If you’ve replaced your water heater within the past few years, you may have been surprised to learn that your new unit doesn’t use a traditional standing pilot light. As with furnaces, most new gas water heaters no longer use pilot lights for ignition and instead typically use some type of electronic igniter. Here’s a quick look at the reasons that pilot lights aren’t used any longer and also what type of ignition they use instead.

Energy Waste

The primary reason that most water heater manufacturers have moved away from using standing pilot lights is to improve energy efficiency. A standing pilot light needs to constantly burn a small amount of gas to stay lit, and this contributes to quite a bit of energy waste.

Depending on the specific model, a water heater’s pilot light will typically burn somewhere between 5 and 10 therms of natural gas per month. At the national average rate of around $0.95 per therm, a pilot light will end up costing you an extra $5 to $10 a month.

Reliability Issues

The other main reason that pilot lights are rarely used these days is that they aren’t that reliable. If your gas supply is ever interrupted or the pilot light gets blown out, you will need to relight it manually before your water heater will work again. Modern water heaters eliminate this issue by using an electronic igniter that works automatically.

Modern Alternatives to Pilot Lights

Many new water heaters still use a pilot light. However, instead of a traditional pilot light that is constantly lit, they use an intermittent or automatic pilot. This still uses a flame to ignite the gas burners, but the unit lights the pilot automatically whenever it needs to heat and then extinguishes the pilot flame as soon as the unit shuts down.

You can also find water heaters that use either a hot-surface igniter or a direct-spark ignition. Direct-spark igniters work by creating an electrical arc or spark that instantly ignites the gas burners. A hot-surface igniter is somewhat similar to a lightbulb filament. Electricity flows through a small probe, which instantly makes it hot enough that it lights the burners.

If you need any water heater service in the Owasso area, you can count on the team at Half Moon Plumbing. We install and service traditional water heaters as well as tankless units. We also specialize in drain cleaning, leak detection, sewer repairs and replacement, gas line services, water line replacement and a full range of other plumbing repairs and installations. Give Half Moon Plumbing a call today if you have any questions or need to schedule a service appointment.

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