Should My Water Heater Be On Pilot Or On?

Your water heater should be on if you want hot water readily available for use. Leaving it on pilot mode will only keep the pilot flame burning and not heat the water.

It is important to have your water heater on to ensure a constant supply of hot water for your needs. Additionally, this will help prevent any potential issues with your water heater, such as freezing pipes or damaged components. By keeping your water heater on, you can enjoy the convenience of hot water whenever you need it.

Remember to monitor the temperature settings to ensure energy efficiency and safety.

Should My Water Heater Be On Pilot Or On?


Understanding The Pilot Setting On Your Water Heater

If you own a water heater, you might have come across the “pilot setting” but may not fully understand its purpose or how it works. In this section, we’ll delve into the details of the pilot setting, including its purpose, functionality, and the pros and cons of keeping your water heater on pilot.

What Is The Purpose Of The Pilot Setting?

  • The pilot setting is designed to maintain a small flame within the water heater, ready to ignite the main burner when required.
  • It serves as a source of ignition for the main burner, ensuring instant hot water whenever needed.
  • The pilot light also keeps the gas valve open, allowing for a smooth and efficient startup of the water heater.

How Does The Pilot Setting Work?

  • The pilot setting operates by enabling a constant flow of gas to a small burner within the water heater.
  • When the heater receives a signal to heat the water, the gas valve opens, allowing a controlled amount of gas to flow to the pilot burner.
  • The pilot light ignites the gas, creating a small, continuous flame.
  • This flame is responsible for keeping the gas valve open and acts as a ready source of ignition for the main burner.

Pros And Cons Of Keeping Your Water Heater On Pilot:

Keeping your water heater on pilot has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some key points to consider:


  • Instant hot water: With the pilot light continuously burning, your water heater is always ready to produce hot water without delay.
  • Lower energy consumption: Compared to constantly igniting and extinguishing the main burner, the pilot light uses a minimal amount of gas, resulting in energy savings.
  • Faster recovery time: Since the water heater remains warm, it can quickly recover and provide hot water when you need it.


  • Higher gas usage: While the pilot light is small and efficient, it still consumes a small amount of gas continuously.
  • Potential safety hazards: A pilot light that gets extinguished repeatedly can indicate a malfunction, requiring professional inspection to ensure safe operation.

Understanding the pilot setting on your water heater allows you to make informed decisions about its usage. While keeping your water heater on pilot provides instant hot water and energy savings, it’s essential to acknowledge the slight increase in gas usage and potential safety concerns.

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Evaluating these pros and cons will help you decide whether to keep your water heater on pilot or switch it off when not in use.

Determining Whether To Keep Your Water Heater On Or Off

When it comes to your water heater, one of the common questions is whether you should keep it on pilot or on. The answer actually depends on several factors that you need to consider. In this section, we will discuss the key points to help you make an informed decision.

Factors To Consider When Deciding Whether To Keep It On Or Off:

  • Frequency of use: If you use hot water frequently throughout the day, it may be more convenient to keep your water heater on. This ensures that you always have hot water readily available whenever you need it.
  • Energy efficiency and cost considerations: Keeping your water heater on all the time can lead to higher energy consumption and increased utility bills. However, turning it off completely may result in longer heating times and more energy consumption when you do need hot water. It is important to weigh the energy efficiency and cost factors based on your usage patterns.
  • Occupancy of the home: If you and your family are away from home for extended periods, such as vacations or work trips, it may be more cost-effective to turn off the water heater during those times. This can help in reducing energy wastage and saving money on utility bills.
  • Climate: The climate in your area can also influence your decision. In colder regions, it might be more practical to keep the water heater on to ensure a constant supply of hot water. However, in warmer climates, you may have the option to turn it off for longer periods without sacrificing comfort.

Energy Efficiency And Cost Considerations:

  • Insulate your water heater: Adding insulation around your water heater can help improve its energy efficiency. This reduces heat loss, meaning your water heater doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the desired temperature. It can result in significant energy savings and reduced utility bills.
  • Use a timer: Installing a timer for your water heater allows you to set specific periods when it should be on. This can be particularly beneficial if you have predictable hot water usage patterns. By scheduling it to be off during periods of low demand, you can further lower your energy consumption.
  • Consider a tankless water heater: Tankless water heaters only heat water on demand, eliminating the need for a constantly running pilot. These units are known for their energy efficiency and can save you money in the long run.
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Impact On The Lifespan Of Your Water Heater:

  • Frequent on and off cycles: Turning your water heater on and off frequently can result in wear and tear on its components. This can potentially shorten the lifespan of the unit. If you decide to keep it on pilot, it avoids the constant on and off cycling.
  • Regular maintenance: Regardless of whether you keep your water heater on or off, regular maintenance is essential for prolonging its lifespan. Flushing the tank, checking for leaks, and inspecting the heating element are just a few tasks that should be included in your maintenance routine.

