Pilot lights are a necessity in older fireplaces and furnaces. If your fireplace has a pilot light, you may wonder how much gas does a pilot light use? How much does it cost to use a standard pilot light with natural gas or propane?
A pilot light uses 0,0065 gallons of propane or 0,579 cubic feet of natural gas per hour. When left running all year long, you use over 50 gallons of propane or 5000 cubic feet of natural gas.
This post is for you if you’re wondering how much gas your fireplace’s pilot light uses. First, we’ll give you a brief overview of how much gas (natural and propane) a pilot light uses per year and per hour. Then, we’ll guide you through calculating how much gas your pilot light goes through. Finally, we’ll wrap it up by explaining the cost on your wallet to keep a pilot light running – per day, per month, and per year.
How Much Gas Does A Standard Pilot Light Use?
A pilot light uses .0065 gallons of propane per hour and .579 cubic feet of natural gas per hour. A standard pilot light uses over 50 gallons of propane gas or 5,000+ cubic feet of natural gas per year when the pilot light is left running.
To calculate how much gas a pilot light uses (whether that’s per hour, day, week, month, or year), you must first figure out how much energy a running pilot light uses.
For instance, Wikipedia states that pilot lights generally use about 70-500 watts of gas power. However, most standard pilot lights produce 600 BTU (British thermal unit) of gas per hour.
Using a watt to BTU converter, the actual watt usage ranges between 239 BTU – 1,706 BTU per hour. Going with the standard 600 BTU, we can use that number to calculate the quantity of gas used by a pilot light.
Let’s look at the examples below to calculate how much gas is needed for propane and natural gas.
Using propane gas to run your pilot light will expend at least 50+ gallons of gas per year.
To calculate how many gallons of propane per hour a pilot light uses, we need to know how much BTU 1 gallon or propane is equal to. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), one gallon of propane equals 91,452 BTU.
We’ll divide the standard 600 BTU by 91,452.
Again, remember that a traditional pilot light uses 600 BTU of energy per hour, on average.
To calculate how many gallons of propane a pilot light uses every hour, do this:
600 BTU (1 hour of the pilot light running) / 91,452 BTU = 0.0065 gallons per hour of propane gas
Now that we’ve calculated how much propane gas a pilot light uses by the hour, let’s do the same per day, month, and year.
Propane Gas Usage With A Pilot Light
|Per day:||600 BTU (1 hour of the pilot light on) x 24 (hours in a day) = 14,400|
14,400 / 91,452 BTU = 0.157 gallons of propane per day
|Per month:||0.1574 (gallons of propane per day) x 30 (days in a month) = 4.72 gallons of propane per month|
|Per year:||4.72 (gallons of propane per month) x 12 (months) = 56.64 gallons of propane per year|
Using natural gas to run your pilot light will consume at least 5,000 cubic feet per year.
Natural gas is measured in cubic feet by volume, unlike liquid propane gas, measured in gallons.
To calculate how many cubic feet of natural gas per hour a pilot light uses, we must determine how much BTU burning one cubic foot of natural gas will produce. According to the US EIA, burning one cubic foot of natural gas yields 1,037 BTU.
To calculate how much cubic feet per hour natural gas burns with a pilot light running, do this:
600 BTU (1 hour of pilot light running) / 1,037 BTU = 0.579 cubic feet per hour of natural gas
Again, let’s use this per hour amount to determine how much natural gas a pilot light uses per day, month, and year.
Natural Gas Usage With A Pilot Light
|Per day:||0.579 cubic feet (1 hour of the pilot light on) x 24 (hours in a day) = 13.90 cubic feet of natural gas per day|
|Per month:||13.90 cubic feet (gas usage per day) x 30 (days in a month) = 417 cubic feet of natural gas per month|
|Per year:||417 cubic feet (gas usage per month) x 12 (months) = 5,004 cubic feet of natural gas per year|
What Is A Pilot Light?
A pilot light is an ignition source for gas-powered appliances, such as a gas fireplace, gas furnace, and water heater. The main burner releases gas when the appliance is switched on, and the pilot light ignites the gas. This ignition by the pilot light turns on your appliance, which then provides heat.
If you have a gas-powered fireplace built before 2010, it likely has a pilot light.
More manufacturers are phasing out wasteful pilot lights in place of more efficient electronic ignition systems. Pilot lights are considered wasteful because it’s estimated that half of a heating system’s total energy usage comes from the pilot light.
How Much Does A Standard Pilot Light Cost To Use?
It costs less than 1 cent per hour to power your fireplace’s pilot light with natural gas. Propane gas costs a little more than a penny per hour to power a pilot light. Overall, it’s cheaper to use natural gas for your pilot light than it is to use propane.
Now that we know how much propane and natural gas a pilot light uses, whether it’s running all day, all month, or all year, we’re ready to figure out how much it costs to keep a pilot light going.
Here’s an overview of how much it costs to power a standard pilot light:
Cost Of Running A Pilot Light With Gas
|Pilot Light Run Time||Propane Gas Cost||Natural Gas Cost|
To reiterate, it’s easier on your wallet to use natural gas than propane gas.
Now calculate the pilot light running costs for both types of gas. First, we need to determine the current price of propane and natural gas. Then, we’ll multiply the price of gas by the amount of gas used by the pilot light, like this:
Cost of Pilot Light Usage = Price of Gas x Amount of Gas Used by Pilot Light
- For propane in 2021, the EIA listed the price at $2.50 per gallon.
- For natural gas in 2020, the EIA listed the price at $10.78 per 1,000 cubic feet. (That means one cubic foot of natural gas equals $0.01078)
To calculate the cost of using propane gas to light your fireplace’s pilot light, use the Cost of Pilot Light Usage formula above. You’ll need to determine the cost of propane ($2.50) and use the chart “Propane Gas Usage With A Pilot Light” to determine your propane usage.
In this example, let’s say you have a fireplace with a pilot light that uses 56.64 gallons of propane per year.
Cost of Propane = $2.50 (price per gallon) x 56.64 (amount of gas used) = $141.60 per year
Now let’s calculate how much it would cost to use propane to power your pilot light per month:
Cost of Propane = $2.50 x 4.72 = $11.80 per month
You can do the same formula to determine how much a year’s worth of propane to fuel your pilot light would cost. To note, pilot lights that run on propane gas are around 2x more expensive than those on natural gas since natural gas is cheaper per BTU.
To calculate the cost of using natural gas to light your fireplace’s pilot light, remember to use this formula: Cost of Pilot Light Usage = Price of Gas x Amount of Gas Used by Pilot Light.
You’ll need to determine the cost of natural gas ($.01078) and use the “Natural Gas Usage With A Pilot Light” chart above to determine how much natural gas your pilot light uses.
For this example, imagine your fireplace has a pilot light that uses 417 cubic feet of natural gas per month.
Cost of Natural Gas = $.01078 (price per cubic foot) x 417 (amount of gas used) = $4.49 per month
Cost of Natural Gas = $.01078 x 5,004 = $53.94 per year