water heater, including an extinguished pilot light.

Cates Heating & Cooling is a family-owned and operated company with one goal in mind: Quality Technicians Providing Exceptional Service. We understand you have many jobs in your daily life — Work, family, and social responsibilities consume your time. Worrying about comfort and having hot water isn’t something you need added to your long list!

Contact us today if you’re having hot water heater troubles! 

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