By taking into account these factors, you can make an informed decision about whether to keep your water heater on or off. Remember to consider your specific needs, energy efficiency, and the impact on the unit’s lifespan.

Best Practices For Operating Your Water Heater

Maintaining The Optimal Temperature Setting For Your Needs

Your water heater plays a crucial role in ensuring you have hot water readily available for your daily needs. To optimize its performance and avoid unnecessary energy consumption, it’s important to maintain the optimal temperature setting. Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Keep the temperature setting at a safe and comfortable level: Setting your water heater at around 120 degrees fahrenheit (49 degrees celsius) is generally sufficient for most households. This temperature provides hot water while also minimizing the risk of scalding accidents.
  • Adjust the temperature based on your usage: If you find that your hot water needs vary throughout the day, consider adjusting the temperature accordingly. For instance, you might want to raise the temperature during times when hot water usage is high, such as in the mornings or evenings.
  • Regularly check the temperature settings: Make it a habit to periodically check the temperature settings on your water heater. This ensures that the thermostat is functioning correctly and that the water temperature remains consistent. Keeping an eye on these settings also allows you to identify any sudden changes or potential issues with the heater.

Steps to safely turn off your water heater when not in use

There may be times when you need to turn off your water heater, such as during vacations or extended periods of absence. Here are the steps to safely do so:

  • Turn off the power supply: Locate the power switch or breaker panel that controls your water heater. Ensure that the power is safely turned off before proceeding.
  • Shut off the cold water supply: Locate the water shut-off valve connected to the water heater and turn it off. This prevents any additional water from entering the tank while the heater is not in use.
  • Drain the remaining hot water: Before turning off the water heater, it’s important to drain any remaining hot water to avoid potential leaks or damage. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and direct the water to a suitable drain or outside area.
  • Turn off the gas supply (if applicable): If your water heater is gas-powered, it’s necessary to also turn off the gas supply. Locate the gas shut-off valve near the heater and turn it to the “off” position.
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Tips For Maximizing Energy Efficiency While Ensuring Hot Water Availability

Want to reduce energy consumption and save on utility bills without compromising your hot water availability? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Insulate your water heater: Consider adding an insulated blanket or jacket around your water heater to reduce heat loss. Insulation helps maintain the water temperature and reduces the workload on the heater.
  • Insulate exposed pipes: Insulating hot water pipes can prevent heat loss during transportation, helping maintain hot water and minimizing the need for the heater to work harder to deliver the desired temperature.
  • Schedule regular maintenance: Periodically check and maintain your water heater to ensure optimal efficiency. Flushing the tank to remove sediment buildup, inspecting for leaks, and servicing other components can all contribute to improved energy efficiency and a longer lifespan for your water heater.
  • Consider a tankless water heater: Tankless water heaters heat water on-demand, eliminating the need for a storage tank. These units can provide hot water almost instantly, making them more energy-efficient since they only heat water as needed.

By following these best practices, you can ensure that your water heater operates efficiently while meeting your hot water needs. Don’t forget to consult your water heater’s manual or seek professional advice if you have any specific questions or concerns about its operation.


Determining whether your water heater should be on pilot or on depends on various factors such as energy efficiency, convenience, and safety. If you prefer a lower energy consumption and are willing to wait longer for hot water, keeping your water heater on pilot may be a good option for you.

On the other hand, if you value immediate access to hot water and are willing to sacrifice some energy efficiency, keeping your water heater on is more suitable. It’s important to consider any potential safety concerns and consult with a professional if you’re unsure about making the decision yourself.

Regular maintenance and understanding the settings of your water heater are also essential. Ultimately, making a decision that aligns with your specific needs and preferences is key. So go ahead, make an informed choice and enjoy the benefits of hot water in your home!


I am a mechanical engineer and love doing research on different home and outdoor heating options. When I am not working, I love spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy blogging about my findings and helping others to find the best heating options for their needs.