Why Does My Water Heater’s Pilot Light Keep Going Out?

Why Does My Water Heater’s Pilot Light Keep Going Out? Boiler water heater electric tank.

These days, when our hot water goes out on us, it is more than an inconvenience. Our lifestyles depend on hot water in our daily routines. In fact, we are so dependent upon it, water heating ranks second to only space heating for highest energy consumption in the United States.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), a four-person household consumes 24 percent of their energy for heating up water.

Sometimes It Is Lights Out

The most common reason the pilot light on your water heater keeps going out has to do with its thermocouple. Our Southeastern Cooling heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals can either quickly repair or replace your thermocouple to restore hot water to your Dothan home in no time.

What Is a Thermocouple?  

In the simplest of definitions, your water heater’s thermocouple measures temperature. More importantly, it is the device that regulates the gas flow inside your water heater or even your furnace. 

Your thermocouple has two wires—one sits near the thermostat and the other rests by the pilot light flame. When the temperature goes up, the thermocouple sends an electric signal to open the gas valve and allows the combustion to take place.

If your pilot light goes out, the thermocouple senses the drop in temperature and signals for the gas valve to close. When your issue is a faulty thermocouple, the most common sign is a malfunctioning pilot light.

What Causes the Thermocouple to Malfunction?

When your thermocouple is at fault, these are the top three reasons:

1.  Dirty thermocouple

     Over time your water heater will collect dirt, dust, and other types of debris. Buildup on your thermocouple can cause a malfunction. This is an easy do-it-yourself (DIY) fix—simply let everything cool down and brush the dirt or debris carefully off your thermocouple.

2.  Bent thermocouple

     Your thermocouple easily bends and this could be the issue. The end sitting near the pilot light flame is what communicates with the gas valve and tells the valve to open or close.

     If it is bent away from the flame, it will not register heat and will keep the gas valve closed.  So just wait for your water heater to cool down, then delicately bend the end back.

     Not comfortable proceeding with this? Then do not attempt the repair yourself. Instead, call Southeastern Cooling and let one of our HVAC experts address the adjustment. 

3.  Damaged thermocouple

     If your thermocouple is neither dirty nor bent, you most likely have a damaged or malfunctioning product. This needs professional involvement. Our highly trained team members can promptly come out to your Alabama home and diagnose and replace, if necessary, your thermocouple.

Sometimes the scenario may not directly involve the thermocouple. It is possible it can be something else—perhaps a dirty pilot light opening. In this case, the sullied opening causes the pilot flame to cool down, preventing the thermocouple to warm effectively.

If you attempt to diagnose and repair the issue on your own but have no success, then it is definitely important to get one of our professionals involved.

Contact Us for All Your Water Heater Needs

Whether your water heater pilot light will not ignite or it is time for a new model, our Southeastern Cooling experts are here for you in Dothan, Alabama. Contact us at 334-751-2032 or request service online today. Your safety and comfort are number one priorities to us.


Contact the experts at Southeastern Cooling.

Call us at 334-792-1761!

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