Two pilot lights are better than one

From Deep in the Heart of Texas, we got this question from “So Frustrated”:

I have 2 pilot lights after replacing the thermopile assembly.

I know there is only suppose to be one small blue pilot light but my water heater died last week and Reliance told me it was the thermopile. Got a new one and now I have 2 pilots and they are both over an inch long and orange in color. Just frustrated and need some advice as I have broke it down a couple of times to check and recheck the orifice. Help!

Dear So,

Please do not be alarmed. This is not a problem with your water heater, and is not related to your replacing the thermopile. Rather, the water heater is probably attempting to comply with a new federal regulation from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In a typical example of federal regulatory overreach, the CPSC has decreed that all appliances containing a pilot light, must have a co-pilot light for backup. This ruling actually only applies to new appliances, but your water heater must have heard about it somehow — maybe you left the radio on to a news station while you were working on it? And it’s doing its best to carry out the government’s recommendations.