Here's How to Light Your Water Heater

Margaret Wack
Written by Margaret Wack
Updated January 3, 2022
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If your hot shower has turned into freezing rain, one of the first places you should check for issues is your hot water heater. For homes with gas water heaters, you should check your pilot light to make sure it didn’t go out. Depending on the age of your heater, you may be able to relight the pilot using an ignition button or a lighter.

Difficulty: 2/5

Time: 15 minutes

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Flashlight

  • Lighter

How to Relight a Gas Water Heater’s Pilot Light

To relight a hot water heater, follow the steps listed below.

1. Safety First

Most homeowners can relight a pilot light themselves without any issue, but it’s important to be safe when dealing with a gas-powered hot water heater. You should always proceed with care when relighting a pilot light, since the gas used to power your hot water heater is flammable and potentially dangerous. 

If at any time you smell gas, you should shut off the gas valve right away, open windows, and avoid turning on any lights. Leave your house and call your local gas company or fire department for assistance.

2. Turn Off the Gas

Before you relight your pilot light, the first step is to turn off the gas. Locate the gas valve on your hot water heater and turn it to the “off” position. Wait approximately 10 minutes; this gives any gas in the area time to clear, which is important because the gas is highly flammable.

3. Access the Pilot Light

The pilot light is typically located right underneath the gas valve. In some cases, there may be a door or cover over the light. Use a flashlight while completing this process to make sure you can see everything clearly.

4. Turn the Gas Valve to ‘Pilot’

Turn the gas valve to “pilot” and press down. This causes the gas valve to provide enough gas to light the pilot light with. In some cases, your hot water heater will have a separate pilot button.

5. Light the Pilot

The age of your gas water heater determines how you relight the pilot. Gas water heaters made within the past eight years don’t require manual lighting. Instead, these water heaters contain an electric spark generator, much like a gas grill.

If you have a water heater with a pilot light ignition button, you should press the button to light the pilot light. If your water heater doesn’t have such a button, you’ll need to light it manually using a long lighter.

6. Turn On the Gas

Once the pilot light has ignited, turn the gas back on.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask a Professional

Ask a local water heater professional for help if needed, especially if your hot water heater requires manual ignition. Most service providers will charge a standard fee per visit that typically covers the cost to relight a gas water heater. This service call price can range from $80 to $100.

FAQs About Hot Water Heaters

What causes lukewarm water?

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If your water is only lukewarm, there could be a problem with your hot water heater. It could indicate that your water heater is about to fail, that there’s sediment buildup, or that the temperature is set incorrectly. You should get in touch with a water heater repair technician to determine what the exact issue is.

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

The cost to repair a hot water heater ranges from $225 to $960. Costs vary depending on where you live and what’s wrong with your water heater. In some cases, you may want to replace your hot water heater instead of repairing it.

How do I maintain my water heater?

Some steps you can take to maintain your hot water heater include regularly inspecting your water heater and flushing out the tank.

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