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pilot lightWintertime is when your furnace works hardest, so it isn’t unusual for an older furnace to show its age this time of year. One of the most common problems with an aging furnace is the pilot light going out. Depending on the source of this problem, it could be a recurring issue or a one time thing.

If your pilot light goes out in the middle of harsh winter weather, it can be an uncomfortable problem. Thankfully, re-lighting a pilot light is a relatively simple task.

What is a Gas Furnace Pilot Light?

On a typical gas furnace, the pilot light is a small flame that acts as an ignition source. While gas is the fuel source for your furnace, it is the pilot light that ignites the gas to create the heat necessary to warm your home.

For some solder furnaces, a small breeze or draft of air can be enough to extinguish this tiny but necessary flame. Once the pilot light blows out, it will not reignite on its own.

How to Relight a Gas Furnace Pilot Light

Since some pilot lights can blow out fairly easily, relighting it can be a frequent issue, but the procedure to fix it is easy to learn.

  1. Locate the instructions label on your furnace.

Most furnaces, even older models, have a label with specific relighting instructions. However, these instructions can sometimes be difficult to read either due to fading or low light conditions. Having a flashlight with you will make reading these instructions easier. However, if your instructions label is missing or too faded to read, keep these alternate instructions handy for future use.

  1. Locate the Pilot Light and Switches.

Near the bottom of your gas furnace you should see a switch. This switch is typically labeled with the word “pilot.” It may also have the words “on” and “” off.” Before you attempt to relight your furnace’s pilot light, turn this switch to “off” and wait at least five minutes.

This waiting period allows any lingering gas to dissipate from the area around your furnace. Handling an open flame when there is gas in the air could cause a fire and subsequent personal injury or damage to your home.

  1. Locate the Reset Button

While you wait, look for a reset button, switch, or knob. The reset button is usually located near the pilot switch. If you have trouble locating it, refer to your owner’s manual for help.

  1. Light the Pilot Light

Once enough time has passed for any lingering gas to dissipate, it is safe to light your furnace pilot light. Turn the switch to “pilot.” As you hold the reset button, bring a flame close to the pilot light opening. Once the light is back on, you can release the reset button.

Make sure you use a long handled lighter to relight your pilot light. This keeps your hand away from the flame and the pilot light so that you are not burned when the pilot light reignites.

Safety Guidelines

While relighting your gas furnace pilot light is simple and easy, it is important to follow instructions to avoid burning yourself or your whole house.

  • Never attempt to light the pilot light without first turning it off. If your pilot light has been out for some time, your furnace has been continuously running gas which accumulates in the area around your furnace. Even a tiny lighted flame near natural gas can cause a large amount of damage to you and your home. Even if you are in a hurry, you should never skip this step. 
  • Always use a long match or long-handle lighter to light your pilot light. This will put enough distance between you and the igniting pilot light to prevent painful burns. 
  • If you have followed the above steps repeatedly and your pilot light will not ignite, it is time to call in a professional. If the pilot light will not remain lit after you release the reset button, there may be something seriously wrong with your furnace. Contact your local heating professionals for diagnosis, repair, or replacement. 
  • You should never attempt to fix a broken furnace yourself. Gas can be dangerous, even when it isn’t burning. For your safety and the safety of your home, furnace repairs are best left to qualified professional technicians. 
  • If you have to relight your pilot light frequently, it may be a sign that your furnace is failing. You should consider replacing or updating your home heating system.


Lighting your gas furnace pilot light isn’t a task that you need to often perform, but knowing how is a useful skill. Relighting your pilot light is a cinch when you know how. Follow these simple steps and your home will warm and cozy in no time at all.