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Why Won’t My Patio Heater Stay Lit?

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If you’ve been having trouble with your patio heater staying lit, you’re not alone. This is a common problem that many people experience and there are several possible explanations for why this might be happening.

The most common reasons why your patio heater isn’t staying lit are:

  • Thermocouple is dirty
  • Thermocouple needs to be replaced
  • Regulator is loose
  • Pilot tube hole is dirty or obstructed

Luckily, each of these causes has an easy fix that should have your patio heater working again in minutes. 

In this article we will provide various solutions to help solve the issue and ensure your patio heater stays lit for as long as you need it. 

How to Fix a Patio Heater That Won’t Stay Lit

It can be understandably frustrating when you want to enjoy your outdoor patio on a chilly night but find that your patio heater won’t stay lit. This leaves you with the decision to either endure the cold or head inside. 

Alternatively, you can try some of the solutions listed here to quickly troubleshoot your patio heater and enjoy your evening outdoors in comfort. 

Most patio heaters that won’t stay lit can be fixed either with a quick cleaning or, on the rare occasion, by replacing a worn-out component. The challenge is usually determining which component is responsible for the malfunction.

Below, we have provided a series of common solutions you can try that might resolve whatever is preventing your patio heater from staying lit. 

For the sake of this article, we are going to assume you checked the typical culprits, such as fuel levels and know how long your propane tank lasts on your patio heater

Thermocouple Solutions

The most common culprit responsible for a patio heater refusing to stay lit is its thermocouple. This component is responsible for producing an electric signal, after its metal is heated, that travels to your heater’s control unit and keeps the gas flowing. 

If your thermocouple is covered in soot and debris, its signal will be interrupted, and your patio heater’s gas won’t flow steadily to keep the heater lit. To fix this, you’ll want to clean your thermocouple by doing the following:

  1. Remove your patio heater’s emitter grid
  2. Disconnect and remove your fuel tank for safety purposes
  3. Remove the interior pieces blocking or covering the thermocouple
  4. Loosen the nut that holds your thermocouple in place
  5. Clean the thermocouple with steel wool

Be sure to check your thermocouple’s condition while you clean it. This is the best time to determine if the component is actually damaged and/or needs to be replace. 

If you’re certain your thermocouple is in sufficient condition, replace all the components you removed and test your patio heater. 

Regulator Solutions

Another reason your patio heater might be struggling to stay lit is because it isn’t receiving enough fuel, or the fuel supply isn’t steady. 

The simplest explanation for this would be a loose regulator. This component is responsible for ensuring your patio heater has enough propane for an adequate burn. 

Luckily if this is the culprit, it’s an easy fix that simply requires you to remove any components necessary to access the regulator and then tighten its connection to your fuel line using a standard wrench.

Again, this is an opportune time to check your regulator for damage to ensure it doesn’t need to be replaced.

Pilot Tube Solutions

The pilot tube is typically responsible for your patio heater refusing to light at all, but it might also prevent it from staying lit if it is dirty or obstructed. 

It is very common for your pilot tube to get covered in dirt, debris, and spiderwebs. The part you’ll want to pay particular attention to is the small holes on the pilot tube. If these are obstructed, gas won’t be able to flow to the pilot orifice. 

A quick and thorough clean with a can of compressed air will usually clear any dirt, debris, or other contaminants coating and obstructing your pilot tube. To access the tube, you’ll need to remove your patio heater’s emitter grid. You’ll find the pilot tube next to your heater’s burner. 

Final Thoughts

These solutions tend to fix your patio heater’s inability to stay lit, but if they don’t, you can try cleaning other components, such as the pilot burner, reflector, and burner screen, which may be causing black smoke. While you do so, check to see if these, or surrounding components, are loose or damaged.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it is common for older patio heaters to struggle to light or stay lit. If all of your patio heater’s components seem to be clean and in okay condition, it might just be time to retire your heater for good.

If you’re in the market for a new patio heater, here’s some good options for choosing between an electric or propane patio heater.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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