Keep the (Pilot Light) Fire Burning

Legend and the all-knowing Wikipedia tell the tale that the early American colonists kept a small “pilot” fire burning at all times so they could quickly light the fireplace when it got cold or the stove when they wanted to cook a meal.

From those humble beginnings comes the pilot light of today – a glowing blue flame at the end of a special tube situated to light a natural gas apparatus like a gas furnace, water heater or stove. Although in recent years those old-fashioned pilot lights have begun to be phased out, there are still many homes that still have the tiny blue flame starting their natural gas-powered items. And along with those pilot lights come all of the inherent safety concerns that go with an open flame.

That blue flame is powered by escaping natural gas. Although many pilot light tubes have automatic shut-offs if the flame goes out, not all of them do, so each and every pilot light in the home should be routinely checked. If it goes out, open the doors and windows to let any gas out of the residence. If the gas aroma is considerable you should get out right away and call your gas company or fire department to report the problem. Once the home is safe, follow the directions to relight the pilot light.

The pilot light should always burn blue — if it is an orange or red color, it is burning too hot and there is a problem there as well.

Of course, a pilot light burning normally can also cause a safety hazard. Anyone using a combustible gas-producing item like an insect fogger in the home should note specifically the instructions to extinguish all pilot lights before setting the foggers off. That flammable, airborne fogger insecticide is designed to seep everywhere, and that includes into the area of the open flame of the pilot light. Not a good combination.

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