Do Gas Stoves Have Pilot Lights? Lighting and Maintaining Guide

Do Gas Stoves Have Pilot Lights

If you have a gas stove, you may wonder if it has a pilot light and how you can use it. Modern gas stoves no longer rely on a standing pilot light for ignition. Instead, they use an electric ignition to spark the gas burners as needed. However, some older gas stove models still utilize pilot lights to keep a small flame constantly burning to ignite the rest of the burner when turned on.

So, how do you know if your gas stove has a pilot light? The best way is to inspect the stove burners and knobs physically. Pilot light stoves will have a small opening where the flame comes out, as well as control knobs labeled “pilot” and usually “on” and “off.” Stoves without pilot lights will not have these features. If you do find that your oven has a pilot, you can learn how to safely light it by following some simple steps.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about gas stove pilot lights, including:

  1. What is a pilot light, and how do they work?
  2. Do new gas stoves still have pilot lights?
  3. How to tell if your stove has a pilot light
  4. Step-by-step instructions for lighting a stubborn pilot
  5. Troubleshooting tricks for common pilot light issues
  6. Safety tips for using a gas oven with the pilot unlit
  7. Maintenance and repairs to keep your pilot running smoothly
  8. Potential risks of gas leaks, fires, or even explosions with improper pilot light care
  9. When you need to call in a professional for pilot light service

By the end, you’ll be well-versed in all things pilot light-related regarding your gas stove. Time to shed some light on the subject!

What Is a Pilot Light on a Gas Stove?

A pilot light is a small standalone flame that is constantly lit to ignite the rest of the gas burner or oven when turned on. It provides a ready ignition source so that when you turn your knob to activate a burner, gas flows out and is set alight immediately by the pilot. This allows for instant ignition rather than having to use an electric spark or match each time.

Here is a quick overview of how a pilot light system works:

  • A small amount of natural gas or propane feeds the pilot flame.
  • This gas supply can be turned on/off via the gas control valve knob marked “pilot.”
  • Turning the knob releases just enough gas to sustain the pilot’s small flame when lit.
  • The pilot flame burns continuously 24/7 unless manually switched off.
  • When a burner knob is turned to “on,” it allows more gas to flow to the burner.
  • The existing pilot flame ignites this gas, creating a larger burner fire.
  • Turning the burner knob to “off” reduces the extra gas flow, but the pilot remains lit.

Pilot light systems were very common in gas stoves until the 1970s-80s. The continuous flame was efficient and convenient for quickly lighting the oven or cooktop burners as needed.

However, standing pilot lights are seen less often in new gas stoves today. Consider why this is and whether your modern appliance will likely have pilots.

Do New Gas Stoves Still Have Pilot Lights?

In short – probably not. Most new gas stoves produced in the last few decades have yet to use pilot light systems. Instead, they employ electric ignitions to spark a flame when the burner is turned on instantly.

There are a few reasons for this switch away from pilot lights:

Safety – Pilot flames are an open fire source and can be a burn or fire hazard if left unattended. Electric ignitions are safer since they only spark when activated.

Efficiency – Constantly burning a flame wastes a small amount of gas 24/7. Electric ignition only uses energy at the moment it is sparked.

Convenience – No need to manually light a stubborn pilot. Electronic ignitions always work with the flip of a switch.

Reliability – Modern electric systems are very reliable, whereas pilot lights can unexpectedly blow out occasionally.

Cost – Electric ignitions are now economical to include during manufacturing.

Environment – Not having a constantly burning flame minimizes carbon emissions.

Of course, plenty of older gas stove models are still in use today that were built before this transition away from standing pilot lights.

Stoves from the 1960s-1980s often have pilot lights, as this technology was standard. So, vintage appliances can frequently be found with pilots still intact.

If you need more clarification about your range, the next section identifies if a pilot light is present.

How to Tell If Your Gas Stove Has a Pilot Light

It’s easy to determine if your gas stove is equipped with a pilot light system. Start by visually inspecting the range burners and oven gas controls. Look for these telltale signs of a pilot:

Burner Design

  • A small opening where the flame emerges, apart from the larger burner opening. This is where the pilot flame comes from.
  • The general area around this smaller flame port will show signs of long-term exposure to flame. Look for discoloration or sooting on the metal edges.

Gas Control Knobs

  • A knob labeled “pilot” adjusts the gas flow to the pilot light.
  • Knobs marked “on” and “off” rather than low/high-intensity settings. The pilot either sustains combustion at “on” or is extinguished at “off.”
  • Possible additional knobs labeled “oven” and “broiler” to control the oven pilot.

