Informational Guide

How To Easily Light A Patio Heater

We explain how to light a patio heater automatically or manually, so you can do it yourself with ease.

by Josh M

When the nights get darker and the temperature starts to drop, then you need to look at heating solutions. While the interior of your home may be simple to heat, the exterior can be more challenging.

Patio heaters provide a practical solution to keep your patio area warm. In this guide, we’ll explain how they work and how to light a patio heater so you can use it with no hassle.

Patio Heater Sample

Patio heaters are specifically designed to heat a small outdoor area (occasionally indoors too). They are available in a range of sizes to heat a specific area and can be found in domestic or commercial settings. They generally work using either convection or radiant heat.

Radiant patio heaters work by heating the surface of the machine itself until heat is given off in waves. These electromagnetic waves can’t be seen but can be felt by users in the area.

Convection patio heaters use a resistor which limits the flow of electric current through the machine. This causes heat to build up, which in turn heats the air around the area.

Patio heaters are designed to emit this heat, through whichever method, into a small area. They are typically stand-alone units with a dome at the top, which helps to focus the heat into the immediate area. You will sometimes get patio heaters attached to walls too.

When your patio heater is switched on, gas or propane is normally used to fuel the burners at the top of the device. This heats the top within the dome, and heat is dissipated to the surrounding area.

Patio heaters are an effective way to heat a small, enclosed area, and you’ll often find them outside bars, restaurants, or in gardens during the winter months.

Common Reasons Why Patio Heaters Fails To Light

Your patio heater is reliant on the burner within the device lighting to provide heat to an area. Unfortunately, sometimes your patio heater just won’t light, and it basically makes the whole device useless. Here are the main reasons why this happens:

Low Gas Level

Your patio heater needs fuel to turn on and heat the element. If your patio heater fails to light, then you should first check the gas tank. Try lifting it, and if it’s light, it means you’re running low on propane, and you will need to refuel it.

Failed Gas Delivery

Your gas also needs to be able to travel up to the top of the patio heater for it to light. You need to rotate the burner switch counterclockwise and allow enough time for the gas to rise up to the burner. If it still isn’t reaching it, then you may have a problem with the pipe.

Broken Light Ignition

You need a spark to set the gas alight, and without it, there’s no heat source. If there’s no spark when you turn the patio heater on, then the light ignition is probably broken. You can use a lighter or something similar to do this manually, but you should get the device repaired as soon as possible.

Clogged Burners

Your burner needs a healthy amount of air to fuel the flames. The holes around the burner can become clogged with debris and insects over time, and this will kill the heat source. Make sure you unclog this regularly to prevent any issues.

Regulators Unlatched To The Propane Tank

Your regulator needs to be latched to your propane tank so that the flow of gas can be controlled. It may be that it’s not securely latched or that a safety switch needs to be turned off to let the propane flow.

How To Light Patio Heaters? (Operating Basics)

Lighting a patio heater is normally fairly straightforward. Most are designed to be very simple from a user perspective and have built-in safety features to shut off automatically if there is any kind of leak.

However, you should take some responsibility as a user and make sure you don’t use the device if you notice any issues. We’ve given a step-by-step guide on how to light a patio heater automatically or manually.


Most patio heaters should be lit automatically by following these steps:

1. Connect Your Gas To The Heater

Latch your gasket onto the propane tube. Turn the handle so that the gasket is fully connected and rotate the head until the pipe is connected securely. This should safely allow all propane to travel from the tank into the heater.

2. Switch On The Gas

Turn on the gas supply by turning the handle on the tank until it’s fully open.

3. Turn On The Ignition Switch

Press the ignition switch on the side of the heater and hold it for 10 seconds so that the gas has enough time to rise up to the burner.

4. Start The Flame

Press the ignition button on the side of the unit to start the flame. Turn the switch to the highest level for 15 seconds to burn off the excess gas and then reduce down. Your patio heater should now be lit and providing heat to the area.


To manually light a patio heater, you still need access to a supply of gas. It’s worth noting that this method should not be used regularly, and generally, patio heaters should light automatically.

1. Turn On The Gas

Switch on the gas, so there’s a good supply going through the patio.

Stick Lighter Sample

2. Use A Stick Lighter

Use a stick lighter to ignite the gas and start the flame.

This should insert into a specific lighting hole.

Once lit, the flame should appear on the top of the device.

Lighting A Patio Heaters: Precautions To Take

Safety always comes first, and it’s crucial you’re taking all precautions, or you could end up injuring yourself, others, or even damaging parts of your home. There are a few things you should look out for:

Gas Leaks

If you can smell gas when your regulator is turned on, or if you notice anything different with your pipes, then you may have a gas leak. These can be very dangerous and can cause explosions in worst-case scenarios. If you have a gas leak, you should replace the gas pipe straight away.

Gas Regulator

Regulator Issues

Your regulator is what controls the flow of gas through your heater and stops it from leaking out when it’s not in use.

Make sure you turn the regulator off when you’re not using it and check it regularly to ensure it’s working.


You need to check your patio heater pipes regularly for any dirt or debris which might have blocked them. You can detach the pipe and force air through it (with a pump or manually) to blow out any blockages. You’ll also need to keep the burner clean to stop any irregularities with the flame.

Flammable Material

Don’t keep any flammable material too close to the patio heater, or it may catch fire. This includes paper, wood, or even some types of plastic.

Check Your Gas

Always check the amount of gas you have in your unit before you switch it on because if you run out, it won’t work and will ruin your evening plans.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

Can you light a gas patio heater with a lighter?

Yes, but this is only recommended if your automatic switch is broken. Use a lighter in special circumstances and try to get it repaired as quickly as possible.

Is it safe to bypass the thermocouple on the patio heater?

Thermocouples are used to sense heat and signal gas to be released into the patio heater to sustain the flame. You can bypass the thermocouple, but it will mean gas will flow regardless of the flame being lit. It’s not particularly dangerous but is less efficient.

What color should my pilot light be?

Your pilot light should be blue because that shows that only natural gas is being burned with no contaminants.

How do I know if the pilot light is on?

There is usually a panel on the front of your patio heater, and you should be able to see the pilot light clearly through there if it’s on.

How do you tell if your gas is turned off?

There is a handle on the gas tank that needs to be turned to allow gas to flow. If your flame won’t light or isn’t being sustained, then your gas is probably turned off.


Patio heaters are a great way to heat an outdoor area, and in the winter months, they allow you to make better use of your outdoor space. They’re reliant on a heat source, and if you can’t light them they’re not much use to anyone.

Hopefully, this guide has helped explain how to light a patio heater automatically or manually, and you feel like you can now do it yourself.

Last Updated on November 20, 2021

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.