Do Electric Water Heaters Have a Pilot Light?

Do Electric Water Heaters Have a Pilot Light


So you are having problems with your water heater and think the pilot light has gone out. What do you do? 

First of all, do not panic. Pilot lights are easily reignited but you may not even need to do that to get your heater back up and running smoothly. 

We have put together this guide to take you through the basics of water heaters and pilot lights, including how to tell if you need to light your pilot or not.

Does My Heater Have A Pilot Light?

Electric water heaters do not have a pilot light. This is because there is no gas involved in heating the water in an electric heating system.

If you have an electric heater that is not working, you have an electrical issue and not an issue with the pilot light.

If you do have a gas heater, you will only need to reignite a pilot light if you have an older model. This is because all newer models are built with a pilot light that will reignite automatically.

How To Reset An Electric Heater?

Now we have established that you do not have a pilot light to sort out, we can turn our attention to resetting your electric water heater.

The first thing you need to do is locate the breaker on the heater’s electric panel. If the breaker is in the ON position, flick it across to OFF. If it was in the OFF position, you need to flick it to ON. If it stays on then you can conclude that the heater’s poor behavior was a fluke and there is no need to continue.

If, however, the breaker immediately flicks back to OFF you need to stop what you are doing and immediately call an electrician. 

If you have successfully passed this first test, you now need to find the reset button. This is usually red and fairly close to the thermostat. When you locate it you need to press it down and then release it. If the breaker trips again then you cannot do much more so call in a professional to diagnose the situation.

If, however, everything is going smoothly you can flip the breaker back to ON and wait a few minutes to let the water heat up in the tank.

Remember that the reset button is a safety mechanism on your water heater that is designed to stop things from going wrong. When in any doubt at all, leave the heater off and call a professional who will be able to safely sort everything out.

How To Reset An Electric Heater

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Tell If I Have An Electric Or Gas Water Heater?

The simplest way to tell if you have an electric or gas heater is to remove the access panel, usually on the side of a heater, and look for a blue flame. If you see a blue flame, this is the pilot light and you know you have a gas heater as the pilot light burns natural gas.

If you are still unsure, look for a flue or vent pipe coming out of the water heater. If you see a PVC pipe that is 3-5 inches in diameter you have a gas heater. This is the venting system that electric heaters do not have as there is no exhaust.

How Do You Light An Electric Water Heater?

You can easily light an electric water heater yourself. Simply set the temperature to the lowest possible setting, set the on-off control to the pilot setting option, and press down and hold the pilot button.

You need to look through the sight glass and gently press the spark generator until there is an audible click. You should now be able to see the lit pilot light through the sight glass. Keep holding the pilot button for another 20 seconds after the pilot is lit and then you are good to go!

What Happens When A Heating Element Goes Out In A Water Heater?

There are two elements in a water heater tank, both of which will break at some point during the life of the water heater system through inevitable wear and tear.

If you notice that the temperature of your hot water is slowly dropping, you will probably find that one of the elements has stopped working and you need to replace it.

If your hot water suddenly becomes only cold, both elements have gone and you will have no heat in your water until both are replaced.

What Does The Reset Button On A Water Heater Do?

The reset button on a water heating unit is a safety mechanism that turns off the heating system when the water inside the tank exceeds a set temperature. This is usually around 180°F (80°C). This mechanism is also widely referred to as the emergency cut off (ECO) or the safety thermostat switch.

Why Is My Water Heater Tripping The Reset Switch?

Your reset button is tripping because it is registering an internal water temperature of around 180°F (80°C) or above. This may be down to a malfunctioning thermostat that is registering the wrong water temperature, a heating element that is going rogue, or a loose electrical connection.

Given the hazardous nature of electric water heaters and the complexity of the system, you are best off seeking professional help rather than trying to solve the problem yourself.

Why Does The Pilot Light On My Water Heater Keep Going Out?

Almost all situations where a pilot light repeatedly goes out can be traced back to a faulty thermocouple. This is the device that records temperature and dictates the gas flow inside the water heater. 

Over time your water heater will inevitably collect some grime and dirt which can easily damage your heater’s thermocouple. To fix this issue, switch off the heating system and wait for the unit to cool down.

You can then carefully brush off any debris. You need to be very careful as bending the thermocouple away from the heat source the tiniest amount will reduce its ability to detect heat, closing the gas valve in the unit and extinguishing the pilot light. 

If you are unsure, your safest option is to seek professional help as water heaters can quickly be rendered unsafe if dealt with incorrectly.

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