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How to Properly Store an Outdoor Patio Heater

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An outdoor patio heater is a great addition to any home’s patio. However, outdoor patio heaters are more complex than a fire pit and need to be handled differently, especially when it comes to storage.

There are many precautions and steps you should take to properly store an outdoor patio heater:

  • Determine the optimal placement for the heater
  • Give the heater a good cover
  • Add additional stability
  • Clean parts of the heater you can access
  • Determine where to store your (more) portable heaters.
patio heater

Proper storage of an outdoor patio heater will extend the life of your heater. This way you can get your money’s worth and enjoy your heater as much as possible. I will explain how to properly store your outdoor patio heater.

Different Types of Fuel for Outdoor Patio Heaters Affect Your Storage

There are many different types of fuels for patio heaters. These include:

  • Natural gas
  • Electric
  • Propane
  • Wood

Each of these have different requirements for storage.

Natural gas is usually provided through a fixed line. A professional should install this type of heater. Therefore, it is unlikely you can move them at all and your abilities to store these are almost exclusively with a covering.

Electric patio heaters are more portable and can be stored in different places. You can store them more properly.

Propane and wood-burning patio heaters do not need any fuel line since they use propane tanks and wood respectively as fuel. However, propane tanks are cumbersome and wood-burning heaters usually require more space to hold and burn the wood.

Therefore, storage may be more restrictive for these types of heaters than electric heaters, but less than natural gas.

Determine the Optimal Placement for The Heater

Before determining where to store your heater, let’s talk about the best place that you should place your patio heater for optimum heat displacement on your patio. You should assume that the heater will at least be moderately immovable. You need to take many things into consideration:

  • Proximity with other fixtures and flammables
  • How strong the wind is in that relative position
  • How firm and level the ground is
  • The openness of the area.

The general rule about a patio heater is that it should be no fewer than 3 feet from any fixture. This means any direction. While some people account for everything directly around a heater, some forget that the area above a heater especially needs to be free of obstructions.

Many issues arise because a tree branch is directly above the heater from the leaves catching on fire to providing a direct route that pests can access your heater. 

A heater is also a fire hazard, no matter what fuel it uses. The heat alone from any patio heater can catch flammables on fire. It is especially crucial to make sure nothing that can catch fire is close to your heater.

The elements can also play roles in preserving your patio heater. You need to consider where the wind is strongest and where it is weakest. Wind is always an unpredictable force of nature, but it can be estimated where it will do the most damage.

Furthermore, having a solid ground such as concrete can increase the life of a patio heater. The last place you should put a heater is on grass. Grass is not firm enough to hold the heat and could catch fire. The ground should also be as level as possible.

Some heaters such as electric heaters can be used in generally closed areas. However, natural gas, propane, and wood-burning heaters produce gases including smoke and fumes that could damage the heater if they gather around the heater (it is not very good for the people either).

Determining the best place to keep your patio heater is the first step you should take to properly store your space heater. Some patio heaters can be heavy and hard to move.

However, many are also very portable including hanging patio heaters. Despite their mobility, proper placement of these portable heaters could prevent damage that would negate the preservation created by proper storage.

Give the Heater A Good Cover

Hands down the most crucial factor to properly store your outdoor patio heater is the cover you use. This is a good investment to preserve your heater and is the only way to preserve some heaters including natural gas heaters.

For the proper cover, you should find one that is waterproof, and easily washable. This prevents water damage and allows dust and insect nests/eggs to be removed.

It is worth mentioning that a cover can easily act as a parachute in the wind. This could damage the patio heater or even destroy it by toppling it over. The best way to prevent this is to get a proper fitting cover.

The best covers for a space heater are almost always custom-made covers that fit the heaters properly. A properly fitted cover will fit snuggly around your heater and help prevent it from shifting or opening as it protects the heater.

Another way to prevent the cover from taking down your patio heater during storage is to bolt or tie down the cover to the ground. Just securing the cover around the patio heater is not enough.

