How Does a Pilot Light Work?

gas, heater, heating, furnace, central heating, pilot light, flame, explosion, hvac

If you have a furnace or water heater that uses natural gas, you have probably seen the small blue flame known as the pilot light. It can be found in wall heaters, central heating systems, fireplaces, hot air balloons, and yes, flamethrowers.

Pilot Light Purpose

A pilot light is made for one purpose: to supply the flame or heat to ignite natural gas released into the furnace burner when the furnace receives a signal from the thermostat that the furnace should begin producing heat.

Pilot Light Function

When the pilot light is working, it is constantly burning a tiny flame that is hot enough to ignite natural gas that comes in contact with this flame. It is made by allowing a small amount of gas to come from the gas pipe through a small tube. You light the gas escaping from the tube, and it burns all the time.

Safety Factors

If the pilot light were to ever blow out, the gas being released through the small tube will be released and collected in your home. If the gas were to be ignite, it would create an explosion.  In order to prevent an explosion from happening, an electromagnetic valve  cuts the gas to the pilot light in the event that it blows out. This electromagnetic valve is called a thermocouple.

The problem with pilot lights is that they waste a lot of gas. Therefore, most modern appliances do not have a pilot light. Instead, they use an electric spark to light the burner.


If you are looking for pilot light repairs in the Los Angeles or Orange County, give us a a call at (310) 530-0504. Our phone lines are available 24 hours a day. And yes, that includes weekends. Make an appointment today and we’ll give you $10 off the diagnosing fee.

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