Most people are familiar with the term ‘pilot light’ when it comes to furnaces – once quite common, pilot lights only exist in older heating units. Newer furnaces use electronic ignition systems featuring a hot surface ignitor. If you have an older furnace that does have a pilot ignition system and the pilot light goes out, the right troubleshooting steps can help you solve this issue. Rusk Heating & Cooling shares what to do if your pilot light goes out so you can get your heat back on, and fast!

If You Have a Pilot Light Out

Having a pilot light out is a fairly common issue, which can be the result of various system issues. Sometimes, simple troubleshooting can get your pilot light back up and running quickly, while other times an extinguished pilot can be a symptom of a larger furnace problem. 

No matter what, if your pilot light is extinguished, your furnace won’t be able to burn fuel to create heat. Getting it back on again is a priority, especially in the middle of winter. If you have a pilot light out, here’s what you should do:

1. Give Your Furnace a Break

Once you notice the pilot light is out, it’s time to give the unit time to cool down. Close the gas valve to stop fuel from entering the furnace, and turn off the pilot assembly. A wait of about 30 minutes should be sufficient to allow any free gas to dissipate – this way, it will not ignite as you attempt to relight the pilot, which can be dangerous.

2. Relight the Pilot

Once the rest period is over, you can follow the instructions in your furnace’s owner’s manual that explain how to relight the pilot. If you do not have that information on hand, here is the general process:

  • Locate the reset switch on the pilot light assembly. This component is often near the bottom of the assembly, with a knob that has settings of ‘pilot’, ‘on’, and ‘off’.
  • Turn the reset switch to ‘pilot’. This will allow gas to flow to the pilot assembly. 
  • Press the reset button inward as you strike a lighter or light a match. Hold the flame to the pilot opening while keeping the reset switch depressed. 
  • Once the pilot light burns steady, you can release the reset button.
  • If your pilot light continues to go out, check for drafts in the area that could be extinguishing it. Eliminate drafts and try to relight it again.
  • If the pilot light won’t stay lit, it’s time to call for professional repairs.

What Could Cause the Pilot Light to Go Out?

As mentioned above, drafts are one reason for a pilot light to go out, but often it’s an issue with another part of the furnace system that is to blame.

  • The thermocouple’s job is to detect the pilot’s flame. When there is a pilot light out, the thermocouple closes the gas valve in order to prevent a gas leak. A malfunctioning thermocouple may misread the presence of a pilot flame and mistakenly shut down the furnace.
  • Dirt and debris can fall into the pilot tube, blocking the pilot from operating correctly. If your pilot won’t stay lit, try to clean out the pilot tube opening, removing any debris with a small needle or pin.

Furnace Repair in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati

If you have a pilot light out that you just can’t get to stay relit, call Rusk Heating & Cooling for help. Our furnace repair technicians will make the repairs you need to get the heating system back on track right away.