The cover could shift or open with the wind, even with the best-tailored cover. If you secure the cover to the ground, this will prevent the cover from shifting significantly and further secure the heater in place. 

Note: portable heaters may be an attractive feature in many settings including restaurants and lodges. However, if you use an ugly cover when the heater is not needed the heaters will be less attractive during more off-hours. If your patio heaters are a feature for your business, you should try to find covers that are attractive and fitting for the image of your business. 

Add Additional Stability

Any patio heater could easily be knocked over. We talk about different ways to keep your patio heater from tipping over. There are many ways to further stabilize the patio heater including:

  • Flame retardant ropes and bungee cords
  • Sandbags
  • Gravel.

Placing these near the base can further prevent your patio heater from collapsing and help to extend its life.

Disassemble the Patio Heater

Many outdoor patio heaters, including natural gas heaters, can be disassembled, at the very least for cleaning. But disassembling can help to utilize space better while storing your patio heater.

Before you attempt to disassemble your patio heater you need to turn off the heater for a while so it can cool down for you to disassemble it. After that, disassemble the heater as per instructions.

Clean Parts of The Heater You Can Access

If your patio heater is electric there is little you need to clean. You will just need to clean the heater for dust and the gathering of insects near the heater. Insects will especially be attracted to these heaters by not only the heat but the light that comes from the heater.

If you are using a propane or even a natural gas patio heater, there is a crucial part that needs cleaning:

  • The thermocouple
  • Pilot tube

If these parts are not clean, the patio heater will not stay lit after storage.

Steps to Clean the Thermocouple

A thermocouple is supposed to keep the furnace pilot lit. Without it, the fuel valve closes, and the heater will turn off. It works by allowing some current to flow, the current can only flow if a metal is hot. The metal that is hot will expand and complete the circuit.

When it is cool, it will contract and break the circuit. The circuit will also break with the thermocouple is dirty. This is a safety feature built into many propane and natural gas patio heaters.

To clean a thermocouple, you need to follow these steps:

  • Shut off the fuel and heater – let it cool
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions to find the thermocouple
  • Loosen the screws or bolts as the manufacturer’s instructions say
  • Remove the thermocouple from the pilot assembly
  • Use steel wool or an abrasive pad to clean the thermocouple
  • Reattach the thermocouple to the pilot assembly.

You should never clean with flammable solvents and cleaners. They could leave behind a flammable residue that could easily ignite during the next use.

How To Clean The Pilot Tube

A clean pilot tube allows the pilot light to work properly so the main burner will burn efficiently.

To clean the pilot tube, you need to take these steps:

  • Turn off the outdoor patio heater and disconnect the fuel. Unscrew the coupler attached to the gas inlet valve
  • Remove the top cover of the patio heater to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Find the burner assembly
  • Use a cotton swab soaked in alcohol over the burner assembly holes
  • Find the venturi tubes (silver tubes on the back of the assembly)
  • Use a pipe cleaner twisted in a circle, force through the tubes
  • Pull the cleaner out
  • Reassemble the heater
  • Test the heater.

Doing these cleaning steps may not only improve the effectiveness of the heater but prevent the heater from entering disrepair. Sometimes a patio heater is out of operation simply because it is dirty.

Determine where to store your (more) portable heaters 

If your patio heater is moveable (at all), there is probably a more suitable place to store it than where you have it when it is out. After all, a patio heater has many requirements that limit where you can place it. While the placement may be optimal for enjoyment, it may not be optimal for the lifespan of the heater.

Rain is one of the worst things for any patio heater. Keeping the heater outside will cut its life short.

If you can move the patio heater inside, you should. If nothing else, at least for long-term storage. Make sure it is never used inside though. You should follow recommended guidelines of how to store the heater and where.

In general, patio heaters should be stored away from water sources, maybe even in water-resistant containers. During storage, water, dirt, and insects can get into the heater. The more proper the container the better. 

Most importantly, the patio heaters must never be connected to any fuel source. In fact, fuels for the natural gas and propane heaters should never be stored indoors to prevent the accumulation of these gases inside.

