Lighting a gas water heater pilot

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My friend is having trouble lighting the pilot on his gas water heater.
I've looked ont the web and so far only found instructions for when things are going well, which doesn't apply here.
It has a built=in sparker, like a gas grill. Should we be able to see the spark that the sparker makes while looking through the hole?
If the sparker doesn't work, can I use a match? In that same hole? Do I need s really long match? I have none. Can I light the straw from a real straw broom?
He's been trying to sell this house for a year, finally has, and the walk-through is on Monday. We're hoping to light the wh Sunday so the water will be warm in time for the walk-thru.
We had the red button pressed all the way down for at least a minute (not realizing it wasn't lit) but never smelled any gas. All the valves in the supply pipe appear to be turned on, and the stove works.
Should we have smelled gas in just a minute?
Thanks a lot.
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mm wrote:

If the line's been off or otherwise has air in it, it can take a long long time to bleed by holding that pilot button. But yes, you should be able to see the spark, and yes, you can use a match, straw broom straw, rolled up news paper, candle lighter, propane torch, etc. I actually held a flame in one long enough to heat up the thermocouple and i didn't even have to hold the button after that, just wait for the air to bleed. You should be able to see the air 'blow' your flame sideways a little if infact the valve is being opened to allow gas to flow. no, you may not smell it after just a minute. Pilot circuits use very little flow. like i said, it may take a while.
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I have a gas hot water heater at my cabin. Every time we leave, we must turn off the gas. So, when I turn it on, I then have to go start the stove with a match. This takes upward of a minute. From there, the line goes to the HWH.
I use one of those long lighters you can get at the 99 cent store. My problem is that it takes a long time for the air to get out of the line, and the pilot to light. Rather than laying there for several minutes, I turn the knob to the ON position with the lighter in there. This causes gas to flow to the main burner, and that lights with a few seconds. I have since quit trying to heat up the thermocouple and waiting for the air to bleed, as my hand cannot hold the flame on the lighter for that long a time. And I don't want to just keep my finger on the button until I smell gas and then strike a match.
Try the ON thing if your dryer is configured to do so. Start at PILOT position first until you have the match in the right place. An assistant turning the control valve makes it easier, too.
Would like to know if that helps. Just be sure you have the lit match in there when you turn it to ON so you don't get a gas buildup that could cost you your eyebrows and all that lovely nose hair.
Steve
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Steve Barker wrote:

Yes, I like to heat the thermocouple in situations like that. It's fast and painless. I have a very small flame propane torch that works perfect for the job.
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Butane Aim N Flame gadgets are really first rate.
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Christopher A. Young
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wrote:

A great answer. You answered every questions I asked.

Hey, I have a little butane torch, but hadn't read this part of the thread in time. As you'll see below, it started pretty easily, despite the problems lots of otehrs have had with Whirlpool thermocouples. I did have to hold down the button a minute or two, and actually held it down much longer, because I couldn't see the flame or smell gas and I thought I was still purging the air from the line. ;)
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I used to do the same thing when I had to light gas fireplaces that had been off for months (sometimes years). I would hold the flame on the thermocouple until I could get the gas burner to open up then keep the flame near the thermocouple and pilot until all the old gas/ air was bled out and the burner fired up (usually only a fraction of the time it would have taken if I held in the pilot starter button).
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Steve Barker wrote:

The reason modern water heaters have a spark ignitor is that the burner is inside a sealed chamber to prevent an explosion if you place flammable liquids next to the heater. in order to actually reach the pilot burner with a match you must remove an access panel. According to at least one manufacturer (Rheem), if that panel is removed, the gasket must be replaced for continued anti-explosion safety.
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In the webpages related to complaints about this wh, I did see this "Whirlpool spokeswoman Jody Lau said the thermocouples are malfunctioning due to new safety standards in gas water heater ventilation systems.
As of July 2005, all new water heaters manufactured in the U.S. are to include Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant (FVIR) technology. The Gas Manufacturer's Association in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission voluntarily implemented this new safety standard in 2003."
But despite that, the pilot was visible, once I knew where to look, which was once the pilot was lit. It would have been hard to light with a match or straw or candle when I didn't know where to put the flame (I'm proud to say I had actually thought about that before I got there.) But now that we know where it is, I would think it would be lightable with a match. OTOH, the only reason I thought the ignitor might not be working is that I thought the pilot wasn't lit yet, and maybe it was and we were looking straight into the access hole instead of looking far to the left.
Thanks a lot.
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Oh, gosh. The country is being ruined by the far left.
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could be no spark, rusted pilot, spiderweb. or call the plumber to come in monday with his blowtorch, the buyer will like a new water heater and can meet the plumber too. see more "water heater pilot won't light" searched at applianceguru at http://fixitnow.com /
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mm wrote:

It's not unusual for service techs to take the gas line loose and turn on the shutoff valve to purge the air out of the pipes quickly. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who's not familiar with gas appliances. If you have a friend who's a handyman, he may be able to do it for you. Around here, the gas company is glad to send out someone to light you pilots and check everything for leaks. I don't know about gas company policies in your area.
TDD
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On Sat, 19 Sep 2009 22:21:52 -0500, The Daring Dufas

That's a good idea. I'll try to check on that. Thanks, and thank you Steve and BBill.
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Just the confidence of knowing you don't have any leaks is reason to call the gas company. What a great idea, DD.
Steve
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mm wrote:

It sparks as you push the button down. Holding it down does nothing.
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wrote:

black button was the sparker. The red button hss to be held down until the air purges from the line if necessary, and after the gas lights, until the thermocouple heats up enough to keep the gas on without pressing the red buttonl
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on 9/19/2009 10:30 PM (ET) mm wrote the following:

What Steve Barker said. I have a propane fired fireplace in my sunroom that is only used in the winter (naturally). It takes so long to start up the first time that my thumb hurts and I have to switch back and forth between thumbs to keep the button down before it will light, and then it might burn for a second or two and then go out, requiring a relight. .
--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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If you like to live with adventure. Use a propane torch to heat the thermocouple. Then turn the gas valve on. The torch will light the gas, and by the time you turn it off, the thermocouple is warm, and the pilot is lit.
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

You've seen my Jesus method for finding circuit breakers, I call the use of a torch to get the main gas valve on to purge the air, "The Satan Method". If you're not careful you can get a big ball of flame. *snicker*
TDD
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As long as you have a flame at the pilot light or at the burner there is absolutely no danger <period>
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