Gas oven pilot light question

Our old gas oven just got hauled off and good riddance! It was old, heated unevenly, two ranges didn’t work and the electric pilot was unreliable.

Enter our new oven and now my wife is freaking out. It has a standing pilot light and we’re pretty clueless about it. She’s concerned that the pilot lights might go out and we’ll be gassed to death. How much of a concern is that really?

Another issue we have is that the standing pilot lights are going to cost us a lot of money in gas. It’s a small flame, but I wonder… is there any place online where we can compare operating costs? Are there any up sides or other downsides to having a gas oven with a standing pilot light?

The answer to both of your questions is No.

I’ve got an old, old stove. I think it works great, not that I cook but it does boil a mean kettle of water. Every once in a blue moon one of the pilot lights go out. I once was asleep, woke up to use the bathroom and then decided to get something to drink. When I was in the kitchen, I realized, by the faint smell of gas, that one of the pilot lights was out. I was too tired to do anything about it at the time so I cracked the kitchen window open a little and went back to sleep. I was just fine when I woke up a few hours later.

Note: I don’t recommend you do anything like that but if your wife really is concerned, just make sure the window or windows in your kitchen are open by a couple of inches. And the pilot light really consumes a minimal amount of gas so your bill is going to be fine, as well.

How Pilot Lights Work.

It’s the same pilot light system as in your furnace if it doesn’t have an electric starter. If it goes out you have to relight it and keep heat on the thermocouple until the pilot light stays lit. If that is the case you should have long matches or a grill lighter handy for emergencies. People with pilot light appliances are subject to losing the light if the neighborhood gas line is shut down for maintenance.

Now go to bed knowing pilot lights have been around since dirt and they’re safe.

Anecdotally speaking, I used to have an apartment with a gas range which had pilot lights. That was the only natural gas appliance I had in the apartment (no dryer and my heat was through a radiator paid for by the building owner). Anyway, I assumed that the gas was being paid for by the owner since I never received a bill. One day, the gas company realized they made a mistake and were supposed to be billing me for the last eight months.

My bill was around $25 (including the times I actually used the stove or oven). This was in 1998. So I wouldn’t worry about the pilot light making a significant difference in your gas bill.

Pilot lights in water heaters or furnaces have thermocouples that will shut off the gas if the flame goes out. But it’s not clear that the OP’s oven has that kind of setup. If it doesn’t then there will be some small amount of gas leakage. In that case, they should make sure that the kitchen is ventilated well enough so that the gas can escape outside. This is one reason why electronic ignition pilots are preferred.

I was a landlord for 4 units, all with gas stoves of various ages spanning decades. Each one had a safety feature that if the main pilot light went out you could not light any of the elements. You had to come and get the landlord and I’d relight the main pilot. Once lit, the stoves would then pump gas to the elements, and work once again.

I can’t imagine they’ve done away with such safety features, my current gas stove certainly has it.

The problem is not with the four burner not lighting. The problem is when the pilot light orifice continues release unburned gas.

We had a pilot light stove for years. For the most part the pilot lights stay lit. They can go out though. Be sure the pilot light is of the correct size. Too small and it will keep going out. Check for it to be lit if you boil something over. Check the pilot lights if you think you smell something funny. Do not set things that can burn or melt over the pilot light exhaust or you have problems. One positive point is they work fine during a power failure.

I have a gas fireplace, so I relight the pilot once a year. I have to turn it to an “override” position, light it, then hold it in that position for a bit until the flame heats up the thermocouple enough. The “override” position is spring-loaded, so it won’t stay there on its own. I have to physically hold it. If the thermocouple isn’t hot enough, the gas cuts off, and the pilot light goes out. I’d be absolutely amazed if a new gas range with pilot didn’t have a similar safety feature.

If the lit pilot were to go out somehow, the gas would continue to flow for a bit until it cooled, then would shut off. If a range did this, I’d believe enough would come out that you’d be able to smell it, but that doesn’t mean gas will be flowing indefinitely.

You mean to say that modern ranges still use pilot lights? This is almost criminally wasteful, especially with decades of pilotless ignition technology available.

The pilot light is estimated to use as much as 50% of the total gas used by the range.

Really? I’m going to keep an eye on the bill. But if it goes up significantly I’m going to demand a replacement.