Should I Leave My Pilot Light on Year-Round?

Many gas fireplaces, stoves and inserts operate with a standing pilot light.  What does a pilot light actually do?  Is it a good idea to turn it off during the warmer months?  How expensive is it to keep it going year-round?  If I turn it off, is it difficult to re-light?  If you have ever wondered about the small, blue flame in your gas fireplace or stove, you should find this information helpful.


Most burners on gas fireplaces will be a tube style or ceramic burner.  The burner will include the gas valve, various fittings and a control module.  When the remote control is pressed, the wall switch clicked on or the thermostat on the wall starts calling for heat, the gas valve opens and gas is allowed to flow to the burner.

Right before the burner is the pilot light.  The pilot light can be a “steady-on” pilot, or an ‘intermittent” or an electronic ignition system.  The later type of pilot light is only on when the valve is open and the fireplace is operating.  A millivolt valve utilizes a pilot light that is always lit.   So, this discussion “should I leave my pilot light on year-round” will be confined to a millivolt ignition system.  Intermittent Pilot Ignition (IPI) systems can be set for the pilot to run continuously, but are normally operated in the auto-shutoff mode.


There are two main functions of a pilot light.  One is to generate electricity; millivolts.  That is, thousandths of one volt is what opens and closes the gas valve.  The pilot’s second purpose is to ignite the gas once the valve has been opened.


So, should we turn the pilot off during the warmer weather?  Just how much gas does a pilot light consume?

Most pilot lights will consume about 600 BTU’s of gas/hour.  With 24 hours in a day, that’s roughly 14,400/BTU’s each day.  Figuring 30 days, a pilot light will use approximately 432,000 BTU each month.

Natural gas (NG) is measured in therms.  Each therm equals 100,000 BTU’s of heat.  432,000 BTU’s equates to 4.3 therms of gas.  Finally, apply a rate with each therm of natural gas.  At $.90/therm you’re spending about $3.90 each month to keep the pilot going.  At $1.20/therm, the monthly cost would be about $4.95.

The same exercise can be used for LP gas.  LP is measured in gallons.  There’s 92,000 BTU’s in one gallon of LP.  432,000 BTU’s represents about 4.7 gallons of LP.  At $1.10/gallon, roughly $5.20 is the cost each month of keeping your pilot light on.  At $1.30/gallon, you would spend approximately $6.10 every month.


There are pro’s and con’s to leaving a pilot light on year-round in your fireplace, stove or insert.  The biggest advantage of course, is if you’re not using the fireplace for five months, you could save $20 or $30.00.  However, the small amount of heat that the pilot creates helps to keep the inside of the firebox dry.  This is especially helpful if you live in a damp or humid climate.  Another advantage to keeping the pilot going is to keep small, silky spider webs that can block orifices and require a service call to clean and correct.  If you have this problem, $20 to $30.00 won’t even get a service tech in your driveway!

Shutting off the pilot light off means it will need to be re-lit in the fall.  It’s not a difficult process.  The procedure is outlined in your owner’s manual.  However, some homeowners can struggle getting the pilot going again.

Many professional fireplace service technicians prefer a millivolt system over an IPI system.  Millivolt systems have been around for years.  The technology is much simpler, it’s easier to trouble-shoot and diagnosis problems and if anything needs repairing or replacing, a millivolt system is less costly to fix.

For other articles we think you will find interesting, see:

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

Mechanicsville, VA

Hearth & Home Shoppe
8151 Mechanicsville Tpk
Mechanicsville, VA 23111

Visit Store Page

Roanoke, VA

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

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

2 Responses

  1. 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

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