Gas patio heaters can be useful additions to yards or outdoor areas, but they’re also quite simple devices from a technological standpoint. While there are a number of specific mechanisms that 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 doesn’t work properly, the checklist of issues for troubleshooting gas patio lamps is also pretty straightforward. The most common issue you’ll experience with one of these is that it simply won’t work—won't give off light or heat. Here are some basic things to check and change before writing your gas patio heater off as being broken.
As with other gas appliances, one obvious reason they fail to work is that there’s no gas. Look toward the base of the heater and take out the gas cylinder. If it’s light in weight, it may be empty, and you should replace it with a full one.
Even if you discover that there was still a small amount of gasoline left in the removed container, a replacement is likely necessary anyway. A minimal amount of gas is required at all times just to create enough pressure to drive the gas burner. That little leftover gas may not have be enough.
With a full cylinder in place, turn on the gas, and listen at the burner attempting to hear the sound of the gas arriving.
If the patio heater has an electronic ignition system, make sure that there is a spark. If there is a spark but the heater will not light up, try using a lighter or burning spill to light the gas.
If you still can’t get it to light, verify the following parts are in working order so you can be sure the gas is making it to the burner.
WARNING: If it does eventually ignite, stand back as there may be a flash over. This is especially likely if you have been trying to light the gas for a while since there might be a small cloud of gas near the burner.
Check the Gas Regulator
The gas regulator is a connector that joins 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 you find such a switch on your patio heater, make sure that it’s set to the "on" position.
Clear Gas Pipe
It’s rare that gas pipe would be blocked but since it’s a possibility you should still investigate. Remove the gas pipe from the regulator and from the gas inlet at the top of the heater. This pipe is pressure fitted and held in place by pipe clips.
Blow air through the pipe to ensure that it is clear. Either blockages will be blown free or the pipe will be clean to begin with.
Clean the Burner
Disassemble the burner and check for any blockages. Also, check that the burner apertures are set correctly. Beneath each burner is a small chamber in which air and gas are mixed. Make sure all that the gas and air inlets are clear. If you discover any blockages or buildup, clean the burner to remove these obstructions.
WARNING: When cleaning the burner, make sure the gas is turned off, remove the gas light mantle, and run pipe cleaners through the burner holes.
Most gas patio heaters have a bug screen to keep away insects that are attracted to the flame. If your heater’s insect guard becomes too obstructed, it can block the flow of air and smother your flame. Remove the screen and clean it either by blowing on it or with a quick wash and thorough drying.
Pilot Light (if present)
If your heater has a pilot light, the thermocouple may have failed. The thermocouple is usually shaped like an inverted "v" and sits in the flame of the pilot light. The temperature acts on the thermocouple to keep the gas supply to the burner open. A good indication that the thermocouple has broken down is that the pilot light goes out when you try to turn the heater on. Thermocouples are readily available patio heater parts and usually available from stock.
Consult a Manufacturer
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 specialist for a service. Any other modifications that do not involve ignition issues on your individual heater will vary according to the manufacturer.