Comparing Different Types Of Water Heater Pilot Lights

Comparing Different Types Of Water Heater Pilot Lights


When it comes to water heaters, the pilot light is a crucial component that ensures the efficient and consistent supply of hot water. But did you know that there are different types of pilot lights used in water heaters? Each type comes with its own set of benefits and considerations. In this article, we will explore and compare the various types of water heater pilot lights available in the market today.


Standing Pilot Lights

Standing pilot lights have been around for a long time and are commonly found in older water heaters. These pilot lights are constantly burning, providing a flame that ignites the main burner whenever hot water is needed. While standing pilot lights have been reliable and widely used, they are not as energy-efficient as some of the newer alternatives.

One of the main drawbacks of standing pilot lights is their continuous consumption of fuel. Since the flame is always burning, it can contribute to higher energy bills. Additionally, standing pilot lights require a constant supply of gas, which may pose safety concerns if not properly maintained or if gas leaks occur.

Intermittent Pilot Lights

Intermittent pilot lights, also known as spark ignition systems, offer a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to standing pilot lights. These pilot lights only ignite when hot water is required, resulting in significant energy savings compared to their standing counterparts.

In an intermittent pilot light system, a small spark is generated to ignite the main burner. This eliminates the need for a continuously burning flame, reducing energy consumption and lowering utility costs. Additionally, intermittent pilot lights are safer since they don’t rely on a constant supply of gas.

While intermittent pilot lights are generally more efficient, they do require a power source to generate the spark. This means that in the event of a power outage, the pilot light may not function, resulting in no hot water until power is restored.

Hot Surface Ignition Systems

Hot surface ignition systems are another type of pilot light commonly used in modern water heaters. Instead of a flame or spark, these systems utilize a heated surface to ignite the burner. When hot water is needed, an electric current passes through a heating element, causing it to glow red-hot. This heat is then used to ignite the gas and provide hot water.

Hot surface ignition systems offer several advantages over standing and intermittent pilot lights. They are highly efficient, as the heating element only consumes electricity when hot water is required. This results in energy savings and lower utility bills. Additionally, hot surface ignition systems are reliable and can withstand harsher conditions, making them suitable for both residential and commercial applications.

However, it’s worth noting that hot surface ignition systems may be more expensive upfront compared to other types of pilot lights. The heating element requires electricity, which means an electrical connection must be present near the water heater.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I switch from a standing pilot light to an intermittent or hot surface ignition system?

A: Yes, it is possible to upgrade your water heater’s pilot light system. However, it is recommended to consult a professional plumber or HVAC technician to ensure compatibility and proper installation.

Q: Which type of pilot light is the most cost-effective?

A: Intermittent and hot surface ignition systems are generally more cost-effective in the long run due to their energy-saving capabilities. While the upfront costs may be higher, the reduced energy consumption can result in significant savings over time.

Q: Are there any safety concerns with pilot lights?

A: Pilot lights, regardless of the type, should always be handled with care. Regular maintenance and inspections are essential to ensure proper functioning and prevent gas leaks. If you suspect a problem with your pilot light, it is best to contact a professional technician for assistance.


Choosing the right pilot light for your water heater is an important decision that can impact energy efficiency, utility costs, and overall safety. While standing pilot lights have been the traditional choice, newer alternatives like intermittent and hot surface ignition systems offer improved efficiency and lower energy consumption.

When considering a pilot light upgrade, it’s essential to consult with a professional to ensure proper installation and compatibility. Remember to prioritize safety and schedule regular maintenance to keep your water heater running smoothly.

In the end, comparing different types of water heater pilot lights allows you to make an informed decision that suits your needs, budget, and environmental considerations. So, take the time to evaluate your options and choose the pilot light that will provide you with reliable hot water while minimizing energy waste.

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