Why Won’t My Patio Heater Light?

A patio is made to be enjoyed all year round. Cold seasons make people stay indoors most of their time, but if you have a patio heater you will never stay indoors. However, patio heaters have a common problem of not lighting. To solve this you must first understand how a patio heater works. 

Many patio heaters work through the process of radiation. This means that when an object is heated up to a specific temperature it will start to release heat using electromagnetic waves. The electromagnetic waves are not seen by the human eye but they release heat that can be felt. And this is how most patio heaters work. 

I am going to give you common reasons why a patio heater may not be lighting and the solution to that problem. I am going to focus on the gas type of patio heaters, because these are the common ones worldwide. 

Reasons/Causes/Problems Why Your Patio Heater is not Lighting 

  1. The spark igniter is worn out 

Most gas patio heaters have a spark igniter, which is an electrode that starts the pilot light. In the long run, the spark igniter wears off and fails. To test this use a match stick and see if the heater will light up. If it works successfully then the spark igniter is dead. 


The only solution to this problem is to replace the spark igniter with a new one. Using a screwdriver, open the ignition system and you will see the ignition switch wiring. There is a push in connector that can be removed by hand, pull it out because that is the spark igniter. Place a new one in the similar position and close up the ignition system. 

  1. The pilot is not lighting/ not staying lit

When the spark igniter is doing its work of producing sparks but still the pilot is not lighting or it is not stable then it means that there is a clog in the gas supply system. The pilot tube may be clogged by dust, dead insects, or carbon deposits. 


Here the solution is to unclog the pilot tube. First, open up the emitter screen to expose the pilot tube that is clogged. Loosen the orifice from the gas supply using a small wrench. Use a needle or compressed air to remove the blocking material from the pilot tube and finally reconnect the system. 

  1. Unstable burner 

This is when after a few minutes, the burner goes off. This means that the thermocouple has moved out of place. A thermocouple is located next to the spark ignition and it is used to restrict gas supply when the pilot goes off. Hence when it is out of position, it will detect the heat on the pilot, but it will still restrict the gas supply. 


Here the solution is to fix the thermocouple that is far from the pilot. Remove the screen to expose the ignition system, locate the thermocouple and use pliers to squeeze the thermocouple close together with the tube. Then, fix the screen back into its position. 

It should be noted that this problem develops on the portable patio heaters because the thermocouple can move during transportation from one point to the other.

  1. Low heat production 

A gas patio heater works well under high gas pressure. When the gas pressure is low the heater will not receive adequate gas to sustain the burner’s flame hence low heat production. This low gas pressure is mainly caused by a damaged/broken gas line.  


Here, the solution is to try and fix the broken gas line. Slowly inspect the gas line both inside and out up to the main gas source. It is difficult to recognize a broken or cracked line but you can use a leak detection spray to find the leaks. 

If it is a crack you can cover it up but if the line is broken then buy a new one. 

  1. Staring problems 

A patio heater, whether electric or gas, spends most of its time outside. This makes them vulnerable to dust and dirt which in the long run causes the heater to have some staring problems. This condition can lead to reduced heat production. 


Here the solution is to clean the heating elements of the patio heater. Heating elements mainly consist of the burner and the pilot. Just remove the screen and use compressed air to blow off the dust. 

Avoid using water because the heating elements are supposed to be kept dry. 

  1. Electric heater not starting 

In the case of an electric heater, if it is not starting, then the wiring is damaged or corroded. If you see some broken wires or frayed wires, this is the reason your electric patio heater is not working. 

Rodents or old age can be one of the causes for broken wires. 


Here the only solution is to fix the broken wires by replacing them. You are advised to hire a professional electrician to do this work. 

Tips for Good Maintenance of a Patio Heater 

  1. Check the hoses at frequent intervals, for example after every two months.   
  2. Check for blockages in the air holes and vents.
  3. Check for cracks that may lead to gas leakages especially on the hose joints.
  4. Always keep the patio heater covered when it is not in use to prevent dust and dirt from gathering.
  5. Always store the heater in a dry and cool place.

Precautions For Using Patio Heaters 

  1. Use the patio heater in a well-ventilated place. 
  2. If there are strong winds or a storm, do not light up the patio heater. It might blow off the flame or even tilt the heater over. 
  3. Keep the patio heaters out of reach by children 
  4. Always read the user’s manual before using it.


There are several reasons why your patio heater is not lighting. This includes when the spark igniter is worn out, low gas pressure, dirt on the burner, defective regulator, or even broken wires if it is an electric patio heater. You are advised to use a trained professional to repair these problems or else you might cause much bigger problems.