Gas patio heaters can be useful additions to yards or outdoor areas. They are also quite simple devices from a technological standpoint. You may, however, experience various challenges with your patio heater, like keeping it lit. But you will be surprised how some solutions are simple enough for homeowners to handle.
While several specific mechanisms allow them to function, overall, the only elements that a gas heater needs to work are flame and fuel. Due to their straightforward design, on the rare occasion that one of these heaters do not work correctly, troubleshooting them is also straightforward. This post serves to keep you equipped with troubleshooting practices that will save you time and money in the long run. Here you will find the necessary things to check and change before writing your propane gas off as being broken.
What Are Common Problems on Propane Patio Heater?
Propane patio heaters may encounter several problems; some familiar and minor issues have easy solutions. The troubleshooting techniques are listed down below.
Pilot light issues
This issue is related to thermocouple issues. If your heater has a pilot light, then the thermocouple may have failed. The thermocouple is usually shaped like an inverted “v” and sits in the pilot light’s flame. The temperature acts on the thermocouple to keep the gas supply to the burner open.
Sometimes the pilot lights can move too far away from the thermocouple. This action results in disabling the spark that works to ignite the patio heater. The thermocouple of the system detects no pilot light, and therefore it automatically shut the heater down.
A good indication that the thermocouple has broken down is that the pilot light goes out when you try to turn the heater on. On the bright side, this is a useful safety mechanism as the gas would continue to release, but not burn.
The solution here is quite simple- thermocouple adjustment. Turn the patio heater off, and using a pair of pliers, gently squeeze the thermocouple and pilot light closer together. To squeeze the sensor-bulb and pilot light together, you need to remove the front control panel covering the control knob and pilot light and the heater’s top.
Remove also the bracket that holds the thermocouple and pilot light together for better access. Make sure you do not crush them. A gentle squeeze should do. Thermocouples are readily available patio heater parts and usually available from stock.
The thermocouple is easily affected by some factors. For example, corrosion wreaks havoc in steel systems. The orifices may acquire a dust build-up that, in turn, diminishes the gas flow and, ultimately, the flame power.
In a propane heater, the thermocouple will turn off the patio heater while tricking the gas valve into thinking that the pilot light is out. Another simple cause may be a breeze blowing out the pilot light. Also, as the propane patio heaters age, the propane may begin to form a carbon layer around or in the orifice.
The solution for carbon and corrosion is also doable. You can use a toothpick to bore out the orifice to an unclogged state. Light sandpaper comes in handy to sand off the outer coat of the carbon.
The air in the gas line
Sometimes there may be air in the gas line that blocks the propane from getting to the heater head unit.
In this case, you can purge the gas line. You are required to turn the knob on the propane tank to open the gas line fully.
Depress the control knob for another two to three minutes to ensure all the gas has cleared out. You can now attempt to ignite the patio heater. If the propane gas tank is new, you will also need to purge the air from the gas lines, as explained.
Loose connections and fittings
Loose fittings and connections may sometimes be the cause of problems.
You should examine the regulator and ensure it is connected tightly to the propane tank. Check the fittings as well. The advisable and most recommended way is to use water/soap and dowse the connection area – the presence of bubbles may mean there is a leak.
The flame is too low.
The heater may stay lit, but with a low flame. This would most likely be caused by low gas pressure. If the outdoor temperature happens to be lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the tank is less than one-quarter full, it will result in a low flame. Moreover, a problem may also be in the regulator. The gas may be on, but there is no gas flow.
You will need to replace the hose and regulator assembly. A kinked gas hose can also cause a low flame. You need to check it and straighten it. If damaged, you will have to replace it. Blockage in the burner assembly is a potential cause as well. Here, clean the emitter screen and burner to clear any blockages. Also, check the reflector and ensure there is no build-up of carbon.
The propane heater may not work as a result of no gas. Just look toward the base of the heater and take out the gas cylinder.
A full tank usually is more massive than an empty one, so if the tank is lightweight, you need to refill it or replace it with a new one. There may be a small amount of gasoline left in the removed container- a replacement is likely necessary anyway. A minimal amount of gas is required solely to create enough pressure to drive the gas burner. The little leftover may, therefore, not be enough.
With a full cylinder in place, turn on the gas and intentionally listen to the burner to heat the gas’s arrival. If the patio heater has an electronic ignition system, there should be a spark. If there is a spark, but the heater does not light up, try using a burning spill or lighter to light the gas. If it still does not light up, there may be a problem with the gas regulator.
The gas regulator is a connector that works to join the gas tank with the gas pipe to be carried up to the burner. Some regulators have a flip switch that prevents the valve in the top of the cylinder from being depressed, effectively acting as an OFF switch. If your patio heater has such a button, ensure it is turned to the on position.
Clear the gas pipe
A gas pipe is rarely blocked, but it is still a possibility. You must remove the tube from the regulator and the gas inlet at the top of the heater. This pipe is pressure fitted and held in place by pipe clips. You can clear the gas pipe by blowing air through it. You may either blow free the blockages or make the pipe cleaner, to begin with.
Clean the burner
Disassemble the burner and check for any blockages. The burner apertures should be set correctly as well. Beneath every burner, there is a small chamber where air and gas are mixed. Ensure the air and gas inlets are clear. If any blockages are discovered, clean the burner.
Most of the propane patio heaters have a bug screen that works to keep insects that are attracted to the flame away. If the insect guard becomes too obstructed, it can result in blocking the flow of air and ultimately smother your flame. You should remove the screen and clean it by either blowing on it or with a quick wash and thorough drying.
Freezing of the regulator
One of the difficult problems that may inflict a regulator from freezing up is liquid propane entering and passing through the control device. In this case, you will have to ensure that tanks and cylinders are positioned and located as designed for use, such that it is kept out of the regulator and downstream appliances designed to work with propane vapor.
Other problems may arise from an old igniter. They may get worn out and fail. Here you can use a stick lighter to ignite the heater. If it does start, you need to replace the worn-out igniter with a new one. Some issues may be as simple as the gas valve on the propane tank is turned off. Then, turn it on. Sometimes the regulator does not fit onto the gas cylinder. The most probable cause of this problem is that you may not be using the right gas cylinder, so fix it.
Whether you need some extra heat on those spring evenings or just wanted to have it as a style statement, patio heaters are a useful addition to your yards or outdoor areas. Irrespective of the type of heater you own, be it an electrical heater, propane heater, or a natural gas heater, each has its troubleshooting techniques. So always refer to the manual for general safety information.
If you have carried out all the checks and the heater will still not light, you can repeat all the checks more slowly and carefully or take your heater to a service specialist. Any other modifications that do not involve ignition issues on your heater will vary according to the manufacturer. But on the rare occasions when your patio heater requires an overhaul, the troubleshooting techniques listed above will help.