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Enlightenment On The Gas Furnace Pilot Light

Did you know that during America’s colonial period, colonists kept a little flame burning as a simple and accessible means to light a stove or fireplace whenever needed? They named this light a “pilot,” and it’s from this little historical “fun fact” we derive our modern gas furnace pilot lights. Scary to think that we could be in the same shoes as the colonists if our pilot light happened to go out during the winter months! Before you panic, F.H. Furr wants to give you a helpful “how-to” to keep that little light of yours shining…

Having knowledge of your pilot light will help to ensure that it’s working properly. In order to function, it needs the help of the “thermocouple,” the component of your system that is responsible for your pilot light going out!


  • An electronic device that senses the heat of the pilot flame to determine if it is at the right temperature to ignite the natural gas or propane fuel burner
  • The thermocouple produces electricity when it gets hot and permits the gas valve to open and close
  • This device shuts off the burner gas valves flame if the pilot goes out and does not produce enough heat

So on to the real question: “How do I relight my furnace’s standing pilot light?”

  • Make sure your thermostat is at a heated setting
  • Locate your gas furnace’s pilot valve (near the gas burners and boxy in shape)
  • Rotate the knob or gas cock to turn it off (wait a few minutes after doing so to allow gas to dissipate)
  • Locate the pilot (close to the gas burner tube assembly) and light it with a match (preferably long) or BBQ lighter
  • Pilot’s with a reset button (red): change the gas valve from “Off” to “Pilot”
  • For no reset button: rotate the knob from “Off” to “Pilot”
  • Put the lit match or the BBQ lighter tip at the pilot. Press and hold the button (or decrease the knob) for approximately 30 seconds. The sustained flow of gas to the pilot will get the thermocouple hot enough to release the gas valve
  • Let go of the button slowly once the pilot stays lit the button or knob and turn the gas cock or knob from “Pilot” to “On.” The burners should ignite and keep gas flowing.

If you have followed the above instructions and the burner does not light, your thermocouple probably was not hot enough. You should allow a few minutes for things to cool down and attempt the process again. Don’t forget to readjust your thermostat. 

As always, F.H. Furr is able to help with any HVAC, plumbing, or electrical issues you may have! By staying knowledgeable and up to date on your home’s appliances and systems, you’ll be able to tell when you’ve got a DIY project on your hands or when it’s time to call in the big guns! No matter what, you’ll always receive “Absolutely the Best” service when you call us!

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