Electronic Ignition Water Heater Won't Light? (Do This!)

Chad Kilpatrick
by Chad Kilpatrick
Many homeowners have an electronic ignition water heater because of their cheap and easy operation. Sometimes, electronic ignition water heaters won’t light due to improper voltage or loose wires. Whether the unit be underpowered or there is a bad thermocouple, let’s take a look at what you can do when an electronic ignition water heater won’t light.

Water heaters can seem a little bit intimidating since they use gas, and heat, to warm the water. You may have some trouble getting the electronic ignition, to light your water heater, which can be frustrating. We’ve put together this guide to help you find the solution.

If your electronic ignition water heater, will not light, then it could be a loose wire, the ignition may not be getting the correct voltage, or you may just need to try lighting it more than once. If none of these is the issue, it could be something more advanced, like a bad thermocouple.

Hot water heaters are perhaps one of the most important things in our home. We need them to do laundry, take showers, clean dishes, and much more. When you can’t get your water heater to light, you may get a little bit irritated.

Take a deep breath, and let’s start with some of the basics. Chances are there may be an easy fix or a fix that you can do yourself, without calling in a plumber.

This information is provided as our informed opinion and does not constitute actual advice from a licensed professional.

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Types of Electronic Ignition Water Heaters

There is more than one type of electronic ignition water heater. To better understand how yours works, you will need to know what type you have.

Induced draft water heater. An induced draft water heater is a type of water heater that uses a small fan, to draw the combustion gas from the combustion chamber. Induced draft water heaters use an intermittent pilot or hot surface ignition instead of a standing pilot light.

Condensing water heater. A condensing water heater uses two heat exchangers. When the gas is burned from the primary heat exchanger, the second exchanger draws heat from the exhaust. The secondary exchanger, then cools the gas vapor, until it turns into water.

You will need to know whether your hot water heater uses an intermittent pilot, or a hot surface ignition so that you can properly address the issues with the igniter.

Troubleshooting Your Water Heater

When you have a problem with your water heater, you will need to do some troubleshooting and some testing. Sometimes it may be an easy fix, such as a loose wire, other times, it may be something more advanced, such as a bad thermocouple.

Easy things, you will be able to work on yourself. However, the more advanced problems will most likely need a licensed plumber. Anything that uses gas, needs to be worked on by someone who is licensed. If you can’t find the problem, or the problem is too advanced, don’t hesitate to call a licensed service professional.

Why Is My Hot Water Heater Not Igniting?

If you have been having trouble with your hot water heater not igniting, then there could be several issues. Let’s look at some of the most common problems, so that we may find the solutions.

  • Try lighting it more than once
  • Check for loose wires
  • Not getting the proper power
  • A damaged thermocouple
  • Bad control valve

Start with the easiest thing first, and work your way down the list. By using this troubleshooting method, you can avoid replacing expensive parts, that may not have been broken. You will need to have some tools handy, as well. Make sure you have a set of screwdrivers, a socket set, and a multimeter.

If you move through this list, and still cannot find the problem, then you know it is time to call in a professional. Have patience when working on these things, and make sure that you are taking the correct safety precautions.

For safety reasons, you should make sure that the gas is turned to the off position when you are doing any work to the water heater. If you doing any soldering, make sure to wear protective eyewear.

How Do You Light an Electronic Ignition Water Heater?

You will need to know how to properly light your electric ignition water heater. The electronic igniter, will either light the pilot light or will light the gas directly. Here are some instructions on how to do so.

Lighting a hot surface ignition:

  • Locate the igniter button
  • Press and hold down the button
  • Listen for the click and ignition

Your igniter should light the gas directly if it is a hot surface ignition. You will know it is working if you feel the heat coming from the unit.

Lighting an intermittent pilot ignition:

  • Locate the igniter button and knob
  • Switch the knob to pilot
  • Press and hold down the button
  • Listen for the click and ignition
  • Set the knob to on after lighting

You will need to light the igniter, with the knob in the pilot position, and then turn the knob to on after you light it.

Try Lighting it Multiple Times

The first thing you need to do before you do any of the other troubleshooting is to try lighting it multiple times. If it is an intermittent pilot igniter, then you will have to make sure the pilot is lit, before turning it on. Pilot lights can take a few tries to get lit.

You will need to wait a few minutes, in between lighting it. The gas will need to disperse, and then you will be ready to try it again. If you have tried it multiple times and waited for the correct amount of time, and it is still not working, you will need to move on to the next possible issue.

Check for Loose Wires

The igniter will have multiple wires that go to it. Sometimes, these wires can become loose, and there may be a problem with it getting power. Inspect the igniter, for any bad wiring, and if you find any, you may need to resolder the wire or have a professional reattach them for you.

Any time you work on a hot water heater, you need to make sure that it is unplugged, and that the gas is turned to the off position. If you are unsure about what you are doing, do not hesitate to call a service professional. Better safe than sorry.

Are You Getting the Correct Voltage?

Next up, you need to make sure that the water heater is getting the correct voltage. If you are getting too much voltage, (over 125 VAC) it can cause your igniter to fail. Use your multimeter, to test how much voltage is going to the igniter.

Most new electric igniter water heaters will have a control board. The control board will throw a code if there is a problem with the voltage. The board uses blinking lights, to identify which code is being thrown.

You will need to check your user’s manual, to find out which of the blinking lights, and codes, are causing the problem with your igniter. If you determine that it has the correct voltage, then you will need to move on to the next possible issue.

Damaged Thermocouple

A damaged thermocouple could be the next problem on the list. The thermocouple detects the pilot flame. If this is damaged, or not working properly, you will not be able to light the pilot by pressing the igniter. The thermocouple could be damaged and will need to be replaced, or it may just be loose.

Check to make sure the thermocouple connection to the control valve is tight. If you feel some slack, you will need to tighten it, to correct this problem.

If that is not the problem, you may have a bad thermocouple on your hands. You will need to use your multimeter to test it. You will have to unscrew the thermocouple, from the control valve. Then, you will need to set your multimeter to read millivolts.

If the thermocouple is reading less than 25 millivolts, then it is bad. You will need to replace the thermocouple at this point.

Main Control Valve is Bad

The last issue, after you have determined that there is no easy fix, is that the main control valve could be bad. This is a more advanced problem. If the main control valve is bad, your water heater igniter will not be able to light the pilot, no matter how many times you try.

The only way for you to troubleshoot your main control valve is to rule out all of the other issues on our list of common problems. If you have reached this point, you will need a licensed professional to take a look a the valve and replace it.

This is going to be a pricey fix, so make sure you have been thorough with the rest of the troubleshooting. Unfortunately, working on a hot water heater is usually something that is going to require a professional. You should not take on any project like this unless you know exactly what you are doing.

Do You Need Water Heater Repair Services?

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Related Questions

Can you manually light a water heater with an electronic pilot?

Most newer hot water heaters use an electronic igniter, this means that you will not be able to manually light it, the way you could with an older one. This means, if the power is out, you will not be able to light the hot water heater. Do not try to light it manually, to avoid safety issues.

When should you hit the reset button on a water heater?

If you are having a problem with your igniter lighting your water heater, then chances are it is not a problem that resetting it will fix. If your hot water heater does have a high-temperature reset button, it should be used when the temperature is above 180 degrees.

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Chad Kilpatrick
Chad Kilpatrick

I'm a writer that is passionate about home improvements, remodeling, and renovating. I enjoy learning new skills and techniques and sharing them with others.

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