Some Common Reasons for Gas Water Heater Igniter Malfunction

Posted on: 17 October 2019

Every hot water system has its own pros and cons, and gas water heaters are no exception. These water heaters are designed to provide you with reliable and efficient hot water supply for your household. However, they may develop problems like other types of water heaters, leaving you with no hot water for your household use.

One of the common types of problems you may experience with your gas water heater is igniter failure. Also called a standing pilot, your water heater's igniter is what produces the sparks required to ignite the gas used to heat the water. It eliminates the need to use matches or handheld lighters to ignite the gas. 

If you ever experience gas water heater igniter malfunction, here are some likely culprits behind the problem and consider calling a hot water service.

Dirty, Bent or Damaged Thermocouple

Usually, the thermocouple in your gas water heater acts as a safety feature. Its job is to cut off the gas supply to the pilot burner immediately the pilot light goes off. If your gas water heater igniter keeps shutting off, then your thermocouple could be bad. 

Allow the thermocouple to cool off before inspecting it for dirt buildup, bending or damage. If there is dirt, gently clean it off using sandpaper. This should get the thermocouple functioning normally. Bent thermocouples may simply require alignment towards the pilot flame to function normally again.

Damage to the thermocouple may require a professional plumber's expertise to determine whether repair or replacement is needed.

Dirt in the Pilot Tube

Normally, clean pilot light tubes will produce a stable, blue flame. Over time, however, soot may accumulate in the pilot light tube. This will lead to a weak, unsteady yellow flame from the burner. This will lead to irregular supply of gas to the pilot burner that causes the igniter to turn off. 

To remedy this, consider cleaning the pilot light tube and unclogging it with a needle. This should help to keep the igniter turned on. 

Dirty or Blocked Air Inlets

Newer models of gas water heaters come equipped with air inlet screens, which help to filter out the air flowing into the water heater. Over time, the air inlet may become clogged with dust and other debris, which may prevent it from functioning normally. 

Keeping the air inlet screens cleaned and clog-free is essential to allow sufficient supply of air needed to keep the igniter turned on. Otherwise, the water heater will shut off.

Watching out for the following problems when troubleshooting for gas water heater problems is essential to keeping the igniter turned on. Don't hesitate to contact a professional water heater plumber if you need help with checking and repairing your gas water heater.