A pilot light should be big enough to touch the sensors on both sides, which are typically 1 inch apart from each other.
Pilot lights can be a great time-saver, but only if they are working correctly. You must know whether or not your pilot light is correct, as this will affect your heating, and you may need to spend money calling in a professional to fix the problem.
There are a few options to solve the problem yourself, which we will detail below. This article will explore what a pilot light is, its uses, and how to spot problems with it.
What is a Pilot Light?
The pilot light can remain lit at all times but does not have to be. The idea behind the pilot light is that it can make your life easier by saving you time.
The small flame can quickly and easily ignite the entire fire when the gas is turned on. The pilot light will ignite the larger gas being pumped into the appliance (for example, a gas furnace, fireplace, or boiler).
By keeping the pilot light ignited, you can remove the need to ignite the fire every single time manually. This process can be a pain and very laborious for those people who live in a colder climate. So, if you live in a cold part of the world, then having a pilot light is a great option.
How does a Pilot Light Work?
A pilot light is a small flame that remains lit. It is part of a larger system that includes a thermocouple and a gas pipe. When the pilot light is turned on, the flame will provide the exact temperature needed for the sensors, and the thermocouple provides the signal.
These two halves of the system depend on each other to work.
What Size should a Pilot Light be?
To know what a pilot light should look like, it is best to keep in mind what it should not look like. The pilot flame is too bright or too big can indicate a certain problem.
The ideal pilot light should be:
- Able to reach the sensors
- For the pilot light to reach the sensors, it must typically be close to one inch in width.
What Happens when the Pilot Light is not Right?
The main problem with the size of the pilot light is whether or not it reaches the sensors. For example, if the pilot light is too long, it will be narrower, meaning that its width may not touch the sensors. This leads to the issue of the system not igniting.
Another issue that can occur with the pilot light is the temperature. The sensors require a certain temperature for the whole system to work. This is why the pilot light must burn a blue flame.
Unfortunately, blue flames are hotter than orange-colored flames. So, if your pilot light is burning orange, it will not provide enough heat to trigger the thermocouple.
These problems will not necessarily be harmful to your system, but they do mean that your flame will not ignite. So, if you are still not sure if your pilot light looks right, then take a quick look at it. If it looks like a gas burner, you should be good. If it looks more like a candle flame, then it is not hot enough.
How to Adjust a Pilot Light
If you notice that your pilot light does not match the description above for the ideal flame (blue and wide (1 inch)), then you may need to adjust your pilot light. You can either attempt to do this yourself, or you can call in a professional to get the job done for you.
Normally, the problem is not particularly complicated and can be fixed without professional help. Make sure that the entire system is turned off before attempting to adjust the pilot light.
Your options are:
- Clean the opening of the pilot tube with a small object (e.g., a needle). This will remove any blockages that are affecting your pilot light.
- Adjust the flame size by the control panel. You will need a screwdriver to do this. To increase the size of the pilot light, you should turn the screwdriver anticlockwise, and you should turn it clockwise to decrease it.
- Check to see if you have a lo-hi function. This will adjust the size of the flame.
If you have completed all of these steps, but your pilot light is still not correct, you can do a few more things. However, they will require a bit more effort and should normally be left to the professionals. Your entire system may need to be cleaned or replaced to solve the problem.
Why does a pilot light go out?
In addition to your pilot light being the wrong size and/or color a major issue is the pilot light going out. Unlike these issues, which can be caused by blockages and/or a faulty system, external factors can cause your pilot light to go out.
So, you should first check for any blockages by cleaning your system and checking that it works correctly before looking for external causes.
A few reasons why your pilot light may go out include:
- Issues with the gas regulator. If there is not sufficient gas being supplied to the flame, it will not stay alight.
- The venting is not working properly. Like with the gas, if there is not enough oxygen getting to the flame, it cannot burn.
- Drafts. Just like a candle in the wind, a draft can easily blow out your pilot light. You should ensure that the pilot light is protected from drafts and other flows of air.
If you have checked all of these issues, it is probably worth your time asking a professional to come and look at your system. They will be able to diagnose and fix any issues.
Should I Turn my Pilot Light Off?
Although a pilot light is typically left on for an extended period, certain times are not needed and can be turned off.
Leaving a pilot light on uses minimal gas, but it still charges your bills. Typically, this charge is cheaper than if you were to turn the pilot light on and off every time you wanted to use the fireplace, furnace, or other appliance.
Leaving the pilot light on also reduces the buildup of spider webs. Spiders are attracted to the smell of the gas and so will happily take over your pipes if you are not using them.
In the summer months, it is very unlikely that you will need your heating as much as you do in the winter months. So, for this reason, there is the argument that it is worth the extra hassle to turn the flame on and off every time that you want to use it.
Even if you want to turn the heating on during a chilly summer evening, you can still be saving money because you will use the fire comparatively less than in the winter.
Additionally, keeping the pilot light aflame means that there will be a small amount of extra heat in your home. If you live in a location that goes from one extreme weather in the winter to another in the summer, the last thing you will want is any extra heat.
To Sum Up
A pilot light can save you a lot of time and hassle, especially in the colder months of the year. However, it is not infallible, and there can be many different issues with it. These can be anything from the wrong size, the wrong shape, the wrong temperature to a faulty system, or even blockages.
Typically, diagnosing the problem is easy and will either require a little bit of cleaning or adjusting the size of the flame manually. However, if these do not solve the problem, you may need to call in a professional to look at your system, find the issue, and fix it. Unfortunately, sometimes this can result in the entire system needing to be replaced.
When it comes to gas appliances, you must keep them in good working order for safety reasons. After all, it is better safe than sorry!
So, keep an eye on your pilot light now and then make sure that it is working correctly. As soon as you see any problems with it, make sure to fix them yourself or ask a professional to have a look instead.