Lighting a gas pilot furnace is an important skill to know anytime, but especially during cold weather. You never know when the pilot may go out, or how long it will take a repairperson to get to your home and re-light it. Sometimes if you leave the basement door or window open and it is very breezy, a wind gust can blow out the flame.
Some other ways your furnace flame can become extinguished include if there is a storm and a circuit breaker gets tripped, or if the furnace filters become really dirty. Occasionally someone will blow a fuse from overuse or turn it off by mistake.
Keep the needed tools on hand. Get both a flathead and Phillips screwdrivers and a lighter, the longer the better. A barbecue lighter is the easiest tool for lighting the burner. You will need a watch or clock, and if your floor is cold or dirty, get an old blanket or quilt to sit on. The newer furnaces usually have electric ignition.
An older furnace, when lit and burning correctly, shows a blue flame, and when the flame goes out, it can be lit manually. If you have an electric ignition and the burner goes out, you will have to call the gas company or a contractor to light it. Read the owner’s manual and don’t try to fix your furnace if it is different from the one described here.
First and most important, if you ever smell gas in your home, leave the house and call the fire department from a neighbor’s home or use your cell phone when safely outdoors. Don’t attempt to light the pilot light or turn on any appliances if a gas smell is noticeable, as a spark could ignite the leaking gas. Get all family members away from the property as quickly as possible.
Next, if it appears your furnace isn’t working properly but you do not smell gas anywhere, check another gas appliance to make sure your home’s gas didn’t get shut off completely. If you still don’t detect an odor and are sure the furnace is the only appliance affected, you can either turn off the gas valve and turn the thermostat all the way down, or call the gas company before doing anything yourself.
Then find the emergency switch on the furnace that is colored red and turn it off. Sometimes the switch is not red, but it may be marked in another way. The switch is located on or close to the furnace and will look like a light switch. If it isn’t marked but you find out later where it is, mark it yourself so that it reads emergency switch in case this situation should occur in the future. Buy a cover for it at the hardware store for a few dollars.
You also can turn off the electrical power at the main service panel. Make sure the gas control handle is turned to the off position. Wait twelve to fifteen minutes to get rid of any gas fumes in the burner chamber. If you smell gas here, close the gas shut-off valve and get out of the area.
Finally, if it is safe, remove the access door to the burner chamber. Turn the gas knob to pilot position and press down on reset. While doing this, use the lighter to relight the burner, but keep your face turned away. Hold the reset button for one minute. If the pilot remains lit, replace the access door. Turn the emergency switch on, and turn your thermostat to a high position until the burners light. Adjust the thermostat to the temperature that you want.
Always remember safety first. Don’t attempt this procedure unless you are familiar with how your furnace works and can be certain there are no gas fumes or leaks that pose a danger to you or the home. Pay your gas bill on time each month and tune in to news broadcasts during a storm or while construction is going on in the neighborhood to find out if your gas supply has been affected.