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If you light your pilot light, hold in the button and then when you release it and the pilot light goes out, generally you need a new thermocouple. Gas repairs can only be undertaken by a qualified gas technician so you can't do this job yourself.
The thermocouple is a safety device that recognises that the pilot has a good flame and is enough to ignite the main burners. The thermocouple open that valve to the burner.
In limited circumstances the thermocouple doesn't need replacing, either the shield that aims the flame to the thermocouple has become dislodged, or the pilot jet is a little blocked by debris. Either way, having the appliance serviced by a qualified gas fitter is the way to go. I am sure you will have seen news stories about explosions caused by gas leaks and faulty appliances.
First make sure that 3/4" of the end of the thermocouple is engulfed within the pilot flame and that it is glowing red prior to releasing the button. This takes 30 to 45 seconds usually. The thermocouple generates a miniscule amount of electricity....like 1/4 of 1 volt...(250 millivolts tops).... and inside the gas valve is a saftey coil that requires that voltage to remain open electrically when you release the button which was bypassing the coil to allow pilot gas through. IF the thermocouple is not generating enough electricity, the coil will drop out....IF the coil is bad, the coil will drop out...and IF the coil is weak it will drop out. When the coil drops out, the pilot gas quits flowing and main gas cannot pass because in order for the main portion of the gas valve to open, the safety coil must be held open.
You probably either have a defective new thermocouple, dirty and small pilot light, or a totally defective or weak coil in the gas valve.
There is a valve which you are bypassing when you press the pilot button. It is usually a sealed hydralic valve which holds the gas on as long as a flame is on the bulb. This expands the fluid and keeps the gas valve open. If the bulb moved and is not in the flame, or near enough, it will not stay on. Also since it sat for a year the internal workings of the valve could have "gummed" up. You need to replace the valve. You did not mention the name or model of the unit. Do a search with your units brand name followed by heater followed by parts. This should return dealers who can supply the part you need. Let me know if you need anymore help.
Sometimes when you turn a gas heater off for some time, if the source tank has been turned off, the line will bleed the propane and the line will contain mostly air. This is especially true if the supply line is long. In order to light the pilot, you will have to hold the pilot lighting button down for a while (a full minute or longer, depending on the size and length of the supply line) before pure propane arrives at the pilot light jet. You should keep a lighted lighter at the jet so that when the gas arrives, the lighter will light it. After the pilot lights, you will have to keep the button pressed long enough for the thermocouple to get hot enough to set the pilot to stay on. When it is hot enough, you should be able to release the pressed lighting button and the pilot should stay on. If it does, you should be able to light the heater. If the pilot jet never lights, gas is not getting to the regulator. If the pilot will not stay lit after a period of time waiting for it to heat the thermocouple, the thermocouple or the regulator may be bad and need replacement. :-)
Turn the control knob to "pilot", while holding the knob down, press the piezoelectric spark button repeatedly until you see the pilot light through the observation glass. Once its lit, hold the button for approximately 30 secs. If it stays lit when you release the knob, turn to "on" Then operate normally. If the piezoelectric is not sparking, you can open the glass and light manually. Good luck and please rate my answer if it was helpful.
The power pile (pilot generator) is defective. It produces a milivolt signal to ensure to keep the gas valve open. If it goes bad, the valve thinks the pilot is out, even when you are holding the button down, so when you release the button, it shuts the gas off to prevent excess gas buildup and a possible explosion.
First check to see if the flame is hitting the thermocouple when the flame is on when you hold down the button. If it is then remove the the thermocouple and replace with the same size. You should be able to pick one up at your local hardware store.
If when you replace the thermocouple the flame does not stay lit still you may have a bad gas valve. Hope this helps and please rate this!
If you have not found the problem yeat, it IS the thermocoupling( or pilot generator(same thing))
You may test by placing a multimeter on the red and white leads coming to the gas valve. you do not need to disconnect the leads first but you can