10 Patio Heater Problems & Fixes


There’s nothing like sitting on your patio or deck on a warm summer evening with family or friends. It’s nice, relaxing, and almost the perfect temperature to go without having to bundle up! Almost…as the seasons change, we can’t help but want to be outside! The cool temperatures, in the “shoulder weeks” before and after summer, shouldn’t ruin an evening outside and certainly won’t as long as you have a durable patio heater. 

One issue that many homeowners encounter with their patio heater is proper care. The first step to taking care of your patio heater problems is to diagnose the problem itself. Many issues can plague your patio heater and, without the proper care, could mark the end of it.

Luckily, most of the issues you’re dealing with come with a simple fix, once spotted, that can be done without the help of a professional. As long as you’ve correctly diagnosed the issue, you should be able to start working on a fix right away.

Troubleshooting can be a bit difficult if you aren’t sure what to look for. For many patio heater owners, the problem could be difficult to diagnose; you simply know that something is wrong. It might not even be clear that anything is wrong in some cases, but your patio heater may actually be in need of repairs (or routine maintenance).

Before we get into the most common patio heater problems and how to fix them, it’ll be helpful to know how to spot an issue in the first place.

Man in uniform bent over fixing patio heater problems with tools

Common Patio Heater Problems and Easy Solutions

Here are a few of the most common issues with a patio heater that can easily be addressed and fixed on your own. These issues can certainly cause some headache, but shouldn’t be the end of the line for your patio heater. As long as maintenance is taken care of and your patio heater is properly cared for, then you should be good to go for years on end.

One quick note: these are not the only problems that are possible with your patio heater. There are countless other issues, but the ones listed here are the most common and easiest to fix on your own. Other problems might require the help of a professional following extensive safety precautions. If the issues affecting your patio heater do not match the signs described below, seek further consultation from a pro before moving forward with repairs.

1. Igniter Won’t Fire Up

One common way that gas patio heaters ignite is through an igniter. Much like with a BBQ starter, it creates a spark that ignites the gas released by the tank which causes a controlled flame to shoot up through the tube. This controlled flame is what creates the heat and warms up the space around the patio heater. If the flame isn’t catching and you’re sure that the gas tank still has “juice left to squeeze”, then chances are your igniter is the issue.

The best way to check for this issue is to use a lighter to create the flame. If you’re able to get the patio heater working with an outside source of flame, then the igniter is out and needs to be replaced. Before removing your igniter, check to see if it’s producing any sparks. Remove the casing around the igniter and attempt to light the heater. If no sparks occur, then your igniter is in need of replacement.

How to fix a tall patio heater that won’t light (SOLVED)

Replacing your igniter is simple and can be done with your hands and a wrench. Simply remove the nut that is attached to the igniter with a wrench and then detach the wiring with your hands. Purchase a new igniter that works with your heater and reattach it. It’s that simple and you’ll have a working patio heater in no time.

2. Low Heat Levels

This is specific to gas heaters – if your patio heater uses electricity and you’re experiencing low heat levels, then that is a different issue which will be talked about under Faulty Electric Heater. If your propane patio heater is experiencing a lower amount of heat, this could be due to a leak somewhere in the gas line process. While this might not be much of a threat to your patio heater, gas leaks should always be handled with caution for your own health and safety.

The first step to fixing this issue is to locate the kink or break in the gas line. This can be done by simply finding the spot where the gas line looks compromised. Some line breaks need special care to locate an issue and should be done with a leak detection spray. Once you’ve found the problem area in the line, it’s time to start repairs to build up the amount of gas being supplied.

This can be done by detaching the segment of the gas line that is damaged with a wrench and replacing it with a new one. It’s important to get the right size gas line, otherwise you might find yourself with a new leak or pressure failure. The reduced heat is caused by less gas being supplied, so the new, undamaged line should be enough to get your patio heater back to producing at full capacity.

3. Infestation of Bugs and Critters

It might not be your first thought when it comes to patio heater maintenance, but one of the most drastic issues that can plague your patio heater might be a live one. When you’re bringing your patio heater out for the first time in the season, it’s important to check the structure for bugs or small animals.

Bugs are likely to use it as a nest or place webs all over it while you have it in storage, especially if it is kept outside in a shed. Using the heater with bugs cooking inside will not make for a pleasant experience.