What Is the Best Type of Patio Heater?

In general, the better type of outdoor patio heater to allow for long-term storage is one that is more portable. These could include propane and electric. They are more portable and easier to set up. An electric heater just needs to be plugged in and a propane heater just needs to be assembled, sometimes in just minutes.

Natural gas heaters use a fixed natural gas line. Therefore, they cannot be stored beyond using a cover to help preserve them. 

However, there is another option to consider for an outdoor patio heater: a wood-burning heater.

Wood-Burning Heaters

Wood-burning heaters provide a great alternative. They can be used to give heat to any outdoor patio. However, the heat from a wood-burning heater is not as directed as many of the other outdoor heaters.

There are several types of wood-burning outdoor heaters you can use:

These can be used in many various scenarios. They can put out heat equivalent to other patio heaters without needing more expensive fuels. Furthermore, wood-burning heaters are incredibly simple and require no complex parts nor fuel lines or circuitry.

Outdoor Fire Pits Are Simple

An outdoor fire pit is essentially a bowel that can hold firewood. This could either be a circle enclosed by stone or bricks or it could be a separate pit made of metal that can be placed almost anywhere. 

They are inexpensive and simple. Essentially, if the bowel can effectively hold the wood and fire, it will work. If the fire pit is not rusted through, you are fine.

Outdoor Fireplaces Allow for Contained and Controlled Heat

An outdoor fireplace is almost exactly what it sounds like. It is a self-contained place to hold firewood and fire. It could even have a chimney-like tube that can dispense the smoke and it can also control the heat that is dispensed by directing it.

These can be elaborate and a great addition to any patio. They also can put out more heat than a fire pit or a chiminea. However, they are more expensive and can be more complex if you want.

Chiminea

A chiminea is a strange combination between a fire pit and a chimney. The idea is that the bottom acts like a fire pit that can hold the wood and fire. The chimney tube is above the fire pit that can direct the smoke away from the people.

A chiminea is probably the best way to contain a fire outdoors and is probably the safest outdoor heater. There is no chance of the fuel lines leaking and the flames are well contained. Chimineas also protect the fire from the elements by protecting the fire from rain and other forms of precipitation. Keep in mind most other outdoor heaters should not be kept outside during weather like this, much less be used. Chimineas can also be very decorative. 

Pros and Cons of Wood-burning Heaters

Wood-burning heaters give you several viable options over an outdoor porch heater.

Pros:

  • Produces more heat – generally, wood-burning heaters produce more heat than some outdoor patio heaters.
  • Simple designs – these heaters are essentially containers for fuel and fire.
  • Less maintenance – the maintenance of these heaters depends on the material the heaters are made from. They could still be protected from weather including corrosion and rust treatment and covers. 
  • More capable of use during weather – wood-burning heaters including outdoor fireplaces and chimineas can be used in less than par weather. Many patio heaters cannot or at least should not be used during inclement weather.
  • Capable of cooking – wood-burning heaters can be used for cooking in addition to heating.

Cons:

  • Less accessible fuel – many people do not have a pile of firewood available. Wood fuel can be hard to obtain in some areas including cities.
  • Need skills to make a fire – wood fires are harder to light than propane, natural gas, or electric heaters.
  • Frequent cleaning – wood-burning heaters can produce ash and need frequent cleaning.

Despite their cons, a wood-burning heater is almost guaranteed to last longer than most outdoor patio heaters.

Concluding Thoughts

Outdoor patio heaters are a great addition to a house or a business. However, they need to be properly stored to increase their lifespan so you can enjoy them as much as possible.

The first thing you should do to store an outdoor patio heater is to find the best placement. You are trying to protect the heater from water, debris, and insects. Each of these can be avoided with the best-determined location and a good cover.

The key to storing your patio heater is to store it inside away from the weather. However, natural gas heaters cannot do this, only wood-burning, propane, and electric heaters are portable.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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