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How to Light a Gas Water Heater

by Paul Sanders

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Grey gas water heater in a basement

Things You Need:

  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Long matches
  • Flashlight

Homes that use propane or natural gas water heaters have a continuously burning pilot light, which the water heater uses to ignite the gas and heat the water. If the pilot light goes out or if you turn off your water heater for an extended vacation, you'll need to know how to re-light the gas water heater pilot light. Below are some simple instructions for lighting the pilot on most gas water heaters.

Lighting a Water Heater Pilot:

  1. Turn off the gas supply to the water heater. When your hot water heater pilot light is out, a small amount of gas is still flowing out of the pilot tube, so you'll want to stop the flow before continuing. The gas control-knob will typically be placed toward the bottom of the water heater tank, with the gas line leading into it. Turn the knob to the "off" position. Wait for a few minutes for any gas to dissipate.

  2. Remove the pilot cover. The panel covering the pilot light is usually at the bottom of the water heater tank. You may need to use the pliers or a screwdriver to remove the panel and expose the pilot light.

  3. Locate the pilot tube. Using your flashlight, look for the end of the pilot tube. That is where the flame will appear when you light the water heater.

  4. Light the pilot. Turn the gas control-knob on your water heater to the "pilot" position. Light a match and hold it near the end of the pilot tube while simultaneously holding down the "reset" button, which is next to the control knob. Once a flame appears at the end of the tube, remove the match and hold the button for about 60 seconds. Then release the button.

  5. Turn the gas back on. Turn the water heater's gas control-knob to the "on" position and adjust the temperature control-knob to your desired water temperature.

  6. Replace the panel. Place the cover back over the pilot light panel and reattach any screws.

Gas Water Heater Warning:

  1. If you turn off the gas knob and you still smell gas after several minutes, stop and call a professional to inspect your water heater for leaks.

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