As summer becomes fall and autumn holidays arrive, temperatures decrease from comfortable to cold. This year, you may be considering holding your gatherings outdoors instead of indoors. With the chilly weather rapidly approaching, you decide to purchase a patio heater.
Your patio heater can endure wet weather conditions, including rain, snow, and being placed by the pool. However, prolonged exposure to these elements can wear down crucial components like the gas valve, thermocouple, or igniter, causing your patio heater to fail.
What can you do to keep your patio heater working? How can you fix it when it does break? You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers. Read on for everything you need to know about your gas patio heater and the weather.
Can I Use My Patio Heater in the Snow?
You can use a patio heater in the snow, as most can generally withstand freezing temperatures. Portable patio heaters will last longer if stowed when not used. Built-in heaters are crafted to be incredibly durable since they’re permanently placed, meaning you can’t bring them inside for protection when the weather gets harsh.
However, propane tanks can ‘freeze up’ in cold enough weather, especially when temperatures plunge into the negative range. Other parts of the tank, such as the regulator, can freeze sooner if exposed to condensation and the cold.
To unfreeze a propane tank, you can wrap the body of the tank in a heated blanket. Don’t cover the valve or regulator. To thaw a regulator, simply remove it from the tank and leave it out overnight in a warm area, such as inside your house. Put the regulator back on the next day and try again.
Can Your Patio Heater Get Wet With Rain or Pool Splashes?
Heaters built into the gas line typically have been constructed to be durable in all conditions, including high precipitation and wet environments like poolsides.
Try not to leave a portable heater wet for too long. Prolonged exposure to water from rain, splashes, or other sources can shorten its lifespan, cause rust, and damage crucial components, meaning you won’t get to enjoy its full value.
To lengthen a portable heater’s life, you can purchase a cover. If you don’t use it during the rainy season, you can disassemble and store it in a dry place. Make sure to cut off the gas supply and store any propane tanks separately.
How Do I Keep My Patio Heater From Blowing Over?
Keep a patio heater from blowing over by adding weight to the base or tying it down. Most patio heaters come with added weight at the bottom to counteract their high center of gravity and keep them from tipping over. However, some heaters don’t come with this added weight or are too top-heavy.
Here are some more specific guidelines on how to secure your patio heater:
- Add water or sand to the reservoir for heaters that have reservoirs in their base. Sand may be more of a hassle to clean up if it spills, but you won’t really need to check on how much is left. If you fill the reservoir with water, however, you’ll need to check and fill it every 3 or so weeks.
- Tie the stem to a structure, such as poles installed into the ground of the patio.
- Tie the base down to the ground using stakes and a fire-resistant cord.
- Ground the heater with bolts into a sturdy surface such as concrete.
- Place the heater in a low-traffic area where guests are less likely to run into it. All too often, it’s humans—not the wind—that knocks it over.
Additionally, keep in mind the surface on which you place your heater. It should be flat, level ground, such as the concrete or wood flooring of your patio. Grass and other natural surfaces generally aren’t smooth or level enough to stabilize a heater.
Below is a quick video outlining some of the methods above:
Luckily, most heaters come with a safety switch that will turn off the gas if it does get tipped over. But it’s always better to be proactive.
How Do I Fix a Patio Heater That Won’t Stay Lit?
To fix a patio heater that won’t stay lit, first identify the cause of the issue. Reasons for a flame not staying lit include natural causes, like wind chill, or mechanical issues, including corroded, dirty, or loose parts such as gas valves, pilot assemblies, igniters, and others.
If the wind keeps blowing the flame out, you can use a windbreaker to protect it. However, the heater likely won’t work as well as usual when there’s a wind chill anyway. It may instead be best to go inside.
Other simple checks you can make are to:
- Tighten a loose gas valve.
- Increase the gas pressure. You can do this by replacing any nearly empty propane tanks with a propane heater. You can also try warming up the propane tank, as temperatures below 40°F (4.44°C) can freeze components like the regulator and block airflow.
There’s more you can do, though, if none of these tricks work:
Clean Dirty Components
Some parts must be regularly cleaned, as carbon can build up and block gas flow. Since flame can’t stay lit without a continuous stream of gas, this spells trouble for your patio guests.
Components that can get dirty include the:
- Pilot. This part maintains the pilot light, a small flame that heats up a gas heater. You can wash the igniter with warm water and detergent. Be gentle.
- Thermocouple. The thermocouple keeps the pilot light on. If it’s dirty, it won’t be able to do so.
- Gas valve. A dirty gas valve can block the gas flow, which keeps the heater from staying on. Try cleaning out the valve, especially if your heater has sat outdoors for an extended period of time.
Reposition Misplaced Components
Some parts need to be just in the right place to work properly. Thermocouples are a perfect example: too far away and the pilot light won’t stay lit. Too close and the flame may burn too strongly.
Turn off everything and check where the thermocouple is in relation to the pilot. If needed, use a tool such as pliers to ply the two components closer together.
Replace Corroded Components
Parts wear out. It’s an unfortunate reality of mechanical appliances, and when a component gets too damaged by weather or other harmful causes, it needs to be replaced. Parts that can corrode and impact the heater’s flame are:
- Pilot. The main flame relies on the pilot flame. If the pilot flame can’t light because its assembly is damaged, then it needs to be replaced.
- Thermocouple. The pilot relies on the thermocouple. Therefore, a damaged thermocouple impedes the rest of the heater.
- Igniter. The igniter sparks the flame. You can check if it’s broken by testing if a manual lighter will do the trick. If a manual lighter works but the heater won’t turn on by itself, replace the igniter.
Below is a video that walks you through what a thermocouple is, and how to clean it.
When summer ends, the sun sets, and the cold sets in, patio heaters bring the comfort of the indoors to your outside living area. When they malfunction due to excessive wind, broken components, or being worn down by the elements, it can be disheartening. Fortunately, however, the above advice should allow you to keep your device heating your patio area and to have social gatherings for years to come.