Staying Lit: Troubleshooting Tips for a Water Heater That Won’t Stay On

by | Sep 1, 2023 | Water Heaters

At Jolly Plumbing, we understand the pivotal role a fully functional water heater plays in your daily life. 

From refreshing morning showers to soothing evening baths, a dependable water heater keeps your household running smoothly. However, there might be instances when your water heater throws a tantrum and decides not to stay lit. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. We are a trusted service provider in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati area and are ready to troubleshoot and repair or replace your water heater.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the common reasons behind this issue and offer valuable troubleshooting tips to keep your daily routine in order.

Common Reasons a Water Heater Won’t Stay Lit

We understand how frustrating it can be when your water heater suddenly stops working properly. However, the only way for you to solve the problem is to investigate and find the root cause of the problem.

We’ll shed some light on potential reasons your water heater’s pilot light might flicker out just when you need it the most. 

Faulty Thermocouple

Think of the thermocouple as the vigilant guardian of your water heater. This tiny device serves as a safety mechanism that detects whether the pilot light is burning. If it senses a malfunction or an extinguished pilot light, it shuts off the gas supply to prevent potential gas leaks or accidents. That said, if your water heater won’t stay lit, a malfunctioning thermocouple could be the culprit. 

Dirt or Debris in the Burner

Another potential culprit is the build-up of foreign substances. Over time, dirt and debris can accumulate in your water heater’s burner, leading to ignition problems. The presence of these unwelcome guests can block the gas supply or disrupt the airflow needed for combustion, resulting in an erratic pilot light.

To tackle this issue, make sure to perform regular checks and cleaning of your water heater’s burner. Additionally, turn off the gas supply, allow the unit to cool down, and carefully clean the burner using a soft brush or compressed air. These simple maintenance steps can make a world of difference in ensuring your water heater stays lit consistently.

Damaged Gas Control Valve

A damaged gas control valve is another possible cause of faulty water heater lights. 

The gas control valve is the brain of your water heater that regulates the flow of gas and controls the temperature of the water. If this component malfunctions, it can lead to issues like an inability to keep the pilot light burning.

Be sure to keep an eye out for indications of a faulty gas control valve — inconsistent heating or no hot water at all. If you notice these signs, it’s best to seek professional assistance promptly. 

Our team of experts can diagnose the problem and recommend whether a repair or replacement is necessary.

Safety First: When To Call a Professional

When dealing with issues with gas appliances, especially those involving potential leaks, safety must always take precedence. At Jolly Plumbing, we’re not only committed to keeping your home comfortable but also ensuring the safety of your family. 

In this section, we’ll explore the crucial topic of when it’s essential to call in a professional for help, especially in scenarios that raise concerns about gas leaks or underlying malfunctions. 

Remember, your safety is our top priority, so let’s delve into the world of gas-related concerns and when it’s time to entrust the issue to experts.

Detecting Gas Leaks

Safety always comes first when dealing with gas appliances. If you notice the distinct smell of rotten eggs or sulfur around your water heater, it could be a sign of a gas leak. This is not a situation to take lightly.

In the case of a suspected gas leak, immediately turn off the gas supply, open windows to ventilate the area, and vacate the premises. Contact your gas company and a professional technician to assess and address the issue before it escalates.

Inconsistent Flame or Strange Noises

If you notice an erratic flame pattern or hear strange noises emanating from your water heater, it’s time to seek expert advice. These symptoms could indicate more serious underlying problems, such as a damaged burner or improper combustion.

Our team of skilled technicians can accurately diagnose the issue and provide tailored solutions. Through this proactive approach, we can prevent minor concerns from snowballing into major headaches.

Preventative Maintenance Tips

Although finding solutions is an effective way to ensure your protection, a better alternative is to avoid these problematic scenarios altogether. One way to do so is to take note of these preventive maintenance tips. 

Regular Inspections

Just like any other appliance, your water heater can benefit from periodic inspections. A quick visual check for signs of rust, corrosion, or unusual wear and tear can catch potential problems early on.

Draining the Tank Annually

Sediment buildup is a common enemy of water heaters. As mentioned earlier, minerals and debris settle at the bottom of the tank, hampering its efficiency and potentially causing damage. By draining the tank annually, you can prevent sediment accumulation and extend the lifespan of your water heater.


In an age where convenience and comfort matter, a water heater that won’t stay lit can throw a wrench in your daily routine. With your new insight into common water heater issues and troubleshooting tips, you can tackle this challenge head-on.

Remember, safety is paramount, and if you encounter gas leaks or persistent problems, it’s best to seek professional assistance promptly.

At Jolly Plumbing, we’re dedicated to ensuring your home’s comfort and safety. If you find yourself grappling with a water heater that refuses to stay lit, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Our team of experts is equipped with the knowledge and experience to diagnose and resolve the issue, allowing you to enjoy consistent hot water once again.

Your home deserves the best care, and we’re here to provide it.

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