How To Light a Furnace Pilot Light

What You'll Need
You'll want to have these tools on hand to check the pilot light:
  • Matches
  • Fine wire

The pilot light on a gas furnace can go out because of drafts. To relight the pilot, follow the manufacturer's instructions exactly; they are usually fastened to the furnace. If instructions for relighting the pilot are not provided, follow this general procedure:

Step 1: Find pilot light assembly. It typically has a gas valve with on, off, and pilot settings.

Step 2: Turn valve to off and wait three minutes.

Step 3: Switch valve to pilot setting. Hold lighted match to pilot opening while you push reset button on pilot control panel. Keep this button depressed until pilot flame burns brightly, then set valve to on position.

Step 4: If pilot flame won't stay lit, opening may be clogged. Turn gas valve off, and clean opening with piece of fine wire. If it won't stay lit after several attempts, you may have faulty thermocouple. If pilot flame still won't stay lit, call professional service person.

Some furnaces have an electrical system to ignite the gas; in these systems there is no pilot light. Instead, an electric element heats up and ignites the burners. If this electric ignition system malfunctions, call a professional service person.

If the pilot light won't stay lit, the thermocouple -- a safety device -- might be malfunctioning. Learn how to replace this component on the next page.

For more articles on home repair, check out the following links.
  • Furnace Maintenance: Save yourself time and money by learning the steps to keep your furnace in prime condition.
  • Major Appliance Repair: If the furnace isn't the only thing in your house on the fritz, you can learn how to fix other machines in this article.
  • Small Appliance Repair: Once you've tackled the furnace, a toaster or blender seems like child's play. Find out how to fix them here.
  • Thermostat Maintenance: To make sure there's actually a problem with your heating system, you may want to check the thermostat, too. Learn how to calibrate a thermostat.

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