Is Your Furnace Pilot Light Out? Here’s How to Handle It.

A furnace pilot light out means one thing for sure: The heat in the house will be out, too, until the furnace problem is resolved. The pilot light in a gas furnace is a flame that lights the primary gas burner when the thermostat signals for heat. Often called a “standing pilot” because it burns continuously, in most new gas furnaces, the pilot light has been replaced by a flameless electronic igniter. However, many units manufactured before 2010 still utilize the traditional pilot light.

A furnace pilot light out for any reason prevents the furnace from starting. It’s typically a malfunction that requires repair or replacement and, for safety reasons, it should be handled only by a certified heating specialist. However, one do-it-yourself alternative is available before you call in the pros: Instructions for relighting the pilot light are typically printed on a label attached to the furnace. If following the procedure doesn’t light the pilot or the flame quickly goes out again, contact a HVAC contractor for professional service.

When You Find the Furnace Pilot Light Out

A pilot light that won’t ignite is usually due to one of two causes:

  • Defective thermocouple. The thermocouple continuously senses heat from the pilot flame. If the flame goes out, the thermocouple shuts off the flow of gas to the pilot light and furnace for safety reasons. However, a defective thermocouple may malfunction and shut off the gas even though the pilot flame is present. In that case, replacement by a qualified technician is required.
  • The pilot flame is weak. The pilot flame in your furnace should appear bright blue when functioning properly. A yellow and/or flickering flame may indicate insufficient air intake for the pilot flame to burn efficiently, triggering the thermocouple to shut off gas flow. The inefficient flame may also release dangerous carbon monoxide. Cleaning or replacing the air-intake valve for the pilot is required to restore proper and safe pilot function.

Diagnosing and repairing a furnace pilot light out calls for a trained, experienced heating specialist. For help, contact Paitson Bros., keeping your home both safe and warm since 1922.

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