When the weather is cold, small animals will look for a warm place to stay. In this case, the warm location maybe your patio heater, especially right after use. If you notice signs of rodents or small animals nearby, it’s a good idea to check your patio heater. Not only could they be nesting inside, but rodents tend to chew on the wires which can lead to some significant damages.

Before using your patio heater, every time, it pays to check for anything inside. Doing a clean sweep for bugs when you first bring the heater out of storage for the season should be enough, but continually checking for small animals might not be a bad idea. There are limited spots in which they can get lodged, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry.

4. Faulty Electric Heater

While electric heaters are certainly easier to use and maintain, they do come with one problem that can be quite difficult to fix; faulty wiring. Gas and propane patio heaters have the advantage of most components being easy to access and fix, but electric heaters are much more intricate. If your electric heater isn’t igniting or starts and stops shortly after, then chances are you have a faulty wire.

Signs to keep an eye out for, which may indicate faulty wiring are: frayed wires, corrosion, or broken lining. These are typically caused by exposure to weather, rodents, birds, or simply extensive use over time. Sometimes too much use can cause your wires to fray and break. One easy way to prevent the damage of internal wiring is to move your patio heater inside when you’re not using it. This protects it from the elements and enables you to use it longer.

Unfortunately, faulty wiring cannot be fixed at home and will need to be replaced. I do not recommend doing the replacement yourself, unless you are a trained electrician or electrical engineer, as this could be quite dangerous when done by an amateur. If the wiring is done incorrectly, your heater might not work properly, or it could become a ball of flames. Let a professional handle wiring issues on your electric patio heater. The best way to resolve this issue is to take preventative care to ensure it doesn’t occur in the first place.

5. No Pilot Light

This issue can easily be spotted on some models, but can be much more difficult to pinpoint on others. If you can see the pilot light when it’s active, then you’ll easily be able to tell if it’s out or not. If you don’t have a line of sight to the pilot light, you might need to run some tests to determine if this is what’s causing the problem.

The issue that is associated with a faulty pilot light is the same as with the igniter. If the heater doesn’t light up, it’s time to check the internal components.

Once you’ve taken apart the heater to find the igniter, test it to see what’s causing the issue. If the igniter produces sparks but the flame still isn’t lighting, then the problem is probably your pilot light. This is caused when the gas line supply to your pilot light is cut off for whatever reason and your pilot light won’t stay lit. When this is the problem, it’s time to unclog the line.

The gas line that supplies the pilot light is small and will need a tool that can fit inside it. Small/thin tweezers, a toothpick, or a sewing needle should do the trick. Start by removing the screen and uncovering the ignition ensemble. Remove the pilot light from the gas line and now you’ll be able to see the clog. Remove whatever is clogging the line and place everything back together. If you cannot reach the clog, use compressed air to force the clog out.

6. Sizing Problems

This is a relatively simple fix, depending on where the sizing issue is. This is typically an issue that occurs when you’re trying to fix something else. Say your regulator needs to be replaced and you go out to buy a new one. You come back to place it in your patio heater and it doesn’t fit. If the regulator is the right one for the patio heater, then the gas cylinder might be the wrong size.

Either way, you’ll need to head back to the store.

This isn’t an issue that you’ll notice out of the blue, this is something that you’ve likely caused yourself. Chances are that a new patio heater will initially have all of the right parts installed, otherwise, it wouldn’t work in the first place. If you receive a faulty patio heater with improper sizing on certain parts, then the best thing to do would be to return it and ask for a refund as there could be other issues down the road due to improper manufacturing.

If you notice that you’ve bought the wrong sized part, then you’ll need to return it and buy a new one that matches your model. It’s as simple as that! It’s a headache and can waste your time, but shoving a part that doesn’t fit into your patio heater is a recipe for disaster and a great way to create future problems that will need to be fixed.

7. Loose Connections

Sometimes, the answer is as simple as a loose bolt or connection. This can occur when moving the patio heater or while placing a new propane tank in the bottom. Sometimes bolts can just get rattled and come loose over time. Fixing this problem is as simple as locating the loose connection and tightening it. You likely won’t have to search for a professional to come out and help you deal with this issue.

However, finding the loose connection can be tougher than you might think. One easy way to combat this obstacle is to make note of what is being affected. Once you know what the problem is, you’ll have a better idea of where to look. If the flame isn’t working, check the ignition. If the heat isn’t as strong, look to the wiring or gas lines.

Once you’ve found the area where a loose connection might be, it becomes much easier to find the faulty connection.

