The Ultimate Guide to Troubleshooting a Gas Furnace’s Pilot Light

furnace pilot light

If you’ve ever woken up to a cold house to find yourself shivering in the sheer lack of heat in the home, your furnace and its pilot light might be malfunctioning. Maybe you’ve woken up, wondering why someone in your family lowered or shut off the heat only to learn that your heat is failing altogether because of a faulty pilot light.

If your furnace’s pilot light went out it won’t be able to ignite the gas to heat your home. This can be a frustrating, uncomfortable experience for everyone living in your house– especially during the colder months when you rely on your furnace to keep your home extra warm and cozy.

In order to help you understand your furnace’s pilot light and learn how to troubleshoot to reset your pilot light, our gas furnace repair technicians are presenting you with the ultimate guide to pilot light troubleshooting. 

What a Gas Furnace Pilot Light is and How it Works

A gas furnace pilot light is a small, continuously burning flame that serves as the ignition source for the gas burner in your home’s gas furnace or water heater. It is an essential component of your home’s furnace, as it ignites the fuel that heats the air that then becomes circulated throughout your indoor living space.

The pilot light is typically located near the furnace’s burner assembly and is powered by a small amount of gas that is supplied through its dedicated gas line. While many newer furnaces tend to use electronic ignition systems, many older furnaces still rely on a traditional pilot light to ignite the burner.

Importance of Maintaining a Properly Functioning Pilot Light

Without a functioning pilot light, your furnace will not be able to start. If your gas furnace doesn’t turn on you and your family will be left in a cold house that is failing to get heated. If you’re wondering why your furnace light won’t stay on, the best thing to do is schedule a service call with a local furnace inspection company. Proper maintenance and care of the pilot light are crucial to ensuring the safe and efficient operation of the gas furnace in your home.

Signs of a Faulty Pilot Light

A faulty pilot light in a gas furnace can cause a variety of issues, including insufficient heat, increased energy bills, and even potential safety hazards. 

Here are some common signs that your pilot light may be faulty:

  • No heat: If your furnace is blowing cold air or not emitting any heat, it could be due to a faulty pilot light. Without a functioning pilot light, the gas burners won’t ignite, and the furnace won’t be able to produce the heat needed to keep your house warm.
  • A yellow flame: A healthy pilot light flame should be blue, with a small yellow tip. If the flame of your pilot light is mostly yellow, it could be a sign of a dirty or clogged pilot light or a lack of oxygen. 
  • The pilot light keeps going out: If your pilot light keeps going out, it could be due to a variety of issues, including a dirty or clogged pilot light, a malfunctioning thermocouple, or a faulty gas valve.
  • The smell of gas: If you smell gas in your home, it could be due to a faulty pilot light. A gas leak can be a serious safety hazard and requires immediate attention from a licensed professional. If you smell gas in your home, contact a reputable gas furnace repair technician immediately. 
  • High energy bills: A faulty pilot light can cause your furnace to work less efficiently, leading to increased energy bills.

If you notice any of these signs that the pilot light on your gas furnace may be out, it’s important to contact a licensed HVAC furnace repair contractor to diagnose what is happening with your furnace and pilot light and repair the issue(s). Regular maintenance and inspections can also help to prevent pilot light issues and ensure that your furnace operates safely and efficiently when it needs to.

Pilot Light Troubleshooting Steps

If your gas furnace pilot light is not working, troubleshooting the issue by finding the cause of the furnace pilot light malfunction is key.

Here are some steps you can take to DIY troubleshoot a faulty pilot light at your home:

Check the Gas Supply

Make sure that the gas supply to the furnace is turned on and that the gas valve supplying gas to the furnace is fully open.

If the gas supply was turned on, you’ve discovered that it being off is not your furnace’s issue. Before you move ahead to perform any maintenance or repairs, make sure you turn the gas valve off so that you do not put yourself or your home in danger.

You then can continue to the next steps to troubleshoot the cause of your faulty pilot light.

Check For a Clogged Pilot Light

Check the pilot light opening as a clogged pilot light can cause the flame to burn improperly, leading to a weak or non-existent flame. Inspect the pilot light to ensure it’s clean and free from debris or buildup.

Inspect the Thermocouple

The thermocouple is a safety device that detects whether the pilot light is on and sends a signal to the gas valve to open or close it. If the thermocouple is dirty or damaged, it may not be able to detect the pilot light, preventing the furnace from being able to turn on.

Check for a Faulty Gas Valve

If the gas valve is not opening properly, the pilot light won’t ignite, preventing the furnace from heating your home.

Inspect the Ignition System

If your furnace has an electronic ignition system, make sure it’s working correctly. If the ignition system is not functioning properly, the pilot light won’t ignite, preventing your home from becoming warm and producing heat. 

If you’re not comfortable going through the process of troubleshooting the issue yourself, it’s best to call a licensed HVAC technician to diagnose the issue and perform any repairs on your home’s furnace. Attempting to repair a faulty pilot light without the proper knowledge and equipment can be dangerous, as you are working with combustibles. Regularly scheduled maintenance and HVAC inspections can help to prevent pilot light issues in your home, ensuring that your furnace is functioning properly. 

When to Call a Professional:

While some pilot light issues can be resolved with simple troubleshooting steps, there are some situations where it’s best to call a professional in pilot light repairs. 

Here are some signs that it’s time to call a professional furnace repair technician about the pilot light on your furnace going out: 

  • The presence of a gas smell: If you smell gas in your home, there may be excess gas flowing through your home that will or has already led to a gas leak. It’s important to contact a professional furnace repair expert right away. A gas leak can be a serious safety hazard and requires immediate attention from a licensed professional.
  • The pilot light won’t stay lit: If you’ve tried to light the pilot light multiple times and it won’t stay lit or the reset button does not seem to work, it could be due to a more serious issue, such as a faulty thermocouple or gas valve. A professional furnace repair specialist can diagnose and repair the issue safely and efficiently, getting your furnace up and running again, and making sure your pilot stays lit. 
  • Strange noises emanate from the furnace: If your pilot ignites but your furnace is making strange noises, such as rattling or popping, it could be a sign of a more serious issue. Contact a  professional certified in furnace repair and replacements to diagnose and fix the issue before it becomes a bigger problem.
  • A total lack of heat: If your furnace is not producing heat no matter how much you adjust the thermostat temperature to your desired setting, it could be due to a faulty pilot light or an issue with the gas or furnace, creating a more serious situation where you should have the unit serviced by a professional repair person with experience fixing pilot lights. 
  • The repairs are beyond your skill level: There is no reason to hesitate if your furnace needs repairs that are beyond your level of expertise or if you need a professional to replace your pilot light or furnace. Our pilot light repair professionals spend years gaining knowledge and experience in furnace repair and are ready and able to help make sense of whatever issue you are experiencing.

Contact the HVAC Professionals At Bowman Mechanical for Safe and Efficient Furnace and Pilot Light Repair

Some jobs are better left for licensed professionals, and at Bowman Mechanical Services we believe a faulty pilot light or a malfunctioning gas furnace that won’t relight is one of those jobs.

One of our Raleigh, North Carolina, and surrounding areas experts in furnace light repairs can come to your home and service your furnace’s pilot light. When our furnace repair specialist troubleshoots your pilot light, pilot valve, gas flow, and other components of your pilot light and furnace, you can gain the piece of mind that your home and everything and everyone in it is safe.

To get connected to one of our furnace repair professionals, call Bowman Professional Services today at  919-772-2759 or fill out the contact form below to get started.