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What Is a Standing Pilot?

A standing pilot is the standard ignition device for most natural gas burning heating systems, and has been for many years. It’s a continuously burning flame at the bottom of the heater, responsible for starting the burners that actually generate heat for the home. Though it’s a widely used technology, there are a few things that have given it a less-than-stellar reputation. Read on for an explanation of how a standing pilot works, as well as some common issues with it.

How it Works

A standing pilot light is actually fairly simple in design. A gas line terminates in a small burner, which creates the flame. A bit of composite metal wire, called a “thermocouple,” connects the burner to a valve in the gas line. When the pilot light is lit, the thermocouple registers the heat and generates an electric current. The current travels down the thermocouple to the gas valve and opens it. This is what keeps the pilot light burning. When the pilot light goes out, the thermocouple’s electric current stops and the gas valve closes. This is a safety measure to prevent gas from flooding your home.

Common Problems

The most common problem for standing pilot lights is the light going out. This tends to happen because the flame is unprotected from air currents or sudden draft. Though there is an ignition system on most heaters to relight the pilot light, there are other issues that can occur.

The thermocouple for the pilot light often wears out over time, eventually losing the ability to create an electrical current. This can occur from wear and tear, corrosion, becoming detached from the volt meter, or simply becoming bent way from the pilot flame. Regardless of the way that the thermocouple stops working, the effect is the same: the pilot light is unable to stay lit. If your pilot light seems to light without issues, but almost immediately goes out, it’s because the thermocouple is no longer keeping the gas valve to the flame open.

If you’re having issues with your pilot light, call A-Professional Heating and Air Conditioning. We offer professional heating services throughout Covington.

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