Many people are familiar enough with a gas water heater that they are able to light the pilot without having to call out a plumber. This can happen when the gas is shut off temporarily due to an interruption in service or when changing ownership of a building. Most of the newer gas water heaters that are available today have a built in ignitor. Some older water heaters will require using a long lighter in order to light the pilot.
There are several reasons that the water heater won’t light or stay lit for long. This does not necessarily mean that you need to replace your entire water heater. One of the most common parts of a gas water heater that go bad is the thermocouple. This is typically a universal part that can easily be replaced by an experienced plumber for around $100 in most areas. If it is a really old tank this might be a decent time to consider replacing the entire water heater. Who wants to spend that much money on a unit if it’s going to need to be replaced in the near future.
Another reason that your pilot light might not want to stay lit is due to a bad gas valve. I gas valve is usually a bit more expensive to replace than a thermocouple. It will also be more difficult for the plumber to track down the right gas valve for you water heater as it will need to be specific to your unit. The gas valve is responsible for mixing gas and air properly to reach the desired temperature for your water heater.
Other things to look for when your water heater won’t stay lit are loose wires, a bad ignitor, or even a clogged pilot orifice. When it doubt it is usually best to hire a licensed professional.
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