Should I Leave My Pilot Light on Year-Round?

Have you ever wondered: "Should I leave the pilot light on in my gas fireplace during the summer?" That's a good question. Safety is always the first and most important consideration with fireplaces and gas appliances. It depends on what you want to accomplish by turning the pilot light off or leaving it on. The functionality of a fireplace can be affected by turning off the pilot.

First, let's answer the following questions so you can make an informed decision:

  • What does a pilot light actually do?
  • What are the different ignition systems, and what do they mean for you?
  • Is it a good idea to turn it off during the year's warmer months?
  • How expensive is it to keep it going year-round?
  • If I turn it off, is it difficult to re-light?

This information should be helpful if you have ever wondered about that small blue flame in your gas fireplace or stove.

WHAT DOES A PILOT ACTUALLY DO?

The pilot light has two primary functions:

1) Generate electricity in millivolts. That is thousandths of one volt to open and close the gas valve.

2) Ignite the gas once the valve has opened, and the fuel flows into the burner.

WHAT TYPE OF IGNITION SYSTEM?

Most burners on gas fireplaces will be tube-style or ceramic burners. The burner assembly includes a gas valve, various fittings, and a control module.

When you press the remote control or turn the wall switch on, or the wall thermostat calls for heat, the gas valve opens, allowing gas to flow to the burner.

The pilot light is positioned just before the burner to ignite the gas.

There are two types of pilot ignition systems available on a gas fireplace.

  1. Intermittent Pilot Ignition (IPI) : This is an update to the classic standing pilot light controlled by an electronic ignition system. The intermittent pilot turns on only when the valve is open and the fireplace operates. We usually operate IPI systems in the auto-shutoff mode. But you can set some of them to run continuously as an option.
  2. Steady-on or Standing Pilot Light : Uses a millivolt valve that keeps the pilot flame constantly lit.

Therefore, we will confine this discussion "Should I leave my pilot light on year-round?" to the "steady-on" millivolt ignition system.

SHOULD I TURN OFF THE PILOT LIGHT IN MY FIREPLACE DURING THE SUMMER?

There are pros and cons to leaving a pilot light on year-round in your fireplace, stove, or insert. Of course, the most significant advantage of turning the pilot off is that if you’re not using the fireplace for five months, you could save $20 to $30.

On the other hand, the small amount of heat the pilot light creates helps keep the firebox dry. This is especially helpful if you live in a humid climate. Humidity can lead to rust developing inside the firebox of your gas fireplace.

Another advantage of keeping the pilot going is to keep small spider webs from forming in the burner orifice, which requires a service call to clean and correct. If you have this problem, $20 to $30 won’t even get a service tech in your driveway!

DOES A PILOT LIGHT USE MUCH GAS?

Most pilot lights consume around 600 BTUs of gas/hour. That’s roughly 14,400/BTUs daily or approximately 432,000 BTUs monthly.

Natural gas (NG) customers are billed in “therms” by their gas supplier. A therm of gas is equal to 100,000 BTUs of heat. 432,000 BTUs equates to 4.3 therms of gas. Check your most recent gas bill and apply the rate with each therm of natural gas.

  • At $.90/therm, you’re spending about $3.90 monthly to keep the pilot going.
  • At $1.00/therm, the cost is about $4.35
  • At $1.20/therm, about $4.95
  • At $1.50/therm, the monthly cost to operate the pilot would be $6.45.

You get the idea.

We can use the same exercise for LP gas measured in gallons rather than therms. There are approximately 92,000 BTUs in one gallon of LP. 432,000 BTUs represent about 4.7 gallons of LP.

  • At $1.10/gallon, you’re spending about $5.20 monthly to keep the pilot going.
  • At $1.30/gallon, you would spend approximately $6.10 every month.
  • At $1.50/gallon, roughly $7.05 each month.

IF I TURN IT OFF, IS IT DIFFICULT TO RE-LIGHT?

Shutting the pilot light off means, you must re-light it in the fall. It's not a complicated process and is outlined in your owner's manual. However, some homeowners can struggle to get the pilot going again.

Today's technology is much simpler and easier to troubleshoot problems. A millivolt system is less costly to fix than a standing pilot if any parts need repairing or replacing.

Hopefully, this gives you some guidance in deciding whether to leave your pilot light on year-round or turn it off during the warmer weather.

Please check out these other articles. We know you’ll find them interesting:

Below is a list of fireplace and grill stores that service Virginia (VA)

Manassas, VA

Winston's Chimney Service
11301 Industrial Road
Manassas, VA 20109

Winston's Chimney Service LogoVisit Store Page

Mechanicsville, VA

Hearth & Home Shoppe
8151 Mechanicsville Tpk
Mechanicsville, VA 23111

Hearth & Home Shoppe LogoVisit Store Page

Roanoke, VA

Dixie Building Products Inc.
3342 Melrose Ave NW
Roanoke, VA 24017

Warrenton, VA

Costello's Warrenton Fireplace & Hot Tub
251 West Lee Hwy
Warrenton, VA 20186


For more information, contact your local fireplace and grill store..

6 Responses

  1. Tony Robinson
    My pilot light keeps going off. Even though I've been shown how to re-light it, I've tried a few times and it doesn't work. And frankly I've given up because Im afraid of burning down my house. Is there such a thing as an idiot proof pilot light? I have log inserts with a remote. Is there something on the market that just lets you press a button or turn a knob and, bada-bing-badda-boom, pilot light is lit?
    • Dominique Page
      Good morning Tony Thanks for your message. First, if your pilot goes out, it might be because the thermocouple needs to be replaced. It could also be because the wind turbulence takes it out. Maybe someone should look at it and help you fix this issue. As the the 'idiot proof' system...yes, the new IPI technology makes it work automatically. (Intermittent Pilot Ignition). Most of the fireplaces sold today are using that technology. It needs to be 'powered' with either 110v or as a back up, AA batteries. If you visit one of our partner store, they can show and tell... Cheers! Dominique
  2. Pilot Lightus
    I wish to speak in defence of the Pilot light . Whenever the Boiler or Fire are working, heating the water , or the house. The pilots lights energy is not waste but part of the heat input. In fairness to the pilot light concept, all those running hours need to be deducted out of what's considered to be wasted heat. I would think you could knock back 10% for that.
    • Dominique Page
      Thanks for sharing! We agree the pilot light is not wasted energy, especially in winter months. Some folks just don't like to pay for air conditioning in the summer if their pilot light is generating heat at the same time. That is why the subject comes up...Again, thanks sharing! Dominique
  3. B&C Comfort – Fireplace & HVAC Repair & Installation
    […] year-round. Costs vary depending on the price of natural gas in your area. The cost works out to around $5 per month in most places, give or […]
  4. Denis Kohl
    Hi, My 2014 Crown Boiler has a spark ignition system that is malfunctioning. When I turn the boiler off and back on, the pilot light comes on, the boiler fires up and the radiators heat the house properly. But after the boiler turns off upon reaching the set temperature and the temperature drops back down, the pilot and boiler don’t light on their own until I turn the boiler off and on again. My HVAC guy says a new spark ignition will cost $1600. I asked him about setting the system so the pilot is on continuously but he doesn’t know anything about it.
  5. Rob
    So you spend $5/mo to heat your house in the summer, and another $5-10 to cool it back down with A/C. My pilot on my gas fireplace produces enough heat for the glass on the fireplace to be hot to the touch, over 100F for sure.

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