Thursday, July 09, 2009

How to light up a gas water heater.

Light up a gas water heater? Why is this in a travel blog, you may wonder?
Just bear with me and all will be evident as you read on.
This little bit of advice may become a life saver for you some day.

Gas water heaters use natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas, as its name implies, to heat water for bathing or other uses.
Unlike a gas stove where you use a lighter or a static spark to ignite the gas, a gas water heater uses a constantly lit tiny little flame to ignite the gas.
This tiny flame, called a pilot light, heats a sensor that detects if the pilot is lit. If it detects that the pilot is lit, the sensor releases gas which ignites and heats the water. If the pilot light is not lit, then the sensor detects that there is no flame and does not release gas to be burned.

Simply, this means that the pilot light must be lit for the heater to work. Therefore, to heat water in a gas heater, you must first light up the pilot lamp. On all heaters there is a button or switch marked Pilot that must be turned on while you put a flame (match or lighter) to the pilot tube. As easy as that.

In Singapore, 99.99% of all water heaters use electricity to heat the water. To work the heater, simply throw the switch on. This probably also means 99.99% of all of us have never turned on a gas water heater before.

Many years ago, I traveled to Germany for a trade convention in a small town. Flying from Changi to Frankfurt, then on a domestic transfer to Saxony took almost 16 hours. This was in late winter and the temperature averaged -10 degrees C outside during the day. Brrrrr.

In that small city, the few hotels available were fully booked up for the convention and so we had to rely on home-stay accommodations. This is very common in Europe where families rent out their spare rooms, or entire apartments, to conventioneers. My colleague and I managed to secure an apartment all to ourselves.

After that long tiring flight, all I wanted was to get cleaned up and off to bed for the night. Got ready for a shower and then, wham! how do you turn on the gas heater???? My colleague and I were stumped by something as simple as not knowing how to turn on a gas heater! Nothing in our lives had prepared us for this situation.

In the dead of winter, there is no greater torture than not having a hot bath. So imagine us desperately needing a shower and the water was near freezing.

If you have never used ice cold water to bathe before, let me tell you that you will never ever want to experience it a second time. Frankly, I can still remember the cold shock, the shudders, the screams and speed which I had to soap and rinse, towel off, get dressed and dive into my blankets to get warm again.

So, if ever you are in a small town in Europe in the dead of winter and the gas heater does not work, light the pilot lamp first!


  1. y din u call the landlord? or do like some sporeans..boil water and add to the tub then hand shower

  2. Duh.. I would've if I could've! but when you're cold shivering and wrapped in yr towel, yr brain dun seem to work as well as it should after a long journey!!! ... and yeah, why didn't i just boil water?????hmmmmm? Thanks for yr comment. jt.