How to Light a Water Heater With Electronic Pilot?

Is it not working properly or not working at all? We will tell how to ignite it and what to do if the problem is really serious

Written by Camilla Moln. Updated on How to Light a Water Heater With Electronic Pilot

Water heater is a must have appliance in any home since it provides us with warmth in our rooms, as well as makes it possible to take a shower in the morning or relax in a hot bath after a stressed working day. And of course, we would not be able to cook even a tiny toast without this device!

However, sometimes it can happen that our electronic water heater becomes impossible to ignite. The pilot light may not burn at all or it can just flash for a few seconds and then go out. But why is this happening at all? What makes your device act this way? And is there a way to bring the pilot light of your electronic water heater back to life?

In this article, we did our best to research on this issue to be able to provide you with the most detailed information regarding the smallest details that might be handy for fixing this flaw.

How to Light a Gas Water Heater With an Electronic Pilot?

If you are absolutely sure that your gas water heater has an electronic pilot light, then, in order to light it up, you will have to go through several easy steps. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a gas specialist to be able to do it on your own!

So before you begin, you need to locate the gas control assembly. It is a box that is usually attached near the bottom of your unit. It also has a rotating control knob or dial, igniter button, status window, wiring, and also a gas line attached.

So, in order to light up the electronic water heater, make sure you do the following actions one by one exactly in the order we put them for you:

  1. If your water heater does have an electrical wiring for a fan or other function, make sure that the circuit is on.
  2. Now, turn the gas valve to the “on” position if needed.
  3. Rotate the gas control knob or dial to the “pilot” position.
  4. Depress the gas control knob. Then, hold it down while completing the next step.
  5. Now you need to press the ignition button approximately once per second. Keep on doing this until you see that the status light begins to blink every few seconds. When you see this, it means that the pilot of your water heater is lit. The whole process will take you not more than sixty seconds from the beginning till the end in a newly installed unit.
  6. Once the pilot light is lit, turn the gas control knob to the “hot” position or a hotter setting, if this is what you prefer. Now you only need to listen or look for the gas burner to fire. How do you know that the pilot is lit? Well, you will see its blue flame through the small observation window.

This is the all-purpose instruction on how to light your electronic water heater pilot light. In most cases, it will work perfectly, but sometimes, you might experience the situation when your water heater still does not fire! Don’t panic, we know what you can do to save the situation!

How to Light a Gas Water Heater With an Electronic Pilot
Credits: Minerva Studio, via

Extra Tips For Fixing Your Electronic Water Heater If It Doesn’t Light

So, if your electric water heater still doesn’t want to fire up no matter how you try, we can suggest you make use of one of the two extra recommendations to make it work again. Like this, you will always have additional solutions on how to light a pilot light on your electric water heater.

  • Sometimes it happens that the pilot light will go out even before you manage to turn the knob to one of the water temperature settings. The reason is that the thermocouple has not heated sufficiently! If something like this happens, we recommend you wait for ten seconds, and then adjust the gas control knob from pilot to the temperature setting.
  • In case the repeated attempts to light your water heater and its pilot light were all in vain, the only thing you can do is to look for a small reset button. Usually, it is located at the base of the appliance and has wiring that leads to it. So if your electric water heater has one, press it and hold it for five seconds. Then, retry the whole process.

With all that in mind, you became aware of how to light a water heater. From now on, you will be able to act correctly and light your electric water heater on your own if its pilot light goes out.

Extra Tips For Fixing Your Electronic Water Heater If It Doesn’t Light
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What Are the Reasons For My Electric Water Heater Pilot Light Malfunctioning?

Apparently, when something is not working, it is already broken or it is approaching this moment. When your electric water heater refuses to ignite its pilot light, there is definitely something wrong with it, you just need to find out, what exactly.

There are several possible reasons why an electronic ignition water heater won’t light. So if you have been having trouble with it for a while, check out the list we prepared for you below. Maybe, you will find the explanation there:

  • The pilot lights on water heaters may go out because of the loose wires
  • The appliance may not be getting enough power
  • Its thermocouple can be damaged
  • There might be a bad control valve

To find out which one of them is your case, we recommend you start with lighting your water heater more than once. If you have an intermittent appliance, then you will have to ensure first that its pilot is lit before turning it on. And remember that pilot lights can take a few attempts until they get lit.

Also, you will have to wait a few minutes in between lighting your heater. See, the gas will need to disperse, and only then will you be able to try it again.

However, even after you tried so hard, the water heater you have still doesn’t want to ignite properly and its pilot light still goes out, then grab the set of screwdrivers, a socket set, and a multimeter, and head off to crusade against the breakage!

Only remember to turn the gas off for safety reasons before you start repairing the appliance.