You can use a wrench or sometimes even just your hand to adjust the connection and get everything working again. Sometimes, loose connections are the problem, and other times, they lead to the root of the issue. You might find yourself fixing a connection that is tied to a deeper problem plaguing your patio heater. What might start as a loose gas line could end up showing you a crack in the line you otherwise might have missed.

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

patio heater tile

Signs That Your Patio Heater is Malfunctioning

There are a few signs to look for when doing a regular check of your patio heater that could indicate something is wrong. If a problem goes undiagnosed, your patio heater could end up wasting gas without producing nearly as much heat.

If the issues continue long enough, then your patio heater might even fail to ignite and you’ll find yourself with a metal shell that no longer works.

Let’s start with the obvious issues that a patio heater encounters. If your patio heater won’t start, chances are there is something wrong. This is either due to undiagnosed problems that have been occurring for a while, or one of the issues listed below is causing the ignition process to fail. Another sign that something might be wrong is the length of time that it operates once started.

Some patio heaters, as issues build up and compound, aren’t able to stay lit for more than a few minutes without going out. 

The ignition process is one of the best ways to tell what’s wrong with the patio heater. If you can ignite the flame with an outside source like a lighter or match, but the heater won’t light on its own, then chances are your igniter is out. 

Conversely, if you can light your heater with ease and it stays on as long as there is gas in the tank, but the flame is much smaller than usual or you notice that less heat is being produced, then your patio heater might have a leak somewhere in the system.

There are many more signs to keep an eye out for, but they’ll be mentioned specifically in the list with the problem that they typically signal. Many of these signs are easy to spot once you know what to look for, but be vigilant. Patio heater health is important and it’s up to you to take proper care of it before it becomes unfixable and needs to be replaced.

Using Your Patio Heater Safely

Once you’ve diagnosed and fixed whatever problem was causing issues with your patio heater, it’s important to keep safe use in mind. The more care you give your patio heater, the longer it will last and the better experience you’ll have with it. There are certainly a few things that patio heater owners can do that could compromise either the heater itself or the space around it.

One such problem that many patio heater owners encounter is the weather.

It can be enticing to have your patio heater up day in and day out, providing that sense of warmth that allows the party or dining to continue even as the night rolls around.

However, if the rain starts to come around, it might be time to end the party – and that includes turning off the patio heater. Always cover and protect your patio heater from rain or harsh weather. It can become easily compromised and you might have to fix it yet again. If the heater was freshly used and is still hot when rain starts, bring it under an overhang. If it’s been a while since you last used it, place a cover over it.

Indoor Versus Outdoor Use

A recommendation that could end up saving you thousands in damages is to be careful where you’re using the patio heater. Many homeowners who work out in their garage think that the patio heater is a fantastic alternative for heating up space as the weather begins to turn cool. Unfortunately, the garage or a workspace might not be the best choice for your patio heater.

There are tons of uncertainties in your garage that could lead to injury or damaged property.

For one, a propane heater could catch on a spark from your work leading to a much bigger issue than just a damaged patio heater.

If you’re working in a closed space, you don’t want to then fill that space with propane gas.

Be careful when using your patio heater indoors as there are plenty of risks that you’re creating for yourself and your space. Give your patio heater room to breathe and leave it outside when you’re using it.

As far as outdoor use goes, there are many more chances for you to use your patio heater. As long as the space is open and there’s proper ventilation, you should be good to use the patio heater. Patios and outdoor dining spaces are the best and most common areas to use your patio heater. 

Finding the Right Patio Heater For You

Different situations certainly call for different patio heaters, but which one is the right one for you? Finding the perfect patio heater for your home should be decided before you start shopping, so that you can limit the amount of heaters you need to look at and research. The first decision you should make is what type of heater you’re looking for; propane or electric?

Each type of heater has their benefits, but they each also have their drawbacks. A quick tip for buying your patio heater is to decide what’s most important for you – money, quality, or simplicity. If the cost is important and you want to keep it low, then perhaps a propane model will work best for you. If simplicity is more what you’re looking for, then an electric heater might be the best.

As for quality, there are plenty of different types of patio heaters, each produced by many different companies. Quality will vary and will not be based on the patio heater type. Search through some reviews to find out which patio heater offers the quality and other features you’re looking for. Finding the right patio heater for your space doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what to look for!

Stuart

Stuart loves blogging about his hobbies and passions. Living the Outdoor Life is a place for him to share what he learns while creating his perfect outdoor space.

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