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syz's avatar

I need help with my hot water heater - the pilot won't stay lit!

Asked by syz (32847 points ) January 21st, 2010

My (less than 2 year old) hot water heater quit working last night and we figured out that the pilot light went out. We got it lit this morning and it was still running when we left for work. I came home tonight and the house is freezing (our heat system runs off hot water). I can get the pilot lit with the electronic trigger, but when I ease up on the button and try to turn it from “pilot” to “on”, it goes out again. I’ve been in the garage struggling with this for 20 minutes now. Any ideas?

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11 Answers

njnyjobs's avatar

You probably need to hold a light (meaning, fire on a match stick) to the pilot tip to help it heat up. Usually, cold pilot tips don’t stay lit. Also, check for cross draft around your heater that may be blowing out the light.

Additionally, If you’ve followed all the directions, step-by-step, on lighting the pilot and it still does not light after, or will not stay lit, then you probably have a problem with the thermocouple or an adjustment needs to be made to the pilot.

EmpressPixie's avatar

This is going to sound lame as hell, but have you tried calling customer support? We found the CS for my friend’s hot water heater to be really amazing even over the phone when hers refused to stay lit.

Blondesjon's avatar

9 times out of 10 this means the thermocouple in your water heater has gone bad. You need to replace it before your pilot will stay lit. The part itself is a $12 part but most companies will charge you upwards of $200 to come out and fix it. If you know someone handy ask them to put it in for you. I would, but you are a pretty long drive from where I am.

Ask your customer service rep to give you the part number for your particular water heater’s thermocouple and you should be able to find it at any major hardware or plumbing outlet.

wilma's avatar

Could it be the thermocouple thingy?
I had to change one of those once because my heater wouldn’t stay lit.

syz's avatar

@EmpressPixie I’m embarrassed to say, I can’t find my paperwork.

@njnyjobs This model doesn’t allow you access to the interior – it’s all electronic. I let it warm up for ages and it still wouldn’t catch.

@Blondesjon Well, crap, I was afraid it was going to be something like that.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@syz Her’s was a really crappy, ancient apartment heater. We just looked at the brand and looked up the phone number from there. Did I mention we were surprised that this worked? Because it was super surprising, but it did.

njnyjobs's avatar

@syz If that is the case, then check this out: Replacing a Furnace Thermocouple or Electronic Flame Sensor http://homerepair.about.com/od/heatingcoolingrepair/ss/thermocouple_replacement.htm

wilma's avatar

Oh see there, @Blondesjon posted while I was posting. Yes, you might find someone to do it for you.
I had instructions from my dad while I got down on the floor and changed it.
If I can do it most people could.

ubersiren's avatar

This just happened to us, and I can’t imagine yours being the same problem, but- our clothes dryer duct came loose and was blowing air (and flammable lint!) right onto the pilot light. If you have any air ducts close by, it would be worth checking out.

alamo's avatar

Try cleaning the thermocouple.It uses heat to produce a small current(milliamps) that tells the gas valve the pilot is still lit. Turn gas valve off, remove access panels and it’s the small round tube that the flame touches when lit. Sometimes lint or dirt can get burned onto the thermocouple. A very fine grit sandpaper will not hurt the it in my experience. This is a good temporary repair.

syz's avatar

Bad news update:

It’s not the thermocouple – it’s been replaced and it’s still not working. Apparently, it’s some sort of bad valve that has to be ordered, so no heat or hot water until Monday.

Thanks for your help, guys.

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