What Is A Water Heater Pilot Light?

A Pilot Light in a water heater is a small flame which is used to ignite the larger flame of the main burner used to heat the water in the water heater. The Pilot Light is a small burner separate from the main burner that only uses a small amount of gas to provide a flame that in many cases stays lighted all the time to provide an ignition source for the main burner which only lights to heat the water in the tank when needed.

The pilot has a thermo coupling in the flame which detects that a flame is present and signals the gas valve to keep the gas flowing. When lighting the pilot a button must be pushed until the thermo coupling generates a strong enough voltage to signal the gas valve to stay opening.

Some newer water heaters may use an intermittent pilot light that only turns on when the burner is about to light. These water heaters save energy by not having a pilot light constantly burning using gas all the time. These intermittent pilot light water heaters may use a hot surface or spark to ignite the pilot light just prior to turning on the gas to the main burner, once the pilot ignition is proven either by a thermo coupling or, flame sensor rod.

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