How To Light a Pilot Light on a Water Heater: Home Maintenance Tips 101 [Video]

By Mengning Heil

December 3, 2021

Water Heater Tips

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If your showers have suddenly lost their steam and you have a gas water heater, your water heater’s pilot light may have gone out. If this is the case, not to worry! Learning how to light a pilot light on a water heater is not as complicated as you may think. Below you will find both video content and written content to assist you. Let’s get started so you can enjoy a hot shower today!

How to Light a Pilot Light on a Water Heater

Before doing any work or maintenance on a gas water heater, it’s always a good idea to start by turning the gas shut-off valve to the “off” position and letting the air clear for a few minutes before proceeding.

The next question you need to ask is whether it is a manual or an automatic gas water heater? You’ll know if it is an automatic water heater by simply looking for a spark ignitor button, similar to the one in the photo below. If you do not have a spark igniter button, this means that you have a manual hot water heater. Manual hot water heaters require you to use a long lighter in place of the igniter button.

How to Light a Pilot Light on a Water Heater
  1. First, you’ll want to remove both the outer and inner panel at the base of your water heater so you can actually see what’s called the pilot assembly and know if you are successful in getting the pilot light to ignite. (If you open these panels and see that the pilot light is in fact still burning you may want to call a professional to diagnose the reason your water has gone cold.)
  2. Next, locate the gas knob and turn it to “pilot”. There may also be a separate button for pilot mode, which would be bright red.
  3. Now press down and hold the gas knob releasing gas so you can light the flame. While still holding down the gas knob, press the spark ignitor button, if applicable, or use a long lighter to ignite the flame. You should visibly see a spark or a small blue flame. Continue to hold down the gas knob for a full minute to ensure that it stays lit.
    Tip: You may need to press the spark generator button a few times until it lights. This process is very similar to lighting a gas grill.
  4. Once the pilot has been lit, turn the gas knob to the “on” position and listen for the telltale “woosh” that signals the main burner is lit.
  5. For safety, turn off the main burner before replacing the two panels you removed in step one. Once in place, reignite the burner, listening for that “woosh” of ignition, and allow some time for the water to warm up. Tip: You may hear some dripping or sizzling in a few moments which is perfectly normal and is due to a build-up of condensation.

Learning how to light a pilot light on a water heater is as simple as that!

How Do You Turn off a Gas Hot Water Heater?

If you have a gas water heater, you will just need to turn the thermostat to the “pilot” setting. You will still see a small blue flame but the main burner will not be lit.

If you do find yourself in a fix and you are looking for a trustworthy plumber in Rockville, MD who can assist with water heater maintenance then contact us today!


Heil Plumbing DMV is a family-run company owned by a third-generation master plumber. We can help you with a full range of plumbing services, including toilet installation and repair, leak detection and pipe repair, water heater repair and installation, faucet repair and installation, drain cleaning, water treatment, and more.