How to Start a New GE Water Heater


Now that you have your new GE water heater installed, its time to light it and get the temperature set. Unlike older model water heaters, the new GE natural gas and propane water heaters are equipped with a sealed combustion chamber and piezo igniter. These features limit the dangers of sticking your hand into the burner chamber and the risk of accidental injuries. Remember, setting the water temperature to a safe and satisfying degree is one of the most important parts of installing any water heater.

Things You'll Need

  • Thermometer
  • Read all safety information and operation manuals supplied with your new GE water heater. Understanding the basic mechanics of your water heater will save time and money.

  • Turn the large temperature dial on the front of the water heater's control valve to the left until it stops. This is the lowest setting and the starting point for lighting your new GE water heater.

  • Detach the front burner access cover from the front of the water heater located directly under the control valve. There are two access doors; only remove the front door so you can look through the glass porthole on the right side of the second sealed door. Never remove the second door yourself; you will void the water heater warranty.

  • Turn the black knob on the top right of the control valve to the left until the half moon notch lines up with red pilot primer button to its left. You will not be able to light the heater until the two correctly align.

  • Press down on the red pilot primer button until it rests on top of the control valve and hold it there for thirty seconds. Continue to hold the primer button down. Press down firmly and rapidly on the small red piezo igniter striker button to the right of the black knob. You should hear a click. Let the striker button return to its starting position and press it again. Repeat the action several times.

  • Look through the glass porthole on the inner burn door. You should see a small blue flame burning in the upper center of the water heater. You may need to lie down on the floor to position your body to best view the pilot flame. Continue holding the red pilot primer button down for an additional 30 to 45 seconds and then release the button.

  • Replace the front access door for safety. In case of a malfunction, you do not want your face in front of the burner door. Stand or sit to the left or right of the door opening. Turn the black knob on the top of the GE water heater's control valve to the left until it reaches the "On" marking.

  • Turn the temperature control dial on the front of the control to the right until you reach the first line mark past "Warm." This is the manufacturers recommended temperature setting, about 120°F. You should be able hear the burner ignite; if you are unable to hear the burner, remove the front cover and look through the sight glass to see if the entire burner is lit. Replace the cover.

  • Check the water temperature after an hour. Use a food thermometer to measure the hot water temperature at the lavatory sink faucet, tub/shower faucet and kitchen sink faucets. If the water is too hot, adjust the control dial to the left and lower the temperature setting a little at a time. For accuracy, wait several hours in between measurements.

  • Recheck the water temperature periodically, every few months or whenever you feel a change. Cold ground water entering the tank during the winter months may have a dramatic effect on your new GE water heater's performance.

Tips & Warnings

  • Holding the GE pilot primer button down after the pilot flame ignites allows the thermo coupling to heat from the flame and general enough electricity to hold open the safety valve inside the main gas control.
  • Failure to follow all manufacturer's guidelines and lighting instruction could lead to damage to the water heater and yourself.

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  • Photo Credit Gas flame on the kitchen gas-stove image by Peter Ivanov from
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