Originally published January 2014, last updated September 2019

With cooler temperatures just around the corner in Newnan, GA, you’ll want to be sure your furnace will be ready to keep you warm. If your furnace’s pilot light won’t stay on, the furnace won’t work. Some common causes include issues with the thermocouple and pilot tube. The thermocouple detects the pilot light via sensors. A faulty thermocouple may arbitrarily determine that the light is off when you want it on and vice versa. It could simply be that the thermocouple is bent. If so, it will not face the pilot light. Sometimes, this causes the pilot light to stay on for only a few seconds. You can try bending the thermocouple back into position. Be sure to inspect the thermocouple carefully. It may be that it’s dirty and needs cleaning. It can easily be cleaned off with fine grain sandpaper.

A dirty pilot tube can also prevent the pilot from staying lit. If the pilot tube is dirty, let the furnace cool down and turn off the gas. Once it has cooled, the pilot tube can easily be cleaned.

How to Light Your Furnace’s Pilot

If you have an older model furnace with a standing pilot light, you can follow this basic procedure to relight the pilot flame.

  • Make sure the thermostat is in heat mode.
  • Locate the pilot valve. It’s a box-shaped device and is typically located near the gas burners.
  • Always turn the valve knob to the off position and make sure to wait at least several minutes for any residual gas to clear away
  • Get your match ready. If the pilot is hard to reach, you may have to use a long fireplace match. Butane grill lighters work well also.
  • Once the pilot stays lit, turn the pilot valve to the on position. This will keep the flow of gas and ignite the burners.

When to Replace Your Furnace

There are often telltale signs to alert you that it may be time to replace your furnace. These include high energy bills, uneven heating, frequent on/off cycling, humidity problems, noise, excessive dust or soot, and the need for frequent repairs. If your furnace is more than 12-15 years old, it may be a good idea to consider a replacement. Today’s models have longer lifespans and are considerably more efficient than older models. According to the EPA, the new Energy Star furnaces can save about $100 a year in energy costs.

Upgrading Your Furnace Pilot Light

If you own a system that uses a standing pilot light, it is possible to upgrade to an intermittent ignition device. Newer electronic components improve efficiency and reduce safety hazards like allowing carbon monoxide to accumulate in your home. Upgrading can be a good option if you can reasonably expect your home’s furnace to last for at least five to ten more years and it isn’t plagued by any other glaring issues. Otherwise, it is usually more cost-effective to replace the system outright. Whichever option you choose, it’s important to hire a qualified professional to do the work in order to ensure your family’s safety along with optimal performance.

HVAC Services and Products at Merrell & Associates

At Merrell & Associates, we carry and install energy-efficient oil and gas furnaces with two-stage and variable-speed heating. Our top brands are engineered with the most advanced technology and offer optimal indoor comfort. Be sure to call us at 770-872-4171 if you’re in the market for a new furnace.