A pilot light is a small flame that is kept lit to provide a catalyst for a much larger flame when it is called upon to do so. Pilot lights are common home appliances that use natural gas or petroleum, such as central heating furnaces, water heaters and even older stoves. A pilot light is also a common feature found on hot air balloons. A pilot light works usually by maintaining a permanent flame at a very low level. It may glow blue in many cases. As more fuel is added to the mixture, the pilot light will ignite other burners and create a fire capable of doing a specific job, such as heating water, air or cooking. Even once those burners are turned off, the pilot light remains on. Although the pilot light is meant to stay on a majority of the time, there may be times when it is extinguished, either on purpose or accident. While reigniting a pilot light is not a big ordeal, careful attention should be taken to light it exactly as specified in the directions. Otherwise, it could become a dangerous situation. In the summer months, when a gas furnace is no longer being used, some people may choose to shut down the pilot light. This is a personal choice and will obviously save some money on the consumption of natural gas or other types of fuel used for the furnace. There is usually a valve that will squelch the fuel to the flame, effectively extinguishing it. Given that some estimates say the fuel consumption by a pilot light can represent 50 percent of the appliance’s fuel consumption, extinguishing the flame may be good way to save some money during long periods of dormancy. A pilot light will ensure the functionality of a natural gas appliance such as a water heater or gas range even if the electricity goes out. However, some gas appliances are moving away from the use of pilot lights. Rather, they now depend on electrical ignition. They may still be able to be lit with a match if electricity is unavailable, but this is generally not advisable. If a pilot light does happen to be extinguished accidentally, there are safety features included on the appliance that should stop the flow of natural gas as well. A thermocouple will sense that the flame is no longer lit and take appropriate actions by automatically shutting a valve, even if no electricity is available. If the gas were allowed to continue into the system without being burned, it could easily fill the room or home and cause asphyxiation to any inhabitants.
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