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How to Light Hot Water Heater Without Igniter? – 5 Steps

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

how to light hot water heater without igniter

How to light hot water heater without igniter safely and effectively is an essential skill for any homeowner with a gas water heater. Although modern heating appliances feature electronic ignition systems, they could still fail and leave your family at the mercy of cold showers.

All isn’t lost, however. You can still ignite the gas burner when the automatic igniter is not working. We will show you five effortless steps to address this issue and regain control over your hot water experiences.

Let’s begin.

Table of Contents

Step-by-step to Light Hot Water Heater Without Igniter


What to prepare


You only need a screwdriver, a BBQ lighter stick (or wand), and an abundance of safety precautions to manually light water heater units.

Sniff the air within the water heater’s vicinity for a “rotten egg” odor. Please abort this task if you smell a sulfur-like scent, as this indicates a gas leak. Call a professional instead. While waiting for them, open all doors and windows so the gas can escape, then leave the room at once. DO NOT light matches or lighters during this time.

In addition, lean close to the gas tank and listen for a hissing sound—another telltale sign of a gas leak, even if there’s no sulfur smell present.

Detailed steps

Starting water heater units with a non-functioning electronic igniter isn’t as complicated as some assume. Although the task involves several steps, the procedure is straightforward.

Step 1. Assess the issue.


You might want to ensure the pilot light is out before proceeding further. This component won’t have its characteristic blue flame (or no flame at all) if the water heater igniter won’t spark.

  1. Bend and look at the water heater’s bottom. You should see a glass panel if you have a new model.
  2. Look through the glass and ensure there’s no flame in the burner or the pilot light.
  3. Look for an access panel on an old water heater.
  4. If there are any screws on the access panel, remove them and check the pilot light is lit.

Step 2. Check the water heater owner’s manual.


Modern appliances (including water heaters) are hassle-free to operate, making some owners believe there’s no need to read the manual. Such might be the case when running a device. Folks start looking for answers when they encounter a problem. If only they read the User Guide.

Manufacturers provide detailed instructions on troubleshooting issues, including relighting pilot light on water heater units.

  1. Go to the manual’s table of contents and search for the page about “relighting a water heater.” Alternatively, you can check the index, if any.
  2. If you don’t have the owner’s manual, check your water heater’s wall or side for a large sticker with technical information. Most manufacturers detail the instructions on this panel.

Step 3. Access the pilot light and prepare for manual ignition.

Newer water heater models also have an access panel to reach the pilot light when the electronic ignition water heater won’t light. The owner’s manual should detail the instructions.


  1. Look for a box on the water heater’s side. It has a knob (the gas regulator valve) on top, a gas supply line on the side, and a temperature dial at the front.
  2. Rotate the temperature dial to the lowest possible setting.
  3. Twist the gas regulator knob until its arrow points to the “OFF” mark to cut off the gas.
  4. Leave the water heater for 5-10 minutes to ensure complete residual gas dissipation before proceeding to the next step.
  5. With the access panel open, determine the pilot light’s position. It’s a small tube jutting out from a platform originating from the gas control valve. You may need a flashlight to see the pilot light and its immediate surroundings better.

Step 4. Ignite the pilot light.


You’re ready to execute the manual ignition of water heater units.

1. Turn the gas regulator knob so that its arrow points to the “Pilot” mark.

2. Press and hold the ON/OFF knob to initiate gas flow to the pilot light tube.

Check the “box” for a red button if you cannot depress the knob. Press and hold this button.

3. Get your BBQ lighter stick or wand (or any long-stemmed lighting device) and position the tip near the pilot light’s end.

4. Click the lighter to ignite and send a flame to the pilot light. Please keep holding down the button or knob while doing this step.

5. Check to see if the pilot light has a flame. Repeat the above step if there’s still no flame.

6. With the pilot light lit, continue depressing the regulator knob or red button for 20-60 seconds to heat the thermocouple.

Pro Tip: Please don’t use a cigarette lighter or a matchstick because the water heater’s pilot light compartment is a tight fit for the hand. You might hurt yourself.

Step 5. Replace the access panel and finish up.


You’re almost done with water heater lighting without igniter. The following steps complete the task.

  1. Continue assessing the pilot light flame, ensuring it’s not flickering or dying out after a minute.
  2. Release the red control button or gas regulator knob and evaluate if the pilot light doesn’t die out.
  3. Reposition the pilot light access panel onto the water heater and secure it with screws (if any).
  4. Rotate the gas regulator valve until its arrow points at the “On” mark.
  5. Twist the temperature dial to your preferred setting. This action ignites the water heater’s main burner and raises the water temperature.
  6. Put the plates back into position and choose your desired water temperature.

Troubleshooting Tips if the Hot Water Heater Still Won’t Light


Suppose you executed all steps for relighting the pilot light, but it still doesn’t light. In that case, we offer the following troubleshooting tips.

  • Check the room for drafts or gusts of air that might blow off the pilot light. You might want to close windows and turn off wind-producing devices.
  • Suppose the pilot light has a flame but dies after releasing the control button or regulator valve. In that case, you might be looking at a defective or dirty thermocouple. Although you can replace a thermocouple DIY-style, we highly recommend a professional.


You can share this easy five-step process of how to light hot water heater without igniter mechanisms with your relatives, friends, and acquaintances, and make a difference in their lives. It’s a practical approach to regaining control over your hot water activities.

Of course, we recommend a professional assessment and diagnosis if these steps don’t make the pilot light stay lit. Other issues can cause the igniter, pilot light, or thermocouple to fail. Licensed plumbers can help you identify the underlying cause and suggest the best solution.

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