Oven Pilot Locations

  • Check the ceiling or rear wall for a small covered opening inside the main oven compartment. Lifting the cover reveals the pilot.
  • On the back of the range – remove the rear panel to find a pilot accessing the oven from outside.

If you don’t see evidence of separated flame ports or the described gas control knobs, then your appliance most likely relies on modern electric ignition instead of a pilot.

Next, review the detailed steps for manually lighting an existing pilot on your older gas stove.

How to Light a Pilot Light on a Gas Stove

Lighting a dormant pilot light is a straightforward process that only takes a few minutes. Follow these instructions to safely and successfully get your oven or burner pilot going again:

1. Locate the pilot.

Refer back to the burner/oven inspection tips above. Identify where the actual pilot flame comes out – you’ll apply the ignition source.

2. Shut off the gas supply valve.

There is usually a shut-off on the pipe leading to the stove. Rotate it a quarter turn until it runs perpendicular to the line. This cuts off the gas during lighting.

3. Adjust the knob to “pilot” setting.

Turn the gas control knob to the “pilot” position. This allows only a small amount of gas to flow to the pilot when lit.

4. Depress the knob.

Push the knob in fully and hold it in this depressed position. This will manually release gas flow to the pilot.

5. Ignite with a long match/lighter.

While still depressing the knob, take a long fireplace match or barbecue lighter and reach in to ignite the released gas at the pilot opening.

6. Hold the knob down for 30 seconds.

Keep the knob fully pushed for 30 secs once lit, then release. This warms the thermocouple, which signals the gas to stay on.

7. Set the knob to “on.”

Turn to the “on” position to enable gas flow to the burner. The pilot should now ignite this larger burner.

8. Re-open gas supply.

Re-open the main gas shut-off valve you started with to restore the full gas supply.

And that’s all there is to light a dormant gas stove pilot! Just take care with flammable materials and exercise caution when depressing the pilot gas knob, as there is a risk of gas leaks, fires, or even explosions if done improperly.

If your pilot light still fails to ignite or stay lit after following these pilot lighting steps, the next section covers some quick troubleshooting tips.

Problems Lighting Your Pilot? Troubleshooting Tips

An old stove pilot can be stubborn about catching and maintaining its flame. Here are some common issues and likely fixes:

Pilot Won’t Light: This usually means there is insufficient gas flow reaching the pilot. Causes include a closed gas line, broken control knob, or clogged pilot tube.

Weak Pilot Flame: A small, trembling flame indicates restricted gas flow. Clean the pilot ports and tubing of any blockages.

Pilot Goes Out When Released: If the flame dies the moment you take your hand off the knob, the thermocouple isn’t getting hot enough to hold the gas valve open.

Pilot Keeps Going Out: Frequent pilot blowouts typically mean the flame is exposed to drafts. Use a windscreen to protect the pilot from air currents.

Burners Won’t Light: This points to a pilot flame that is too small or misaligned to ignite the burner gas. Adjust the pilot higher.

Call a professional stove repair technician for any persistent pilot issues. They can properly diagnose and fix underlying problems.

Let’s review some key safety considerations when operating a gas oven with the pilot unlit.

Is It Safe to Use an Oven With the Pilot Out?

We don’t recommend using your gas oven if the pilot flame is not lit. Gas stoves rely on the pilot as the ignition source for the oven burner.

Without a lit pilot, you risk the following dangers:

  • Gas Buildup – Gas continues flowing to the oven burner without being ignited. This can lead to dangerous levels of explosive gas.
  • Risk of Suffocation – Unburned gas depletes oxygen levels in the confined oven space. Inhaling this gas-rich air can cause suffocation.
  • Gas Leak Fire/Explosion – Built-up gas in the oven could ignite from another source, like an electrical spark. This can send the entire unit up in flames.
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – If gas only partially burns due to a malfunctioning oven burner, it releases toxic CO into the air.

If your oven pilot repeatedly goes out unexpectedly, have a technician inspect it immediately. Wait to use the oven until the underlying issue is found and fixed.

Next is comparing the advantages and disadvantages of sticking with your stove’s original pilot system versus upgrading to modern electric ignition.

Pilot Light vs. Electric Ignition Pros and Cons

You can keep the built-in standing pilot as-is for older gas stoves or convert it to electric ignition. Let’s look at the key differences:

Pilot Light Pros:

  • Provides a continuous flame – don’t wait for ignition each use.
  • It doesn’t rely on electricity to operate. It still works in a power outage.
  • Simple mechanism – less components to break than electronic ignition.
  • Familiar operation – no learning curve switching from pilot control knobs.

