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How to Light a Water Heater With Electronic Pilot in 6 Steps

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

how to light a water heater with electronic pilot

Is this your first time owning a gas water heater with sophisticated controls? Not knowing what to do can give you the creeps, fearful you might break your newly bought unit. Learning how to light a water heater with electronic pilot can build the confidence you need to operate your device.

This guide runs you through the step-by-step process of lighting a gas water heater’s electronic pilot mechanism. After preparing the water heater, comes the act of turning, pressing, holding and dialing certain buttons one by one. Hopefully, you will feel more confident after this tutorial.

Let us start.

Table of Contents

Things You Need for This Tutorial


Lighting a water heater pilot light is not as challenging as it sounds. It also does not require any special tools to get the water heater up and running. However, there are essential requisites to getting this procedure executed splendidly and safely.

Water Heater Owner’s Manual

I cannot help overemphasize the importance of a water heater owner’s manual in any activity related to the water heater’s operation, maintenance, and repair. Most of us often ditch the document as soon as unpacking the water heater.

The owner’s manual gives you the precise location of the gas control assembly, where you will find the electronic pilot light. The description can also come with drawings and specifications for the various parts or components.

You will know the location and operation of the water heater’s temperature control dial, the pilot light control knob, and the ignition or spark generator button. You might also learn your water heater has a pilot light indicator light and how to interpret different lighting modes.

These pieces of information are beneficial in fast-tracking the pilot lighting process, allowing you to enjoy your hot water with no seconds to lose.

Tools or Materials

The only tool you will ever need for this activity is a gas leak detector if you want to ensure your water heater’s gas supply line does not have any leaks. Of course, a more practical solution is soapy water by combining a few drops of water and liquid soap.

If you detect a gas leak, I recommend postponing the activity until you resolve the issue. Hence, you might need a wrench and PTFE tape to ensure an airtight seal at the gas connection. Otherwise, an HVAC expert might be necessary.

Steps to Lighting a Water Heater With an Electronic Pilot


Step 1. Prepare your water heater.

Locate your water heater’s gas control assembly. The majority of gas water heaters have their control mechanism near the tank’s bottom. You will also see several components, including a rotary control knob, a pilot light status window, and an igniter button (some people call it the spark generator).

The gas control assembly should be near the port connecting the gas line to your water heater. You might also see wiring for the electronic pilot system.

Start by turning on the gas valve.

Step 2. Adjust the water heater’s temperature setting to the lowest possible level.

Locate the water heater’s temperature control knob and turn it counterclockwise (to the left). Set the dial to the lowest possible temperature level.

The temperature control system impacts gas flow. The higher the temperature setting, the more gas the water heater uses to raise the water temperature.

Unfortunately, high gas flow can make lighting the water heater dangerous because of the increased risk of flare-ups.

Step 3. Turn the control knob or dial to ‘pilot.’

To light a gas water heater with the electronic pilot, locate the pilot light control knob in the water heater gas control assembly. Most water heaters have the word ‘pilot’ inscribed on the dial. You should also see an arrow on the control knob.

Turn the pilot light control knob to the ON position. This action allows the water heater to release small amounts of gas to the pilot light tube, ready for ignition.

Step 4. Press and hold the pilot button.

As mentioned, turning on the pilot light control knob allows gas to pass into the pilot tube. However, the valve at the tube’s tip is not yet open. That is why you must depress the pilot button next to the control dial.

This step is short and quick and is almost simultaneous with the next phase.

Step 5. Press the ignition control button or spark generator.

With your fingers holding down the pilot button, press the spark generator button (also called the ignition control button) to ignite the pilot light.

Press the igniter button once every second, although some experts recommend doing this step once every ten seconds. You might want to consult your owner’s manual for the precise ignition attempt frequency. This action may take about a minute or so if you have a brand-new water heater.

You should hear a ‘click’ when you press the spark generator button to light an electric water heater pilot light. You can also check the status indicator light. If it constantly blinks every two to three seconds, you know that the electric pilot light water heater is ready.

Peer through the pilot light observation window and check a blue flame. If you see it, you can proceed to the final step.

Pro Tip: If you do not see a blue flame, there is a good chance you have air in your gas line. You might want to press the igniter button once every ten seconds while holding down the pilot light control button. This action should purge the air from the gas line.

Step 6. Adjust the water heater’s temperature settings to the preferred temperature.

Continue pressing the pilot light control button for about 20 to 30 seconds or until you have a steady blue flame through the observation window.

You can adjust the water heater’s temperature setting to the desired level once you ascertain flame stability. Most people dial it up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, although 105-degree water is already pleasant.

You might want to listen to your water heater as the temperature increases.

How2Plumb prepared a video for everyone, showing how effortless it is to light a water heater pilot. The short film is slightly different from what I described here, but the general steps are essentially the same.

Some Professional Tips for Lighting a Water Heater With an Electronic Pilot

Always observe safety precautions when lighting a water heater pilot with an ignition mechanism. It would be wise to remember you are working with combustible gas. I recommend checking your water heater for any gas leaks first before igniting the pilot light.

You can use a gas leak sniffer for this purpose.

If you prefer the old-school method, you can make a soapy solution and apply it over the gas connection. Bubbles in the area suggest a possible gas leak. You might want to retighten the gas line connection.

It would also be best to check the gas connection for a thin and yellow PTFE tape. This product provides a good seal, similar to Teflon tape for water connections. If the sealant is absent, you might want to disconnect the gas line, wrap PTFE tape around the thread, reinsert it, and retest for gas leaks.

If none of the solutions worked, you might want to forego the pilot lighting and instead call a professional to fix the issue.

Do not attempt to manually light a water heater with the electronic pilot. You might see YouTubers performing stunts, such as igniting the pilot light with a barbecue lighter or a matchstick.


Learning how to light a water heater with electronic pilot is as straightforward as pressing a few buttons. However, I advise you to observe the necessary safety precautions to make your water heater use more worthwhile.

I am confident you found this guide beneficial in building your confidence in operating a gas water heater. I am certain your friends and acquaintances will also love to learn about this process. Would you mind sharing this tutorial with them?

If you have comments, questions, or any feedback, you are welcome to hit me up anytime.

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