Turn Off Your Furnace’s Pilot Light

We just had a small heat wave here in the West. I was out in the garage and noticed that our furnace pilot light was still on. Not any more!

After a few calculations from our Pacific Gas & Electric bill, it appears that our furnace pilot light consumes 0.3 ccf/day. At the current natural gas price which includes a nickel surcharge and a 5% user’s tax, this is equivalent to $0.4069 per day. Over the course of the 6 months that we definitely don’t need our furnace, this reflects a savings of $74.

Other ways to save natural gas are

  • replace the furnace filters every year when it is turned back on
  • wrap your water heater with an extra insulator blanket
  • set the water heater temperature to 120 F
  • use a clothes line to dry laundry

Some day we will get a new furnace with an electric igniter, but until then, it pays to turn off the pilot light when the furnace is not needed.

Addendum

Ask your significant other before you turn off the furnace pilot light. It got cold the night after I did this. It was 62 degrees inside the house the next morning. My wife suggested I re-light the pilot light. I did.


7 thoughts on “Turn Off Your Furnace’s Pilot Light

  1. Pingback: Money Hackers Carnival #9 - Scream Edition!
  2. Can someone tell me how to turn my pilot light off on my furnace the gas reader man said I could save $10.00 a month.

  3. Hi Peggy,

    I should have added the instructions to turn the pilot light off to my article.

    It is usually pretty simple to turn a furnace pilot light off. You need to look at your furnace for an access panel. Take that off. Then look for a valve that often looks like an aluminum box with tubes sticking out.

    The valve should have a control on it that has markings of on, off, and pilot. If the pilot light is burning, the valve will be in the “on” position. Turn the valve so that the “off” marking is lined up with whatever marking the “on” valve was lined up with. You should see the pilot light go out as you turn the valve.

    There may also be a gas line valve outside of the furnace. It is called a “gas shutoff valve.” Turn that so that he handle is perpendicular to the direction of the pipe. (Gas flows when the handle is in the same direction as the pipe.) If the valve seems stuck, don’t try to force it. As long as you’ve tuned off the furnace control valve, you are OK. The gas shutoff valve is just another way to stop gas from flowing to the furnace.

    With either of those valves off, gas cannot flow, and the pilot light will be out. Turning the pilot light back on is a little more complicated, but not difficult. There is a short article of how to do that at

    http://www.howstuffworks.com/how-to-maintain-a-furnace1.htm

  4. This is good information. However, it can be very dangerous. I am a code inspector/home inspector, and you wouldn’t believe the things I see. To make it worse, unless you had the furnace installed (new), you don’t know what “modifications” someone may have made to the furnace.

    Yesterday, I was cleaning a relative’s furnace. I noticed burn marks on the door. Someone had replaced the pilot light holder and the pilot light was aimed at the door. Apparently they couldn’t get it to mount correctly, and just bolted it down (with the flame shooting out the door!) Then I noticed other “repairs”.

    Gas and electric can kill you. If you feel confident, have the manual,and have read enough that you are able to light the pilot, OK. Keep in mind that there may be reason that the light is off. Something may be in need of cleaning or repair. If you found a breaker off in your electrical breaker box, would you just turn it on, or would you try to find out why it is off?

    Just be careful. Sometimes things that look simple on home improvement shows can be complicated. When the camera breaks from the stupid looking lady that doesn’t have a clue, the real repair guys come in and make the repairs. It’s just a show!

    Best of luck!

  5. @Johnny G – Thank you for the caution. I sometimes look at something like a furnace pilot or a hot water heater pilot and wonder how someone can mess it up. As you mention, there are lots of jury-rigged or “repaired” things that can be EXTREMELY dangerous.

    I hope people take Johnny G’s warnings to heart. If your furnace does not match what the manual shows, then don’t mess with it, and call a professional for service.

  6. Bryce, please don’t let Johnny G prevent or limit you from posting the information we need. Maybe just include a “at your own risk” clause. Johnny G is quite the hypochondriac and doesn’t realize the “repairs” he encounters are from people who DIDN’T research their steps. Simple things don’t require a professional! Reading and learning is how any intelligent serviceman became educated. It’s not a magic talent they possess, it is a skill they learned. Information is free for the taking (make that learning!)

    self repairers do it on their own!

    -Jake

Comments are closed.