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How to Relight a Water Heater Pilot Light? – 4 Easy Steps

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

how to relight a water heater pilot light

Some homeowners, especially first-time users of gas-powered water heaters, are clueless about how to relight a water heater pilot light.

Their concerns are understandable. After all, the pilot light is a critical component of any gas-fired water heater. Without the pilot light, the gas water heater’s burners will not ignite, leaving the water in the tank ice cold.

Thankfully, relighting water heater pilot light is not rocket science. And we will share quick steps to get your water heater back on track.

Table of Contents

Step-by-step to Relight a Water Heater Pilot Light

What to prepare


You might need a few materials to restart a pilot light on water heater units:

  • The owner’s manual
  • A screwdriver
  • A torch and gas stove lighter

Step 1. Determine your water heater’s igniter type.


One of the most crucial steps homeowners must undertake to check pilot light on water heater units is to determine the ignition system type.

  • New water heaters come with igniter mechanisms that work intermittently. These pilot lights only light up as needed (i.e., when you need to turn on the burner). Once the burner is fully operational, the pilot light turns off.
    Hence, you will never worry about relighting the pilot light if you have this system in your water heater
  • Some brands use an electric device to heat a small metal probe. When the metal strip gets hot enough, it ignites the gas flowing through the burner. There is a variant of this technology delivering sparks to the burner, igniting it.

We recommend reading your owner’s manual to check what kind of ignition system it has.

  • For instance, if your appliance has a built-in igniter, the only steps you will do are to access the panel and press the igniter or reset button.
  • On the other hand, if your water heater comes without igniter, you will need a stove lighter to relight the pilot light.

Step 2. Identify the water heater’s pilot light.


Check your manual for the pilot light’s precise location.

Loosen and remove the access panel. Flip it over to read the pilot light relighting instructions. Most brands have this guide on their panels.

Familiarize yourself with the water heater’s setup. Check the gas valve and look for a small tube sticking out. This piece is the pilot light.

Next to the pilot light is the thermocouple, an equally important device with safety implications.

You might also see an electronic igniter button that produces a spark to ignite the pilot light when pressed. If you do not see this component, be ready with a stick lighter or a match to relight a hot water heater.

Step 3. Relight the pilot light.


  1. Hold the gas valve and turn it to the right and into the OFF position. Note that some water heaters use symbols for this. Hence, reading your manual helps.
  2. Wait five minutes to ensure there is no gas in the system or allow residual gas to dissipate into the environment.
  3. Twist the gas knob to the PILOT position. Your water heater might have a “spark” symbol instead of the word “Pilot.”
  4. Press and hold the gas knob for about half a minute. Next, press the ignition button repeatedly for 40 seconds while still pressing down on the gas knob.

Use a stick lighter if your water heater does not have an igniter.

This action should light up the pilot light. If it does, do not remove your hand from the gas knob for an extra 20 seconds.

You can release the gas knob after about 40 seconds. Check the pilot light for a blue flame, a sign that lighting a pilot light on a water heater is successful. Twist the gas knob again and position it to ON.

Repeat Step 3 if the pilot light does not stay lit.

Step 4. Finish up.

Check the thermostat and adjust it to your desired water temperature.

Assess other elements if you missed anything. Replace the access panel and wait for the water heater to finish heating the water.

Why Does a Pilot Light to Go Out?


A defective or failing thermocouple is the most common reason why a gas water heater pilot light goes out. This tiny device “senses” if a pilot light is lit and stops gas going to the water heater if it detects otherwise.

You can look at the thermocouple as a safety device. It prevents natural gas or propane from reaching the burner if the pilot light is unlit. Unfortunately, damage to this gadget can inhibit the pilot light from lighting up.

Strong winds, drafts, or airflow can also blow out the pilot light, requiring homeowners to relight pilot light on water heater.

A dirty pilot light is another reason why a water heater pilot won’t light. Obstructions in the tube that supplies gas to the controller can also lead to pilot light issues.

Also read: Ways to light a pilot water heater.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do electric water heaters have a pilot light?

Please do not laugh when somebody asks you how they could reset pilot light on electric water heater units. They might be misinformed or confuse a water heater with electronic pilot light mechanism for an electric water heater.

Only gas-powered water heaters have a pilot light. However, some water heaters have an electronic igniter to create an electrical spark and turn on the pilot light.

What does the “pilot,” “on,” and “off” labels on the gas regulator knob mean?

You might notice these three labels on the gas regulator knob when turning pilot light on water heater.

Here is what each means. On indicates gas goes to both the pilot light and the burner, allowing you to use the water heater. Meanwhile, off” is self-explanatory. No gas flows to either component (pilot light or burner).

If you see “pilot,” it means gas flows to the pilot light but not the burner.


Learning how to relight a water heater pilot light is an easy four-step process, starting with identifying the igniter type in the water heater.

The succeeding steps require accessing the pilot light, turning the gas knob to PILOT, and pressing the igniter. And if your water heater does not have an igniter, a stove lighter can come in handy.

You can relight the pilot light within minutes, allowing you to resume enjoying hot water with your family.

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