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The Basics of Pilot Lights in Your Home Heating Appliances

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So what is a pilot light, anyway? As a pilot guides a plane, a pilot light guides a flame: a pilot light is a small flame that is used to light larger burners in various heating appliances, such as in furnaces, gas stoves, water heaters, and drying machines.

Pilot lights have evolved from the standing models which would keep lit constantly, to electronic models that ignite only when the appliance signals a need for heat generation. Both models serve the same functions and can be relit using the same general guidelines.

Every pilot assembly contains a thermocouple, which is used as a safety feature for both standing and electronic types. The thermocouple works by sensing heat from the pilot burner- when heat is detected, the main gas valve is opened.

If no heat is present, the thermocouple will shut down the main gas valve to the burners in order to prevent gas from building up. When this occurs, your pilot light needs to be reignited in order for the furnace to produce heat. If you find that your pilot light has gone out or will not ignite, it may be an easy fix that you can accomplish without waiting for a pro.

Pilot lights are fundamental to heating appliances. If the pilot light is inoperable, the appliance cannot create heat. We receive many calls from customers who have no heat in their home due to their pilot light malfunctioning, but again, this could be an easy fix.

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How To Do It

Though reigniting a pilot light can be a simple task, be sure that you are properly equipped to complete it. You will need a barbeque lighter for its longer reach, and should have a proper source of light.

While there are many kinds of furnaces out there, the concept of reigniting a pilot light can be carried over to most of them.

flame info graphic

If That Doesn’t Work…

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If that doesn’t work, give it a few more shots. It might need more than one attempt to get going, depending on why it went out in the first place. If you still don’t find it to remain lit after multiple tries, call us – we’d be happy to help.

We hope you found this article helpful and informative. For more great information on HVAC systems and how they work, visit our Education Centre.

Written by Ryan Tutak

Ryan is considered one of Calgary's most knowledgeable residential HVAC specialists. Working in the industry for over 12 years, he's helped thousands of homeowners with their heating and cooling systems. Outside of running Calgary's most reputable HVAC business, you can find him on the Golf course practicing his short game or traveling with his family. His main goal is to create a positive collaborative culture, one in which his employees are excited to come in and are motivated to work hard. He spends the majority of his day working directly with Home Comfort Advisors, Service and Maintenance Technicians, and Customer Service Representatives ensuring they are fully prepared to lead the Home Service Industry in Customer Service.
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