If the igniter of your water heater won’t spark, your water heater won’t work properly, and you may need to replace the spark electrode. Let’s see what steps you should take when facing this issue, whether it is identifying the problem or replacing a part.
Depending on your water heater, it may use an igniter to light the gas. When you push the pilot switch on a gas heater and click the igniter button, a spark should ignite the pilot. If the pilot flame doesn’t light after clicking the igniter, you must check if a spark occurs inside the pilot.
Pressing down and releasing the piezo igniter should produce an electric spark to light the primary gas burner in the water heater. The electrode should release a spark when pressing the piezo igniter. However, if the spark electrode won’t produce a spark, it is most likely defective and requires replacement.
We will guide you on how to troubleshoot the issue of your water heater igniter not sparking and explain possible solutions. Additionally, we have provided a list of other common water heater pilot light problems and how to solve them.
What Is a Pilot Light and How Does it Work?
The pilot light is a tiny device in your water heater that provides the flame to light the gas that comes out of the gas valve and the main burner. In some water heaters, the pilot light burns continuously while using a small amount of gas, regardless of whether the water heater is running. When heating is required, the gas control valve discharges gas into the primary burner, and the pilot light ignites the gas.
In addition to lighting the gas burner, the pilot light also heats the thermocouple, generating a small amount of electricity to keep the electromagnetic valve inside the gas control valve open. This ensures that the gas flows smoothly. If the pilot light is not present or gets blown out, the thermocouple will cool, stop generating electricity, and cause the gas valve to close, shutting down the unit.
Most modern water heaters do not have standing pilots anymore. Instead, they use electronic ignition or a spark igniter to ignite the gas.
Water Heater Igniter Won’t Spark
The pilot flame should have a spark inside it when you use the igniter to light it. If there is no spark, the problem could be with the spark electrode. But there are other issues that could cause this, such as:
- A clogged pilot line. Check for any dirt or debris and clean or replace the line as necessary.
- A faulty piezo igniter. This igniter creates a spark that ignites the gas in the main burner. If there is no spark, the entire igniter may be at fault.
- Loose wire connections. Ensure that all wire connections are securely tightened.
- A broken electrode. The electrode releases the spark when the igniter switch is pressed. If it’s broken or faulty, there will be no spark, and you’ll need to replace the electrode.
- Carbon deposits or grime on the pilot light. Use a dry cloth and sandpaper to clean the tip of the electrode and remove any debris, rust, or dirt.
Video: How to Fix if Water Heater Igniter Won’t Spark
Water Heater Pilot Light Won’t Light
If you have a spark but the pilot light won’t light up, it indicates that gas is not flowing to the pilot. The possible causes for this issue are:
- The gas valve on the gas supply pipe may be closed. To fix it, ensure that the valve is open by making sure that the handle is parallel to the pipe.
- The thermocouple might be damaged or faulty. The thermocouple is responsible for detecting the pilot flame, and if it doesn’t detect any flame, it stops the ignition process, and the burner won’t light.
- Low gas pressure or a defective gas control valve can lead to the pilot light frequently going out. If you suspect this is the issue, you’ll need to contact a water heater repair expert or your gas company for assistance.
- Air in the gas line. If your water heater is newly installed, there might be air in the gas line. To solve this problem, hold down the pilot knob for a little longer to expel the air from the line.
How to Light a Gas Water Heater Pilot Light
If you have an electronic ignition system on your gas water heater, you should not attempt to light it by hand. The method for properly lighting a pilot light varies depending on the type of water heater you have. Therefore, you should always consult the instructions provided by the manufacturer. However, the most common procedure for lighting a gas water heater pilot light is as follows:
- Adjust the thermostat to the lowest setting.
- Turn the control knob to the OFF position, and if required, push it down to switch from Pilot to OFF.
- Wait for a while to let the gases clear from the lines.
- Turn the knob back to the Pilot position.
- Hold the gas control knob or pilot set button and simultaneously press the piezo igniter. You should hear a “click” sound, which indicates that the spark has ignited the pilot.
- After the pilot light is on, continue holding down the pilot switch for a minute to let the flame heat up the thermocouple.
- Release the knob, and it should pop back up.
- Turn the control knob to the ON position.
- Set the thermostat to the desired temperature.
Keep in mind that the process may vary a bit depending on your water heater’s make and model. Always refer to the instructions to safely and accurately light your pilot light.
Pilot Flame Keeps Going Out
The pilot flame frequently goes out on water heaters, which is another common issue. If this happens to you, the vent of your pilot flame is most likely dirty and/or clogged. This causes the pilot flame to be small and unsustainable. Check for any visible dirt or debris that could be obstructing the pilot and clean it as needed.
If, on the other hand, the pilot light goes out right after you light it, you need to reset the door switch or high-limit reset switch. This switch is located by looking at the door at the bottom of the tank. Simply push the switch and listen for a click. Then, proceed with lighting the pilot again, following the steps outlined above.
When the pilot light still won’t stay lit, it is usually due to a faulty thermocouple. You can replace this component yourself at a low cost or consider hiring a professional to ensure it is installed correctly.
Troubleshooting Pilot Flame Visually
You can visually inspect your pilot flame to determine if it is functioning correctly. This simple inspection can help you identify any potential issues with the flame and allow you to correct them, restoring your water heater to proper working order.
- If the pilot flame is burning bright blue, the pilot is healthy and working properly.
- If the flame appears yellow, it could be a sign of inadequate airflow, a dirty pilot tube, or incomplete gas combustion.
- A flickering or wavering flame usually indicates the presence of a draft.
Flames that appear red, yellow, green, or any color other than bright blue are an indication of the presence of other substances in the gas mixture that are burning alongside methane. Such substances may include rust, oil, grime, dirt, or excessive air within the system. When burnt, these elements can emit harmful chemicals, making it necessary to seek immediate repair services.
Any color of flame other than bright blue indicates that other substances in the gas mixture are burning with methane. These substances can include rust, oil, grime, dirt, or excessive air within the system. Combusting these elements can result in the release of toxic chemicals, and it is essential to arrange for immediate repair services.
Can I manually light my gas water heater?
Lighting a gas water heater manually is only possible if it lacks an electronic ignition system. To achieve this, first set the water temperature dial to Low and the On/Off/Pilot knob to Pilot. Next, press down the On/Off/Pilot knob with one hand and hold a barbecue lighter with the other. Position the lighter over the end of the pipe by the burner, and this should cause the pilot flame to ignite instantly.
Why does my pilot light keep going out on my gas water heater?
The primary reason why the pilot light on a gas water heater tends to go out repeatedly is due to a damaged, dirty, bent, or faulty thermocouple.
How do you know if you have a defective thermocouple?
If the pilot flame goes out after you’ve held in the gas control knob for the recommended 20 to 30 seconds and released it, it’s a clear indication of a thermocouple malfunction.