How to Light Your Water Heater

How to Light Your Water Heater

Re-lighting a gas tank water heater is a crucial skill a Long Beach Island homeowner must-have in the event that their pilot light goes out. If you need help with this process, follow our easy how-to instruction guide for a quick fix to this common household problem.

Your family's access to hot water is crucial, especially during the winter months.

Long Beach Island, NJ lighting-water-heatersHow it Works

Think of your tank gas heater as a giant pot burning over a stove. The pilot light is a small gas flame that burns continuously which is then used to light a larger flame. That larger flame then acts as a burner for your heater. If your pilot light is out, you will notice when only cold water flows from the hot tap of your faucets.

Check the Pilot Light

First, locate your heater. If it is stored in a dark place, bring a light source, as you will need a well-lit work area. Look at the bottom of your tank. You will see a small access panel.

On newer heater models, this panel is made of glass and you will be able to clearly see whether your pilot light is on or not. If your heater is an older model, you will need to remove the access panel to check if the flame is burning.

Take Caution

There are many reasons why your heater is not working. There could be a break in the gas line outside the Long Beach Island home. Gas could also be leaking from your heater. First, check if the area where you keep your water heater has a strange odor. Gas smells sour and rotten, like bad eggs or sulfur. If you don't smell anything, check near the floor around the heater. If you hear a hissing sound, get away from the heater and call 9-1-1 as this is the sign of a leak.

Determine What Type of Heater You Have

Check for any specific instructions on your heater before you attempt to turn the pilot light back on. Determine if your heater requires manual ignition or if it has an electric spark valve.

Set Temperature

If your heater model has a temperature setting, set that knob to its lowest dial position. This knob can be found on the front of the heater and should be clearly labeled.

Locate Gas Regulator

These types of heaters have knobs that turn the gas valve on and off. Gas must be on for the light be be re-ignited. First, set it to the "Off" position and wait a few minutes for any excess gas in the air to clear from the area. You must do this to eliminate the risk of causing a fire or burning yourself.

Activate Gas

Set the gas regulator knob to the "Pilot" setting. This may activate the gas but some heater models have a separate button that activates the gas.

Long Beach Island, NJ lighting-water-heaters-2

Re-light the Pilot Light

Newer heater models have electric ignitions that will re-light the pilot for you. If your model has one, press the "Ignition" button now while holding down on the gas regulator button. You will hear clicking and then a whooshing sound as the flame ignites if the process is successful.

Manual Ignition

If your heater is an older model, you will need to re-light the pilot manually. You will need a wand lighter or fireplace matches for this step.

You could seriously injure yourself if you try igniting the pilot light with a match or hand lighter. Gas will be flowing rapidly in a small space and could burn your hand as it ignites around the flame.

Reach into the access panel and hold the flame directly above the small cylinder sticking up from the bottom of the chamber. You must do this while holding down the gas valve button. It is recommended you perform this step with someone else's help.


Continue holding down the gas valve for one minute to ensure the continuous flow of gas and make sure your pilot light remains on. This allows a temperature sensor in the heater to recognize the light is back on, preventing the gas from being cut off again.

Turn on Gas

It is now safe to return the gas valve dial to its "On" position. Replace the access panel on your heater to ensure the safety of your Long Beach Island home. Your pilot light is now restored! You may need water heater repair if the pilot light continues going out.

If you're having trouble with the above steps or aren't sure what the source of the problem with your pilot light is.

Don't hesitate to seek repair services from Express Plumbing Heating & Cooling, we offer water heater repair, just call 609-301-0048. We serve the Long Beach Island, NJ area and will be happy to assist you.