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Water Heater Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to take a call from John in Delaware who listens to us on WDEL.

    John, how can we help?

    JOHN: Hi. I have a hot water heater that the pilot will not stay lit. I’ve put up with this like for three months now and I’ve changed the thermocouple three times.

    LESLIE: How often does it go out?

    JOHN: Well sometimes it might stay on for four or five days or whatever and then I …

    TOM: Hmm. You’ve changed the thermocouple so – the thermocouple is part of the safety operational controls of the water heater and it’s that piece of metal that sits in the path of the flame. And the way the thermocouple works is when the flame is on, the thermocouple is being heated, the gas valve stays open. But when the thermocouple cools, the gas valve shuts; thereby preventing the gas from being on when there’s no flame. And you’ve already changed that, so you’ve taken that step. And I presume that the gas – that the pilot burner is strong and clean and you have a good, strong flame. Is that the case?

    JOHN: Seems to be pretty strong, when I look at it.

    TOM: OK, if it’s not strong, if it’s weak, if it’s not adjusted properly, if it’s dirty, that could that be the source of your problem.

    JOHN: I can’t find any adjustment on the …

    TOM: Well no, it’s something that usually gets dirty and has to be cleaned.

    JOHN: You can run a wire down through that tube?

    TOM: Well you could but you know what I would suggest, I really don’t want you to mess with the valve, with the burner itself unless it’s obvious that you can just clean debris away from it. Sometimes – I’ve looked in those many times over the years and seen just lots of carbon debris piled up on top of the pilot light. And if you know enough to change a thermocouple, you probably can do this very easily. Just make sure it’s very clean and strong.

    Now if you have a clean, strong pilot light and you replace the thermocouple and you’re still having problems, now you might need a new gas valve because it might be somewhere in the controls or the gas valve that’s causing this issue to occur and I would not recommend that you do that yourself; I would recommend you contact a licensed plumber to take that job. OK, John?

    JOHN: OK, well thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

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