We don’t really think about pilot lights, which is part of their intention. They just sit there quietly and burn, waiting for the moments when flames are needed. They came to be when waste was not an issue.
According to a source at Cornell University, pilot lights account for over 20 percent of the gas used in the U.S.. A study for a Canadian utility found that in homes with gas fireplaces, half of the gas was used just for the pilot, if left on all year. Granted, natural gas is a clean fuel by fossil fuel standards, but a limited and CO2 emitting fossil fuel, nevertheless.
While many newer appliances have electronic ignitons, pilot lights burn continuously in millions of stoves, water heaters, furnaces and gas fireplaces, pool heaters, and equipment in labs. The flames may seem small, but multiply hundreds of millions of them by 24/7 use, burning natural gas or propane. Each pilot light uses enough energy to make ten or more pots of coffee or tea PER DAY – enough to make billions of people happier, more productive (or crazy) – except that instead the stuff is just gone, used for nothing. (As for hot beverages, electric kettles boil water most efficiently, gas and electric stoves less, microwaves are the least efficient.)
The point of this, really, is to suggest turning off your pilot lights for the seasons when they are not being used. If you do not have access to yours, the gas man does, and you will save some bucks (seeing a notable difference in your gas bill), while doing the world a service.
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Barbara Hirsch, recording engineer, eco-person
“Unless someone like you cares a whole lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
– The Lorax, Children’s book by Dr. Seuss