The electronic ignition system has replaced the pilot lights One Simple reason:
pilot lights Huh Expensive to run. 24-hour pilot light may result in 5,000+ Cubic Feet Natural Gas Or 50+ gallons of propane Being used every year.
How Much Gas Does a Pilot Light Use?
A lot, actually. According to Wikipediahandjob “In domestic heating systems with pilot lights, it has been estimated that half of the total energy use is from pilot light“. We used a rule of thumb estimation to calculate how much gas a pilot light uses per hour, per day, per month, and per year.
3 quick outtakes (all calculations are summarized at the end):
- to drive a pilot light 1 hour costs about 1 cent (0.62 percent/hour for natural gas And 1.64 percent/hour for propane).
- Monthly Cost of Running a Pilot Light Range $4.49/month (natural gas) to 11.34/month (propane).
- pilot lights that run on propane are almost 2 times more expensive Compared to pilot lights that run on natural gas (this is because natural gas is cheaper per produced BTU – British Thermal Unit).
Here’s the deal about pilot lights:
You won’t find them in the new Fireplaces, furnaces, space heaters, water heaters, gas logs, and so on. However, if you have a furnace or a fireplace that was manufactured before 2010, it will likely use a pilot light for ignition.
It’s important to understand how much it costs a pilot to light a chimney, furnace, etc. You want to know how much gas (natural gas or propane) you’re wasting, and you want to know how many dollars go down the drain each year to run a pilot light.
Let’s start by calculating how much natural gas or propane a pilot light uses per hour, month and year. After that, we’ll calculate how much that gas amounts to per hour, day, month, and year.
Note: You’ll find summarized data on how much gas (in gallons and US dollars) pilot lights use at the end of this article:
How Much Natural Gas or Propane Do Pilot Lights Use?
To calculate how much gas a pilot light uses, we must first determine how much energy it takes to drive such a pilot light uses.
According to Wikipedia, a pilot can use between lights “70 and 500 watts of gas power”. If we use a Watt to BTU converter, we find that the actual usage is between 239 BTU and 1,706 BTU per hour. They are a huge number and a huge range. A standard pilot light approx. Uses up 600 BTU Every hour’s worth of gas.
Now, suppose we run a pilot light for 1 hour. It consumes 600 BTU of energy. All that energy had to come from the gas; How much did we burn to keep the pilot light on? We will calculate this for both natural gas and propane.
Natural gas expenditure (over 5,000 cubic feet per year)
Natural Gas: According to the US Energy Information Administration, burning 1 cubic foot of natural gas will produce 1,037 BTUs. That’s why we use less than 1 cubic foot; Here’s how accurate:
natural gas = 600 BTU (1 hour of pilot light running) / 1037 BTU = 0.579 cubic feet per hour
This means that running a standard pilot light non-stop will consume:
- 0.579 cubic feet of natural gas per hour.
- 13.90 cubic feet of natural gas every day.
- 416.88 Cubic Feet of natural gas per month.
- 5002.56 Cubic Feet of natural gas Per year.
This is quite a large number. If you want to run a standard pilot light for a full year, you burn more than 5,000 cubic feet of natural gas.
Before we look at how much natural gas costs, let’s calculate the expense for a propane-powered heating system as well:
Propane Expenses (up to 50+ gallons per year)
Propane pilot light expenditure is measured in gallons. According to the US EIA, 1 gallon of propane is equal to 91,452 BTUs. We know that a standard pilot light uses about 600 BTUs of energy every hour.
Here’s how many gallons of propane a pilot light uses:
propane = 600 BTU (1 hour of pilot light running) / 91,452 BTU = 0.00656 gallons per hour
It doesn’t sound great, does it? Well, if you keep a pilot light on 24/7, it will cost:
- 0.00656 gallons of propane per hour.
- 0.157 gallons of propane every day.
- 4.723 gallons of propane per month.
- 56.678 gallons of propane Per year.
That’s enough. If you keep a standard pilot light on at all times, it will consume over 50 gallons of propane per year.
Now, cubic feet of natural gas and gallons of propane count, but what most of us will understand best are dollars. Let’s see how much it really costs to run a pilot light:
Cost of Running a Pilot Light (Natural Gas and Propane)
We know a lot about the amount of natural gas and propane a pilot light wastes per hour, day, month, and year. To calculate how much gas costs, we need to know two things:
- Natural gas price. The price in 2020 was $10.78 per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas (source: EIA) means that 1 cubic foot of natural gas costs about $0.01078 (slightly more than . 1 cent per cubic foot)
- propane price. Price in 2021 was approx $2.50 per gallon (Source: EIA)
We can get how much propane the pilot light uses, or natural gas, by multiplying the amount of gas consumed by the pilot light with the price of that gas, like this:
Cost of running the pilot light = Amount of gas consumed × Gas price
Example: Let’s say we have a fireplace with a pilot light. How much does it cost for a pilot to keep the fireplace light on per month? We have calculated that a standard pilot light uses 416.88 cubic feet of natural gas per month, or 4.723 gallons of propane.
Let’s calculate how much these two gas consumption costs:
Cost (Natural Gas) = 416.88 cubic feet × $0.1078 = $4.49/month
Let’s do the same calculation for propane:
cost (propane) = 4.723 gallons × $2.50 = 11.34/month
Here we have it: Natural gas costs a little less than $5/month to keep the pilot light on. If our pilot light is powered by propane, we’ll use a little over $10/month to keep it running non-stop.
We have calculated the cost per hour, day, month and year for a standard pilot light and summarized them in this table:
How much does it cost to operate a pilot light? (summary table)
Here is a complete table of the estimated cost of running a pilot light non-stop. We used the current standard costs of natural gas and propane (these can vary greatly as you know):
|running time:||cost of natural gas||propane cost|
|per hour||$0.0062/hour (less than 1 cent/hour)||$0.0164/hour (a little over 1 cent/hour)|
As you can see, the running cost of the pilot light is not very high. However, they are also not insignificant and should be a factor at play if you are buying a new furnace, chimney, water heater, and so on.