How to Light a Water Heater with an Electronic Pilot

Water Heater

An electronic pilot is a component of a water heater that uses an electronically controlled gas valve and igniter to light the burner. While this may sound complicated, the process of lighting a water heater with an electronic pilot is actually quite simple. 

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the steps of lighting a water heater with an electronic pilot, as well as some common mistakes to avoid. So, how to light a water heater with the electronic pilot and common myths for water heaters?

Let’s get started with the steps! 

  • Turn off the power to the water heater. This can usually be done by flipping a switch on the control panel or circuit box. If you’re not sure where the switch is, consult your owner’s manual. Once the power is off, wait at least five minutes before proceeding to the next step. 
  • Locate the access panel on the side of the water heater tank. Remove the panel by loosening the screws or bolts that hold it in place. 
  • Find the electronic pilot assembly inside the access panel. You should see a small, cylindrical object with two wires coming out of one end. The end of the pilot assembly that has two wires attached to it is usually color-coded red and white. 

Water Heater

  • Use a Phillips head screwdriver to remove the screw that secures the red wire to the terminal on the gas valve. Once the screw is removed, carefully pull the red wire away from the terminal. Do not yank or tug on the wire, as this could damage it. 
  • Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to remove the small metal clip that secures the white wire to the terminal on the igniter. Again, be careful not to damage either the wire or the igniter when removing this clip. 
  • Locate and press down on the small black button labeled “RESET” on the gas valve control panel. Once you’ve pressed this button, use a match or lighter to ignite the burner flames at the base of the water heater tank.
  • Hold the flame against the burner for approximately 30 seconds before letting go. If everything has been done correctly up to this point, you should see a continuous flame emanating from the burner opening.

What to do if you do not see the flame:

If you do NOT see a continuous flame, stop and call a qualified service technician immediately! Repeat this process until you see a continuous flame coming from the burner opening before proceeding. Read more about distilled water ph here.

If you are unsure of how to proceed from this point, stop and call a qualified Service technician immediately! Never try to force the relighting of an automatic pilot! This could result in serious injury or even death! 


With a continuous flame at the bottom of your water heater tank, it’s time to replace both the red wire and white clip onto their associated terminals on the gas valve and igniter assemblies. Make sure that these securing screws are tightened down correctly but not over-tightened, as this could damage those small components.

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