to relight 2 pilot lights or not
October 29, 2015 7:23 PM   Subscribe

I've been away from my place for about 14 hours and when I got back, I could smell a weak odd smell in my apartment. I figure this is gas since I noticed that both of my stove's top burner pilot lights are out. I've opened some windows and turned on the crappy exhaust fan. Can I relight the pilot lights now or should I wait for a while before relighting?
posted by tangaroo to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
I'd say wait as long it takes for you to feel safe lighting them.
posted by FallowKing at 7:30 PM on October 29, 2015

Call the gas company. They'll do it for you as soon as it's safe.
posted by cecic at 7:46 PM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Call the gas company and your landlord right now.
posted by desjardins at 7:47 PM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

How old is this stuff? Most modern appliances have a regulator that shuts off the pilot gas if the pilot mechanism gets too cold. Which it tends to do when it doesn't have a little flame burning out of it.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:47 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

This happens to me all the time (my stove is right next to the door to my porch and when its windy they blow out), and I just relight them as long as it's well-ventilated. I'm not saying it's the safest thing in the world to do, but so far, all is well.
posted by danapiper at 8:08 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Update- it turns out the gas company is working on our street, I talked to them and they relit the pilot lights. The pilot light under the oven was also out. Thanks all!
(My stove/oven is maybe 3 years old but my landlord is also pretty oldschool frugal.)
posted by tangaroo at 8:24 PM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Having grown up with gas and relit many a pilot light I can tell you that I would relight pilot lights when the gas smell was mild without a qualm. Pilot lights leaking gas into a kitchen are not really going to cause a problem unless they have been leaking a long time, over night for example, or for your entire vacation. Short of that your match might go poof! when you bring it near the pilot light outlet, and flare up a bit.

Gas is dangerous when it is collecting somewhere, not when it is venting from a wee little pair of pilot lights in a kitchen with an open door. Or it is dangerous when the gas is turned on full blast and the pilot lights are out. At least in terms of fire risk. It can give you a headache if you forget to relight them before you go to bed of course.

When I was about twelve I lived in a place that had a gas space heater and I had to light the heater once it got cold enough for the pipes to freeze. This particular heater required me to lie on my belly on the floor and reach into a metal box that was corroded enough that it was hard to tell exactly where the pilot light was supposed to be. It also required me to pump the gas hard for a few seconds before sweeping the match over the pilot light. This meant that I'd usually fail to find the pilot light with the first match, so I would have to pump again and then try again, maybe two, or three... or four times. Lighting the pilot after four pumps would cause a delightful little flare FOOMP! and burn off instantly. I used to claim it cost me my eyebrows every time it did that, but it didn't really. It was just a startling pop and flare.

Those things you hear about gas explosions are when a long gas leak, or an enormous gas leak isn't venting into an open space. When a house blows up it is because the gas is trapped somewhere in a small space and creates a sort of a bomb. This is typically when a pipe underground has broken and the gas has been seeping out, sometimes for weeks before it goes up with a great shattering of glass and smashed wood and plaster. That's not going to happen when you just have two wee little pilot lights that went out while you were at work.

The gas company knows they will get their socks sued off if they keep blowing up the neighbourhood or causing people to pass out from lack of oxygen from breathing a mixture too high in gas so they put some very easy to smell componds in the gas so you will notice the tiniest little leakage, and not leave your pilot lights venting unlit for a week.

If your pilot lights went out just coincidentally when the gas company was working on your street.... I would suggest you send them a copy of this letter:

A Letter to the Hartford Gas Company

Dear Sirs:

Some day you will move me almost to the verge of irritation by your chuckle-headed, goddamned fashion of shutting your goddamned gas off without giving any notice to your goddamned parishioners. Several times you have come within an ace of smothering half of this household in their beds and blowing up the other half by this idiotic, not to say criminal, custom of yours. And it has happended again today.

Haven’t you a telephone?


Samuel L. Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain)
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:11 AM on October 30, 2015 [6 favorites]

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