If you have a water heater with a pilot light, it can be really annoying when it goes out. Though problems with water heater components, like the thermocouple, are typically the cause of this issue, it can also be the wind.
If the wind is blowing out your water heater’s pilot light, you have a draft in your house. This draft could come from your chimney, your vents, your doors, or your windows . That being said, it’s likelier that you have a broken, dirty, or misaligned thermocouple.
Below, we’ve covered everything you need to know about this problem. We’ve also included several strategies you can use to fix it.
How to stop wind from blowing out a water heater’s pilot light
If the wind is blowing out your pilot light, it’s because you’ve got a draft in your house. And that draft could be coming from your chimney or your doors and windows.
We’ll take a look at both causes and some potential solutions for each in this section.
Install special chimney caps
Some homes are situated in areas that receive high gusts of wind (40 to 57 mph) regularly. If so, that wind could go through your chimney and into your home. This may cause your water heater’s pilot light to go out.
If you’re having this problem, then you likely need to install a special chimney cap. These are designed to prevent the wind from going through your flue and into your home. They’re designed to withstand high wind conditions and will also help to make sure your chimney vents properly.
Just keep in mind, not every chimney is the same. You’ll likely need to measure yours before purchasing a chimney cap.
Reduce the wind draft through windows and doors
It’s also possible that the draft in your home is coming in through windows and doors. You can fix this problem in a few different ways.
- The first step is to figure out where the wind draft is coming from. You can do that by lighting a candle and holding it near doors and windows. The flame will flicker when the wind is coming through. That’s how you’ll figure out where your problem areas are. You can use a clear silicone and seal the necessary areas.
- Next up is locking your windows and applying weatherstripping to them. You need to lock your windows, or else air will still be able to seep through them. And applying weatherstripping around the windows will help to prevent any remaining drafts from coming through.
- You should also weatherproof your outside doors. Even a 1/8-inch gap around the perimeter of a door can let in as much air as a small window. So if you haven’t weather stripped your exterior doors, that could be the source of your problem.
- It could also make sense to insulate your windows by covering them with plastic. You can find kits for this both online and at local hardware stores.
- Finally, installing heavier curtains can also make a difference. When paired with a cornice, close-fitting drapes can reduce airflow by as much as 25%.
Why does my water pilot light keep going out?
There are lots of different reasons why your water pilot may continue going out. Some of these are related to the wind, but others aren’t. We cover potential problems that you should know about in this section.
Your chimney cap isn’t working as it should
Even if you’ve recently installed a chimney cap, it may not be working as it should.
Residue from dirt and soot can build up and clog it. And heavy winter storms can leave ice and snow that limit the chimney cap’s impact. Yours may even have cracks of exterior damage that prevent it from functioning optimally.
Your air vents have a downdraft
This may also be the source of your problem if your water heater is connected to your ventilation system.
When cool air escapes from your ventilation vents, it can cause a downdraft towards your water heater. And that can blow out the system’s pilot light.
You can check for this problem by putting your hand near the ventilation duct that connects to the water heater (be careful not to burn your hands). If you feel warm air, you have a problem. But cold air is normal.
It’s also possible that your exterior vents are blocked somehow. This can create a downdraft since the air in your HVAC system can’t escape outside.
Your thermocouple is malfunctioning
The most common cause of a pilot light constantly going out is a malfunctioning thermocouple.
This is the water heater part that’s designed to close your gas valve when the pilot light is off. It automatically does this to prevent gas leaks from endangering your home.
But if your thermocouple malfunctions, it may close the gas valve when it’s not supposed to. This can happen for a few reasons, which we’ll cover below.
- First, you may have a dirty thermocouple, which could prevent the electric current from reaching it. For this problem, use sandpaper to scrub the dirt and grime off of the thermocouple.
- You could also have a kinked thermocouple. It will appear bent if this is your issue. The fix is to manually straighten the thermocouple back into its natural position.
- Or, maybe your thermocouple is broken. You can test this with a multimeter. If the thermocouple supplies under 20MV, then it needs to be replaced.
Your pilot tube isn’t clean
Your pilot tube is what supplies the gas that your water heater needs to keep its flame going. When it’s dirty, it can get clogged, which stops the flow of gas. That can cause your flame to keep going out.
The solution is using a slender needle to unclog the tube. You may have to do this several times if the tube is especially dirty.
You have a flex tube problem
Your water heater’s flex tube is what connects the gas controller to the pilot light burner and thermocouple. If yours is damaged or clogged, then the pilot light burner won’t get the gas it needs to function properly.
You may be able to fix this by straightening any kinks in the flex tube. But if yours is damaged, you will need to replace it.
The main control valve is malfunctioning
This problem is pretty rare. But sometimes, a main control valve unit malfunctions. And that can cause your pilot burner light to continue going out.
When the main control valve isn’t working, it closes the gas valve unnecessarily. This cuts the gas supply and leads to a weak or constantly extinguishing flame.
There are some technicians who can fix a malfunctioning main control valve. But most manufacturers recommend you replace yours entirely if you’re having a problem. Doing so will help you avoid recurring costs and damages to other parts of your heater.
Your electric wiring isn’t right
If you have an electric water heater, then the problem could be with your wiring. When wiring isn’t done correctly, it can lead to short circuits and fuses blowing. These problems can prevent your heater from getting the power that it needs to function.
You really shouldn’t mess with your heater’s wiring unless you’re a professional. So the best solution for this problem is to turn off the water heater and call a technician.
You have a faulty burner
Finally, the problem could also be coming from your water heater’s burner. You may have an issue with your ignition, which could cause the pilot light to keep going off.
The best solution for this problem is to replace the malfunctioning burner.
Does my home really need a chimney cap?
If you live in an area with a temperate climate, then not having a chimney cap may not lead to many issues. But it’s always better to have one than to not have one.
Without a chimney cap, your home could be damaged by debris. And in heavy wind conditions, you could have a significant wind draft in your house without a chimney cap.
Why is there still a draft in my room even though the door, windows, and wall cracks are sealed?
Drafts can sometimes still exist in your home, even if you’ve already sealed everything up. If you’re experiencing this, it’s likely due to how the air cools in your home.
Air by exterior walls and windows is dense and flows to the floor. This draws warm air higher in the room and creates a drafty flow throughout your house.
You can fix this problem by investing in heavier curtains and rearranging your furniture.
Is it possible to turn a water heater on without a pilot light?
This is only possible if you purchase a water heater that doesn’t use a pilot light. If your system has a pilot light, you usually can’t turn it on manually with a lighter.
That’s because water heaters have safety controls in place to prevent gas leaks. These safety mechanisms won’t allow any gas to come out if your pilot light can’t turn on automatically.
Does gas leak if the pilot light is off?
No, gas won’t leak if your pilot light is off unless your system has a broken safety feature. Modern and even older water heaters are built with several safety features to prevent gas leaks when the pilot light is off.