How To Light A Gas Water Heater Pilot LightHow To Light A Gas Water Heater Pilot Light

Check It For Loose Wires

The igniter usually has multiple wires that go to it. And it happens quite often that these wires or some of them become loose. As a result, there might be problems with the igniter getting power.

So what you need to do is to inspect the igniter for any bad wiring and, if there is any indeed, you will most likely have to resolder the wire or ask a professional to reattach it for you.

Also, please keep in mind that, whenever you are working on a hot water heater, it must be unplugged, and the gas must be turned to the off position for safety reasons!

And if you are not sure about what you have to do, better call for a service professional. Better safe than sorry.

Check It For Loose Wires
Credits: Alena, via

Is the Voltage You Are Getting Correct?

If everything is fine with the wires, then move on to the next possible problem which is voltage. See, the cause for your issue may be that the appliance is not getting proper voltage! For instance, if you are getting too much of it, over 125 VAC, it can make your igniter fail. Make use of your multimeter to test how much voltage is going to the igniter.

Normally, the majority of new electric igniter water heaters will have a control board. This board will throw a code in case there is a problem with the voltage. It also uses blinking lights for identifying which code has been just thrown.

To find out which of the blinking lights and codes are causing the problem with your heater and igniter, you will have to check the user’s manual (if you didn’t throw it away by accident!). In case you determine everything is fine with the voltage, then move on to the next variant.

Is the Voltage You Are Getting Correct
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Thermocouple Might Be Damaged

And if it is damaged, that might be the reason why you can’t start your heater. The thermocouple is needed for detecting the pilot flame. In case it is damaged or not working properly, you will not be able to light the pilot up by pressing the igniter.

Why can it happen? Well, your thermocouple might just be loose, or, in a more serious case, it might need a replacement or fixing.

First of all, check whether its connection to the control valve is tight enough. If it is, then there is another cause for this problem.

But if you feel that there is indeed some slack, tighten it to correct the issue.

Otherwise, you might have a bad thermocouple on your hands. Test it by using a multimeter. Just unscrew the thermocouple from the control valve, and set the device to read millivolts. If the reading is less than 25 millivolts, then it is bad.

Thermocouple Might Be Damaged
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Control Valve Is Bad

Finally, the valve itself can be the problem. If this is the issue, call a professional since this breakage must be fixed by a licensed person. Most likely, the valve will have to be replaced.

How Do I Troubleshoot My Water Heater?

Whenever you experience any problems with your water heater, you will have to do some troubleshooting and testing anyway in order to diagnose the issue correctly. In some cases, it might just be an easy minor fix, for instance, a loose wire. But sometimes, things may turn out to be way more serious. For example, a bad thermocouple might be a source of problems.

Of course, if this is something easy to fix, you will be able to cope with the issue on your own. However, the more complicated problems will definitely need a professional’s attention! For instance, you might need to call a licensed plumber.

We do ask you to adhere to our advice: anything that uses gas in your home, needs to be worked on by someone who is licensed! If you see that the problem is way too difficult for you to deal with it alone, or you can’t find the problem yourself, don’t hesitate to call a licensed service professional in terms of safety first of all!

How Do I Troubleshoot My Water Heater
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Types Of Electronic Ignition Water Heaters

There is more than one type of electronic ignition water heater, and to be able to better understand how yours is operating, you need to figure out first which type you have.

  1. Induced draft water heater
  2. Condensing water heater

Well, to be short, an induced draft water heater is a type of appliance that makes use of a small fan for drawing the combustion gas from the combustion chamber. This type of water heater uses an intermittent pilot light or hot surface ignition instead of a regular standing pilot light.

Another type of electronic water heater we mentioned is a condensing water heater. This one uses two heat exchangers. When the gas is burned from the primary exchanger, the second one draws heat from the exhaust. Then, the secondary exchanger cools the gas vapor until it transforms into water.

So, in order to be able to properly address the issues with the igniter, you need to first figure out whether you have a water heater that uses an intermittent pilot, or a hot surface ignition.

So, now you know all the reasons why your water heater pilot light may not be working. Also, since we have provided you with the complete guide on what flaws to search for in order to detect the breakage, you can now surely define the reason for the issue and act correctly to fix it.

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐ How much does it cost to repair a water heater?

The average cost may vary from 200 to 900 dollars.

⭐ What’s the warranty term for an electric water heater?

Electric heaters may be covered for 3, 6, 9 or 12 years.

⭐ Do hot water heaters come with a warranty?

Most brands give six years tank and six years parts warranty.

Written by
Camilla is an experienced Consultant with more than 20 years of preparing professional articles for numerous online resources. She has done a tremendous job and has learned a lot during her career. Camilla will advise you on the latest trends and give amazing tips on how to decorate a house.
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How To Light Pilot On Water Heater.How To Light Pilot On Water Heater.