How to Light the Pilot in an Gas Furnace

man working on a furnace with the panel off

Although today’s standard gas furnace uses a hot surface ignition, older models often use an intermittent pilot to ignite heat. The pilot uses a high voltage spark of electricity to ignite heat when the thermostat indicates that it’s getting too cold. If you can’t get the pilot in your gas furnace to light, it’s usually a simple matter to turn it back on. Read the steps below to find out how.

Step 1 - Check the Power

If your furnace isn’t heating up, first check for the obvious: make sure that it’s hooked up to the appropriate electric and gas sources, and that these sources are functioning correctly.

Step 2 - Turn the Furnace Off

If all systems are working, then you’re ready to try to light the pilot. First, you may want to turn the furnace off and disconnect the gas, giving the air time to clear in case gas has been leaking out of the pilot.

Step 3 - Find the Ignition Button

Turn the furnace back on. On most electric ignition furnaces there is an ignition button, with a smaller red button right next to it. If you’re not able to locate this, check your owner’s manual for specific instructions. Press on this small button as you press the button for the electric ignition simultaneously. When the pilot lights, keep holding the small button down for about a minute.

Step 4 - Troubleshoot

If keeping the pilot lit is a recurring problem, the ignition may need to be cleaned or there may be a more serious problem. Because of the potential for fire, in this case, it may be best to consult a professional.