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Heating FAQ’s

My Gas Furnace Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

We have a gas furnace that the pilot light refuses to stay lit on. I have replaced the thermocouple. However, this didn’t fix the problem. Any ideas of what is wrong?


Did you clean the socket where the thermocouple connected when you did the replacement? If not, you should see if that helps. Make sure all connections are tight, and you should clean the pilot tube assembly as well. Dirt and spider nest could be blocking the tubes. If there is a blockage, the flame may be big enough to keep the thermocouple warm which will lead to the pilot going out.

We have a twenty-year old Burnham American furnace (gas) water heater. I am always relighting the pilot due to it putting itself out. It will stay lit for a couple of hours then shut off. Up until now, the unit has worked fine. Should I be making some adjustments to prevent this or perhaps part of the assembly gone bad? Any suggestions?


While lit, check the color of the flame. If the color is blue and you can see that it is burning against the thermocouple, then that part is fine. However, if you see a yellow tip or yellow flame, the pilot burner probably needs a good cleaning. Typically, the problem is with the old thermocouples. Those are simple to replace and non-expensive.

Our house has a Coleman furnace-- the type where the heat comes from floor vents. During the night, we had some mighty winds come through, and today I am unable to get the heater to come on due to the pilot being out. Even after I cleaned the pilot area, the pilot still won’t stay lit. It turns on just fine, but after I hold the valve down for around sixty seconds, once I release it, the pilot goes out again. I’ve checked the roof vent, that was okay, but somehow it appears that a breeze from somewhere is blowing the flame out when it does light.


You may not have an issue if your unit has a “spill switch.” A spill switch attaches to the vent from the exhaust and the gas inlet. If your vent senses CO, it will shut the gas off. With the right downdraft, this will cause this to happen. Also, a faulty spill switch can do the same when there is nothing wrong at all. Check your auto damper as well. You probably need a professional to figure this one out.

Installing Vents and New Ducts

Our home is bi-level, and we are in the process of finishing the downstairs changing it into a family room. During the building phase last year, the builder failed to install ducts or vents into the unfinished part of the lower level. How do we install the vents and ducts (both intake and outgoing) into the room? Is there a way we can cut into the existing ducts without causing that “noise” sound to all other rooms or should we just run other ducts? Can we cut into the first main duct and place the intake on the opposite side?


It sounds as though you’re heating system is forced air and if it can warm the entire sq. Footage of the home, including the part you are finishing, you should be able to extend the main duct or simply add ducts in individual rooms. You should locate your air return in a central area such as a hallway or underneath the current return if this is possible. Doing this will allow you to connect directly to it. One other option is to add baseboard electric heat in the new space.

I am in the process of installing a vented heater- (gas powered) in my garage. The instructions say that to vent it horizontally it should clear the wall (exterior) by eleven inches. What about vertically? How far should it clear the roof? I would like to install it on the side of the roof that is not facing the street. Should I be concerned with the vent terminating below the peak?


Wherever you place the chimney, it should be at least one foot above the peak. If not, you won’t get the necessary draft which would cause a downdraft that in return could gas you out, or shut the pilot down at least.

Installing Air Returns in A Basement

Would you happen to know what the proper placement should be for an air return in a cellar? And, how do I get them close to the floor level of load bearing walls or the outside walls? This is assuming they need to be close to the floor when the heat is coming from the ceiling vents.


All cold air returns need to be near the floor of any room because the air returning to the heater is the cooler air which will allow the warm air to come down replacing the cold air. The basement shouldn’t be any different.

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