Electric Ignition Pros:

  • More energy efficient – only uses gas when burner is on, not 24/7.
  • Safer with no open standing flame. Reduces fire risks.
  • Modern convenience – push the button, and burners ignite instantly.
  • Reliable performance – less maintenance than finicky pilot flames.
  • Eco-friendly – reduces your household’s emissions footprint.

Converting to electric ignition is recommended for improved safety and efficiency. But keeping your pilot maintained can still allow reliable performance.

Speaking of maintenance, let’s review some key tips for keeping your pilot in top shape.

Pilot Light Maintenance Tips

To prevent issues with wavering, misfiring, or extinguished pilot flames, it’s important to perform regular maintenance:

  • Watch the flame – Make sure it burns steadily at full size, not shrinking or fluttering.
  • Clean the ports – Use compressed air to clear any dirt or debris clogging the pilot opening.
  • Inspect tubing – Check tubes between the gas supply and pilot for cracks or blockages.
  • Adjust the flame – Ensure the pilot is positioned correctly to ignite burners.
  • Shield it – Add a wind guard around the pilot to protect from drafts.
  • Have it adjusted – A professional can fine-tune the gas flow so the flame burns true.

Doing this upkeep will ensure your pilot light keeps functioning smoothly and safely. Be alert for any signs of trouble requiring professional repairs:

  • The pilot won’t stay lit after releasing the knob
  • Burners failing to ignite from the pilot
  • Soot buildup around the flame opening
  • Strong gas odor around the stove
  • Visible cracks in tubing or pilot housing

It’s smart to have a technician inspect your pilot assembly annually. Next are some must-know safety measures to prevent risks specific to pilot lights.

Safety Tips for Your Gas Stove’s Pilot Light

Standing pilot flames must be treated with care to avoid potential hazards. Follow these guidelines to operate your gas range’s pilot safely:

  1. Regularly inspect – Monitor your pilot often to catch any weakness or instability before an emergency.
  2. Don’t leave the pilot burning unattended – Always turn it off when away for prolonged periods.
  3. Well-ventilated – Ensure your kitchen has adequate airflow to prevent gas buildup.
  4. Equip detectors – Have both smoke and gas detectors installed nearby.
  5. Address leaks quickly – If you suspect a leak, immediately turn off the pilot until it’s fixed.
  6. Have professional repairs – Only attempt pilot lighting & repairs with proper training.
  7. Annual maintenance – Make visits by a qualified technician for upkeep a priority.
  8. Use caution when manually lighting – Avoid loose clothing and have an extinguisher ready.
  9. Consider an upgrade – Converting to electric ignition eliminates many risks associated with pilots.

Proper precautions greatly minimize the potential for gas leaks, fires, or explosions when caring for your pilot light. But when should you call in a professional?

When to Call a Professional for Your Pilot Light

While basic pilot lighting and upkeep can be DIY, it’s smart to involve a trained appliance pro for:

  • Initial Installation – A qualified technician should install the pilot system on any new gas stove.
  • Pilot Won’t Stay Lit – Pro troubleshooting is needed if you can’t get a newly lit pilot to hold its flame.
  • Multiple Relights – If your pilot keeps going out repeatedly, something that requires skill to diagnose needs to be fixed.
  • Gas Leak Investigation – Don’t attempt to relight a pilot and find the leak source yourself. Leave it off and call a pro immediately.
  • Oven Pilot Relight – Only attempt relighting just the burner pilots. Oven gas flow is complex and dangerous.
  • Full Pilot Inspections – Annual in-depth checks of connections, gas flow, flame strength, etc.
  • Pilot System Repairs – Licensed pros should do all fixes except for basic maintenance.
  • Full Unit Conversions – Swapping a pilot system out for electric ignition should also be left to experts.

Hiring a qualified stove repair technician ensures that pilot issues are properly assessed and fixed safely.

And that wraps up our complete guide to gas stove pilot lights! Hopefully, this overview dispels any mystery about what that small flame coming from your range burners is all about. With the right care and maintenance, your traditional pilot ignition system can continue lighting up meals for years. But never hesitate to call in a pro when you need assistance getting that stubborn little flame restarted.

Further Reading:

We hope this guide provided useful information on gas stove pilot lights, including how to light and maintain them safely. If you have any other kitchen or cooking related questions, please leave them in the comments! We love hearing from readers. If we receive multiple questions on a topic that merits a full article, we will be sure to write one and mention your name for the suggestion. Thank you for reading!

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