The Bane Of Old Furnace Owners - Dealing With Pilot Light Problems

When the pilot light on your furnace keeps going out, it can be frustrating. You have to keep going downstairs, getting down on your hands and knees, and trying to relight it. Needing to do this on a regular basis can quickly become tiresome.

So what is going on with the pilot light, and how do you fix it?

Issues With Your Thermocouple

If you use a flashlight to look closely at the pilot light, you will see a small copper rod that the flame touches when it is burning. This rod is the thermocouple, a safety device that prevents gas from filling up your home – and possibly exploding. The thermocouple detects when the pilot light goes out and shuts the gas off in response to the absence of flame.

A couple of things can go wrong with the thermocouple, causing it to shut off your pilot light when it shouldn't. These include:

  • Soot buildup. If the thermocouple is covered in black soot, it needs to be cleaned. Soot accumulation can prevent the flame from reaching the thermocouple, causing it to shut off the gas to the pilot light. You can use a stiff wire brush to remove the soot.

  • Broken thermocouple. If the thermocouple is malfunctioning, it will turn off the gas regardless of what the pilot light is doing. The broken thermocouple will also cause the valve to stay shut until it is replaced. A furnace repair specialist, like D & R Service Inc, should be contacted for replacement.

  • Pilot flame not covering the thermocouple. When the pilot light is on, the flame should envelope the upper part of the thermocouple. If it doesn't, there could be an issue with the actual pilot light.

A Weak Pilot Light

If the pilot light is putting out a weak yellow flame, it may not reach the thermocouple as it should. Normally, the flame should be a thick blue color. If the flame is yellow and weak, there is an issue with the air flow to the flame. You'll need to have the pilot light cleaned and readjusted if this is the case.

Time For A New Furnace

The fact that your furnace still has a pilot light indicates that it is probably nearing the end of its lifespan. Even the highest quality furnace will only operate for so long, and most furnaces are fitted with electronic starters now. This is an excellent time to purchase a new high efficiency furnace, and enjoy the benefits of better performance and cost savings.