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Author Topic: Furnace pilot light fun
Tstorm
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The temperature in my apartment is 54 degrees and falling. The low tonight in my area will be in the mid 20s. I'm having ridiculous trouble lighting the pilot light in my furnace. It appears to be a simple setup, but I'm out of ideas.

I've called a few friends, and out of the people who answered, none of them know anything about pilot lights. I asked my neighbor, but he couldn't figure it out, despite knowing the mechanics of the situation. My property manager has a phone number, but it goes directly to voice mail.

It is going to be an incredibly chilly night unless I can light this darned thing.

The gas line has a valve, of course. The similarity to other furnace setups ends there, though, based on what I've googled. The valve has three settings:

Valve -> Low
-> On
-> unlabelled setting, points to the pilot gas line.

So, that unlabelled setting could be "Off" or "Pilot", based on what I've been reading.

There is a copper button on the side of this valve apparatus...it's not labelled, but it does depress inward. This might be a primer button, or a bypass for the thermocouple. I've read online that you need to press this (a primer button, or a bypass button?) to send gas to the pilot light.

The pilot light gas line has it's own valve. For the sake of simplicity, I've been assuming that the perpendicular setting is 'off'...but I've tried it both ways.

The thermostat is a simple mercury-switch mechanism. When I turn on the heat, I can hear the furnace make a clicking sound.

Here's what I've done:
1. Starting from everything turned 'off'.
2. Turn on the thermostat.
3. Turn the valve on. (Or rather, chosen a setting...it doesn't seem to matter.)
4. Turn the pilot light gas valve on.
5. Press the copper button.
6. Insert match to light the pilot light.

None of the switch permutations work, and I've gone through them all. The pilot light is easy to reach with a short match; I can see the pilot light opening just a half-inch inside the opening, along with the thermocouple.

Suggestions? Warm thoughts?

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Fusiachi
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You are holding the button in, right?
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Tstorm
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Yeah, holding it in while I wave the magic match in the pilot light opening. No smell of gas, no indication the pilot light is even trying to light.
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Fusiachi
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The little opening could be clogged up. You might be able to get at it with a wire.
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Tstorm
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It's clear...

But thanks for the thought.

I would think that if I pressed the button, I would eventually smell some gas? That's not happening.

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Miro
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Are there any valves in the lines leading to your furnace? Maybe in a mechanical room somewhere in your building?

If you can't get the heat turned on, I highly recommend hot water bottles in bed.

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aiua
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If all else fails, and you're a fan of soda, I might suggest this. Free and terribly stylish.

Let me know how it turns out. I'm interesting in building one myself. [Big Grin]

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Tstorm
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Ha! Miro, you're right...there was another valve. I noticed it earlier and tried to turn it...but it didn't want to budge. Well, I tried it again [with pliers], and got it turned parallel to to the flow of the pipe.

That got the gas to flowing. I could hear the gas when I pressed the button, then.

Pilot light lit. [Smile]


[Party]

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Tstorm
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Oh, and I do thoroughly enjoy the smell of the furnace the first time it's been turned on in 6 months. The lovely, sweet aroma of burning dust and cobwebs...
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Tatiana
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Tstorm, so you got it to work now?

My memory of lighting some pilot lights is that you have to hold the button in until the light stays lit for like a minute or something, enough to warm up the little bimetallic coupling that cuts the gas off to the pilot light if it ever goes out. This to keep it from slowly filling up your basement with natural gas in the event that ever happens.

After a minute or so you can release it, and it stays lit. Otherwise if you let it loose, or turn a knob to "operate" too soon, it will just go right back out again.

May or may not be helpful, current, or whatever, but I thought I'd post it in case you have any trouble getting it to stay lit, and come back here for information. It's supposed to go down here into the 59F and I wouldn't want to be without my furnace for that. I can't even imagine trying to deal with 20s. Sheesh I hope that's C. =)

[ October 11, 2009, 02:04 AM: Message edited by: Tatiana ]

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Tatiana
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I love that smell, too, in a sort of sad way. It reminds me of going back to school after being out all summer. It has the flavor of all those autumn mornings getting ready for school when I was young.

I like being able to wear sweaters and hoodies and things again too. I like summer clothes better over all I guess, but some of my warmer things I'm fond of and glad to be able to wear them again. I love my black Tool nerve-endings hoodie. It's so cozy and nice. I think I'll put it on as soon as possible. [Smile]

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Miro
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Awesome! [Big Grin]

I remember that smell from my junior high. Every year, when they turned on the furnaces, the whole place smelled like badly burned brownies. Not good.

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Tstorm
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Yes, the furnace is functioning; the pilot light stayed on. And yes, you do have to hold the button for a while, just like the instructions that I read online say to do. The only problem I had with the online instructions is the lack of diagrams. That, and my furnace is apparently quite old, so it predates instruction manuals and the Internet by a few years.

Oh, I already broke out the cozy clothes...including the thick socks. Nothing beats cozy socks in the winter. [Smile]

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Tatiana
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Great! Isn't household technology grand? Nothing makes you appreciate it like the thought of going without it for a while! I wax all geek-poetic about this stuff. [Big Grin]
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Lyrhawn
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I think it was two winters ago, the heat sensor on our furnace was one the fritz, so once the furnace was lit, it would stay on until the temperature reached the desired level, then it would turn off and stay off. Sadly, our furnace is outside. We have an exterior unit, what what seemed like great reasons (our house is tiny and it takes up space) at the time, but felt awful that winter. To lit it, I (of course it was me, no one else in the house could be bothered) had to go outside in the middle of the night, romp through the snow, take the grate off the unit, twist open some wires and then reattach them to reset the unit, then jam a match into the pilot lights, which looked a lot like F-22 afterburners from my perspective. That was one nightmare of a couple of days.

I've already broken out the thick flannel sheets, down comforter and home made afghans. We have a freeze advisory for the night. Nice of Michigan to have a long summer, skip fall, and go straight into winter. Whenever I think of the seasons in Michigan, I think of the changing of the seasons in Monty Python.

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AchillesHeel
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Its getting into the sixtys here in Arizona, but dont get jealous, I had to sleep in 117 degree weather with no a/c last summer. No climate control in the car either, but I do have power windows so it all balances out.
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Tstorm
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I won't go another summer in Kansas without A/C in my car. A two-hour drive in 100+ degree weather, under full sun, is brutal. Even with power windows. I don't know how hot it was in the car, but I reached my limit.
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