Informational Guide

Why Does Pilot Light Go Out On Water Heater

by Andrew

Without the pilot light, your water heater won’t be able to ignite the gas burner and heat the water. If your water heater pilot light keeps going out, we're here to help. In this guide, we'll provide you with everything you need to know about fixing the pilot light of your water heater.  

Wondering why your water heater’s pilot light goes out? Here are the most common reasons:  

Dirty Thermocouple 

The thermocouple within your water heater senses when your pilot light is burning. Over time, dust and dirt can accumulate on the thermocouple, causing it to malfunction. When that happens, the thermocouple will struggle to sense the pilot light and stop the gas supply.  

The solution to this is simple; all you've got to do is clean the thermocouple. After your thermocouple has cooled,  go ahead and take a piece of sandpaper to scrub off all of the dirt and grime.  

Bent or Broken Thermocouple 

As the thermocouple needs to be near the pilot light to receive heat and open the gas valve, a bent or broken thermocouple will result in a cut-off gas supply.  

If your thermocouple is bent, simply move it close to the pilot light and you'll be good to go. If it's broken, however, you’ll need to replace the damaged part.  

Lack of combustible air  

Not having enough combustible air could also be a reason why your water heater pilot light isn’t working. To ensure that your water heater pilot light has enough combustible air, make sure that the water heater isn’t surrounded by any clutter, lint, or debris.  

It's important to ensure that the surrounding area is as clean as possible.  

Filthy Pilot Opening 

If the pilot opening of your pilot light is dirty, it can cause the flame to become unstable. To fix this, you would need to shut off the system and use a thin needle to extract any clogs that might be blocking the pilot opening.  

Once the blockage is clear, you should have a flame that’s blue and cone-shaped.  

Faulty Main Control Valve 

The main control valve is essential for regulating the heater’s gas and water pressure. If you’ve noticed that your pilot button doesn’t pop up after pressing or that your control knob is faulty, it’s likely that you’re dealing with a faulty main control valve.  

With a faulty main control valve, you'll need to replace the part to avoid recurring costs and further damaging your water heater.  

Faulty Electrical System Or Burner 

A faulty electrical system can cause an involuntary shutdown of the water heater. If you think you're experiencing a faulty electrical system or burner, it's important to immediately switch off your water heater and call a technician.  

While it might be tempting to rectify the issue on your own, you should not be messing with the wiring system.  

Poor Location 

If your water heater has been installed in a small enclosed area, it’s possible that it won’t have enough oxygen to operate properly. It could also result in carbon monoxide buildup within your home.  

To rectify this issue, you would need to call a professional to assist with relocating your water heater.  

Thermal Switch Water Heater

How To Tell If Water Heater Pilot Light Is Out 

Here’s how to tell if your water heater pilot light is out:  

  • 1. Cold Water 
    Cold water is a dead giveaway that your water heater pilot light isn't working as the water heater pilot light helps with heating the water. While there could be other possibilities, this is typically not the case.  
  • 2. Blinking Light Or Error Message 
    Check the control panel on your unit to see what it says. Depending on the unit that you've got, you might have a blinking or colored light to indicate that there's something wrong with your water heater pilot light. If you're not sure, you can always check the manual.  
  • 3. Unable To See the Flame  
    If you're still unsure even after checking both of the above, the last step is a visual inspection. There should be a gap at the bottom of the unit where you can see the flame. If you can’t see the flame, it’s likely that your water heater pilot light is out.  

Is It Dangerous If Your Water Heater Pilot Light Goes Out? 

Thankfully, it isn’t dangerous if your water heater pilot light goes out. All it simply leads to is the water in your home being cold. For most instances, all you've got to do is relight your water heater pilot light, and you're good to go. Make sure that you're giving it some time to relight before you go ahead and take a hot shower.  

If you've noticed that your water heater pilot light keeps going out, however, you'll then need to see if other problems might be causing this. For example, if you've noticed a foul smell (similar to that of a rotten egg) near the water heater, it could be the sign of a gas leak. If that happens, turn off the gas in your home and make sure you're contacting the gas company right away.  

water heater

Fixing a Water Heater When Pilot Light Goes Out 

If you've got a broken water heater pilot light, you'll want to rectify the problem first. For example, if it's a broken thermocouple, make sure that you replace the parts, etc. Once that's done, you'll want to relight the water heater pilot light. This should only take a couple of minutes.  

Before relighting the water heater pilot light, make sure that there isn't any smell of gas or rotten eggs. If there is, do not relight your water heater pilot light and immediately exit your home. Local authorities should be called to investigate a gas leak.  

Popular Models - What To Do When Pilot Light Goes Out? 

Wondering what to do when the pilot light goes out? Here’s what to do depending on the manufacturer of your pilot light. Just know, however, that this does differ depending on the problem that you have.  

Rheem Water Heaters 

You’ll want to turn off the gas and disconnect the pilot supply tube with a small wrench. Then, go ahead and clean it out with compressed air. If that doesn’t rectify the issue, it’s best to leave the job to a professional.  

Rheem residential hot water heater

Bradford Water Heaters 

While it really depends on the problem that you have, replacing the thermocouple on your Bradford Water Heater would usually do the trick. If you’re not sure, however, it’s best to always consult a professional.  

Whirlpool Water Heaters 

If the status light of your Whirlpool Water Heater isn’t flashing, you should try lighting the pilot light using the instructions on the water heater’s label. Make sure that the gas supply valve is on.  

AO Smith Water Heaters 

The likely problem is there isn’t enough air coming from the bottom of the heater. This causes the pilot light to not operate properly and causes it to go out. Another reason would be poor ventilation, especially if the water heater is placed in an inappropriate location.  

State Select Water Heaters 

If you cannot operate the pilot light button of your State Select water heater, you would need to get a new control valve. If the pilot light button won't stay on, you likely need a new thermocouple.  

Kenmore Water Heaters 

If your Kenmore water heater pilot light keeps going out, you would need to start by cleaning out the filter. If that doesn’t work, you would then need to go ahead and replace the thermocouple.  

American Water Heaters 

With American water heaters, if your water pilot light keeps going out, it's likely a thermocouple problem. Either the thermocouple has accumulated dust and malfunctioned, or the thermocouple is bent away from the pilot light's flame. 

Envirotemp Water Heater 

Like most other water heaters, if your water heater pilot light keeps going out on your Envirotemp, it's likely a thermocouple problem. If your thermocouple is faulty, you need to ensure that you've got an exact replacement.  

GE Water Heater 

Too much air could be a likely cause of the water heater pilot light going out on your GE water heater. This could be due to the combustion chamber not being sealed properly, causing the pilot light to be consistently blown out by a strong draft.  

People Also Ask (FAQs) 

Does gas still flow when the pilot light goes out? 

If the pilot light has gone out, the thermocouple will cut the gas flow within a few seconds. If for some reason, there is no thermocouple, it's unlikely that a single pilot light would emit enough gas to fill a room.  

Should my pilot light always be on? 

Generally speaking, it is safe for you to leave your pilot light continuously on at all times. While it will cost more, there are some benefits in ensuring that your pilot light is left on.  

How much does it cost to fix the water’s heater pilot light? 

It costs about $50 to $200 to fix the water heater’s pilot light. Plumbers typically charge about $45 to $150 per hour to assist with reigniting the pilot light, and it would usually take an hour or less.  


If your water heater pilot light keeps going out, it could be due to a number of reasons. It's most likely that you've got a dirty thermocouple or a bent thermocouple. If you're not sure what the problem may be, however, it's best to always seek the help of a professional.