How to Light the Pilot Light on Richmond Water Heaters

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Your water heater may be equipped with a standing pilot and electronic igniter or an automatic hot surface igniter.
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Richmond water heaters are manufactured by Rheem, a well-known company that also manufactures water heaters under its own brand. Select models come equipped with rigid foam insulation sheathing to minimize heat loss and self-cleaning technology to minimize sediment buildup on the inside of the tank. Richmond water heaters are available with electric heating elements or gas burners, and gas models need an ignition system.

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The traditional gas igniter is a standing pilot, and in the past, you had to light it by hand using a long match. Contemporary Richmond water heaters have sealed combustion chambers, though, so if they have standing pilots, they are equipped with piezoelectric spark igniters. Before trying to relight the pilot, consult your owner's manual to make sure that there is a standing pilot. Richmond has replaced standing pilots with fully automatic hot surface igniters on many of its models.

Starting a Pilot With a Piezoelectric Igniter

If your water heater has a standing pilot, you'll see a red dial on the front of the tank, and next to it will be a red or green button. Use this procedure to light the pilot:

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Step 1: Turn Off the Gas Control

Turn the red dial all the way to the "off" position and leave it there for about five minutes to allow any gas residue in the burner chamber to dissipate.

Step 2: Turn the Control to Pilot

Turn the dial to the "pilot" position, which is typically the one in which the arrow on the dial points straight up.

Step 3: Light the Pilot Flame

Push in the dial and hold it while you press the igniter button to start the pilot flame. It's usually difficult to get in position to see the flame through the window, but if you can, you'll see a small, bluish flame when the pilot ignites.

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Step 4: Turn the Dial to the On Position

Keep holding in the button for several seconds after the pilot lights to give the thermocouple time to warm up. Release the button and if the pilot continues to burn, turn the dial to the "on" position. You should hear a whooshing sound as the burner ignites.

You're working blind if you can't get in position to see the pilot, but you can still get the water heater going. After setting the dial to "pilot" and depressing it, push the igniter 10 to 15 times, hold in the dial for a few seconds, release it, and turn it to the "on" position. If the burner ignites, the pilot is lit. If it doesn't, keep repeating the procedure until it does ignite.

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Starting an Automatic Igniter

If your manual specifies that the water heater has an automatic igniter, you don't have to worry about lighting a pilot. Instead of a pilot, the appliance has a hot surface ignition system that works somewhat like the glow plugs in a diesel engine. These are common on gas furnaces. To initiate it:

Step 1: Set the Thermostat to the Lowest Setting

Press the "cooler" and "hotter" buttons at the same time, hold them for one second, and release them. Press the "cooler" button and hold it until the VAC indicator light comes on.

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Step 2: Clear Out Residual Gas

Toggle the "on/off" switch on the gas control to the "off" position and turn off power to the water heater by flipping off the breaker in the main panel that controls it. Wait five minutes for residual gas to dissipate.

Step 3: Turn On the Power and the Gas Control

Flip the circuit breaker back on and toggle the switch on the gas valve to the "on" position.

Step 4: Set the Temperature

Depress the "cooler" and "hotter" buttons at the same time and hold them for one second. Release them, press the "hotter" button, and hold it until the desired temperature is displayed on the LED. Release the button and you should hear a whooshing sound as the burner ignites.

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Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker and Family Handyman.