How to Light a Pilot Light on a Furnace in 8 Simple Steps

A pilot light is a small flame that burns continuously inside gas appliances like a water heater or gas furnace. It is used to ignite the main burner. The typically small gas burner is ignited by a match or a spark and will remain lit as long as the gas supply to the appliance is sustained. 

The main purpose of a pilot light is to serve as a safety feature in gas heating appliances. It allows the operator to confirm that there is a steady gas supply and the gas is burning correctly. 

The pilot light going out either means that the appliance is faulty or there is an issue with the gas supply. If there are any issues with your pilot light not working as intended, it’s best to contact River Valley for a repair call to address the problem ASAP.

However, some newer models of gas appliances have replaced the pilot lights with electronic ignition systems in a bid to improve safety as well as energy efficiency. 

Steps to light a pilot light on a furnace

Before lighting a pilot light, follow the first rule of dealing with gas appliances – follow safety precautions and exercise caution at all times. Moreover, make sure you have read through the instruction booklet provided by the manufacturer of the specific furnace model before you start lighting the pilot light on the furnace. 

With that said, here’s the basic steps to light a pilot light on a furnace.

  1. Turning off the furnace: First, turn off the furnace by switching the thermostat to the “off” position even before you attempt to light the pilot light.
  2. Locating the pilot light: Look for a knob that is on a small gas valve. There should be three settings on the knob – “on,” “off,” and “pilot”. In most gas furnaces, the pilot light is typically located near the burner assembly. 
  3. Turning the knob to “off”: You must ensure that the gas is off and there is no lingering gas left to dissipate. This can be done by turning the gas valve knob to the “off” position and waiting for at least five minutes.
  4. Switching the knob to “pilot”: After five minutes, simply turn the gas valve knob to the “pilot” position and press down on it. At the same time, use a match or a lighter to ignite the pilot light while holding the knob down. 
  5. Holding the knob down: Once done, don’t let go just yet. Continue to hold down the knob for about 30 more seconds after you have lit the pilot light. This is done to let the thermocouple – a safety device to detect the presence of a lit pilot light – heat up and send a signal to the gas valve to remain open. 
  6. Releasing the knob: After 30 seconds, you are free to release the knob. After this, the pilot light should ideally stay lit. However, in case it doesn’t, you need to repeat the process. A tip would be to ensure the knob is held down long enough to heat up the thermocouple.
  7. Turning the gas valve to “on”: Once you have successfully lit the pilot light and it seems stable, it’s time to turn the gas valve knob to the “on” position. This would make the furnace heat up and produce warm air as it naturally does.
  8. Turning on the thermostat: At the very end, turn on the thermostat and set it to the desired temperature. Also, let the furnace run for a few minutes to ensure it is working correctly.

These general steps should help you out, even though the process can vary slightly depending on the specific model of your furnace. After you have followed through with the steps, if the pilot light still does not stay lit or if you smell gas, you must turn off the gas supply immediately. 

It’s highly recommended to contact a qualified professional to inspect and repair your furnace in such cases.

What are the benefits of using a Pilot Light?

There are several pros to using a pilot light, including:

  1. Convenience: The pilot light remains burning once lit properly. This eliminates the need to manually light the appliance before every use.
  2. Safety: A well-lit pilot light is a strong indicator that the gas supply to the heating appliance is functioning correctly. It also helps determine the absence of gas leaks which can otherwise be a safety hazard. 
  3. Reliability: A pilot light is a highly reliable ignition source. It also acts as a great way of ensuring that the gas appliance can be started with safety and ease whenever you need it.

If you’re having difficulties with your pilot light and need professional assistance, don’t hesitate! Contact us today and see why River Valley is your best option for furnace and HVAC related help!