Patio Heater Pilot Lights But Not Burner

Patio heater pilot lights but not burner

Are you facing some difficulty lighting our propane patio heater during your evening gatherings? Well, it’s likely due to a dirty thermocouple (the temperature sensor) or a dirty pilot light. Thankfully, these problems can often be resolved with simple cleaning rather than having to purchase new parts.

If your patio heater’s pilot light is on but the burners won’t ignite, there could be several issues causing the problem. Potential culprits include a damaged gas control valve, a malfunctioning thermopile, rusty burner jets, and lines, a closed automatic vent, and a clogged burner orifice. Now, let’s see the reasons why propane patio heaters fail to light and provide effective solutions to prevent this issue in the future. Let’s delve into the subject to uncover the secrets of keeping your patio heater in tip-top shape!

Key Takeaways

  • A patio heater’s pilot light is a small, continuous flame used to ignite the main burner whenever needed.
  • If the pilot light is working but the main burner does not ignite, there are several potential causes and solutions to investigate.
  • Possible reasons for the issue include a damaged gas control valve, a malfunctioning thermopile, rusty burner jet, and gas lines, a clogged burner orifice, a corroded thermocouple, a bad circuit board, sediment buildup, a dirty heater filter, a malfunctioning thermostat, or a worn-out heating system.
  • Solutions to these problems include inspecting and repairing or replacing faulty components, cleaning or clearing obstructions, and performing regular maintenance.
  • Regular maintenance and cleaning will help prevent issues and ensure the safe and efficient operation of your patio heater.

What’s Pilot Light in Patio Heater?

What’s pilot light in patio heater
What’s pilot light in patio heater

In a patio heater, a pilot light is a small, continuously burning flame located near the main burner. Its purpose is to serve as an ignition source for the heater. When you turn on the patio heater, the pilot light ignites the gas released from the main burner, which then produces the heat that warms up the area around the heater.

The pilot light remains on even when the main burner is off, making it convenient for relighting the heater whenever needed. It’s a safety feature as well, as it ensures that the gas is immediately available for ignition and prevents any potential gas leaks.

If you own an older model furnace, a water heater that runs on natural gas, or a set of gas logs in your fireplace, you’ve likely encountered the small blue flame known as the pilot light. You might have even experienced the excitement of relighting the pilot light when it goes out. Let’s explore how this pilot light functions.

The concept behind a pilot light is straightforward. Creating a pilot light is also a simple process. It involves allowing a small amount of gas to pass from the gas pipe through a tiny tube. You then ignite the gas escaping from the tube, and it continues to burn continuously.

Patio Heater Pilot Lights But Not Burner: 13 Ways to Fix

Patio heater pilot lights but not burner: 13 ways to fix
Patio heater pilot lights but not burner: 13 ways to fix

Let’s dive into a detailed analysis of each potential issue and how to fix it:

1. Damaged gas control valve

The gas control valve is a crucial component that regulates the flow of gas to the burner. If it’s damaged, it may not supply sufficient gas to ignite the main burner, causing the pilot light to work but not the burner. To fix this, a qualified technician should inspect the valve and replace it if necessary.

Solution: Consult a professional technician to inspect the gas control valve. If it’s damaged, replace it with a new one to ensure proper gas flow.

2. Thermopile malfunctioning

The thermopile is a device that generates an electrical voltage when heated by the pilot light. This voltage powers the gas valve to open and allows gas to flow to the burner. A malfunctioning thermopile might not produce enough voltage, preventing the main burner from igniting. Cleaning or replacing the thermopile could resolve the issue.

Solution: Check the thermopile for any corrosion or buildup. Clean it carefully and retest. If it still doesn’t produce sufficient voltage, consider replacing the thermopile.

3. The burner jet and lines are rusty

Rust or debris in the burner jet or gas lines can obstruct the gas flow, leading to a failure in igniting the main burner. Regular maintenance, cleaning, or replacement of rusty parts will help restore proper gas flow.

Solution: Inspect the burner jet and gas lines for rust or debris. Clean or replace the affected parts to restore proper gas flow.

4. Closed automatic vent

Patio heaters often have automatic vents that close when oxygen levels are low. If the vent is shut or blocked, it reduces the oxygen supply required for combustion, causing the main burner to fail to ignite. Check and ensure the vent is open and unobstructed.

Solution: Check the automatic vent and ensure it’s open and free from any obstructions. Adequate ventilation is crucial for safe and efficient operation.

5. Clogged burner orifice

The burner orifice is a small opening where gas mixes with air before igniting. If it’s clogged with dirt or debris, it will impede gas flow, preventing the burner from igniting. Cleaning or clearing the orifice is necessary to solve this issue.

Solution: Carefully clean or clear the clogged burner orifice to allow proper gas flow and ignition.

6. Corroded thermocouple

The thermocouple is a safety device that detects the presence of a pilot flame. If it’s corroded or covered in soot, it may not signal the gas valve to stay open, causing the burner to shut off shortly after ignition. Cleaning or replacing the thermocouple can resolve this problem.

Solution: Clean the thermocouple carefully to remove any corrosion or soot buildup. If it’s severely damaged, consider replacing it to ensure proper functioning.

7. Defective automatic gas shutoff

A malfunctioning automatic gas shutoff can incorrectly detect issues and shut off the gas supply to the main burner. Troubleshooting or replacing this safety component is essential.

Solution: Contact a professional technician to diagnose and repair or replace the faulty automatic gas shutoff to ensure proper gas flow to the main burner.

8. Bad circuit board

For patio heaters with electronic ignition systems, a faulty circuit board can disrupt the ignition process. A qualified technician may need to diagnose and repair or replace the circuit board.

Solution: Have a qualified technician check and repair or replace the faulty circuit board to restore proper ignition functionality.

9. Sediment buildup

Sediment can accumulate in the gas supply lines over time, obstructing the gas flow. Regular maintenance and cleaning can prevent this issue.

Solution: Regular maintenance, including cleaning and clearing gas supply lines, will help prevent sediment buildup and ensure consistent gas flow.

10. Blocked gas line

If the gas line leading to the main burner is blocked or damaged, it will prevent the burner from igniting. Inspecting and clearing the gas line is necessary to fix this problem.

Solution: Inspect the gas line for any obstructions or damage. Clear or repair the gas line to allow smooth gas flow to the burner.

11. Dirty heater filter

A clogged or dirty air filter can affect the air-to-gas ratio and prevent proper combustion. Cleaning or replacing the filter can help the burner ignite correctly.

Solution: Clean or replace the air filter to ensure proper air circulation and combustion.

12. Thermostat malfunctioning

If your patio heater has a thermostat, a malfunctioning unit may not signal the gas valve to open when the temperature drops. Checking and calibrating or replacing the thermostat may be necessary.

Solution: Check the thermostat for accuracy and calibration. Recalibrate or replace the thermostat if necessary.

13. Worn-out heating system

An older and worn-out patio heater may have components that do not function as efficiently as they used to, leading to difficulties igniting the main burner. In this case, replacing the entire heating system might be the best solution.

Solution: If the patio heater is significantly worn out and various components are failing, consider replacing the entire heating system to ensure reliable performance.

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How to Clean Patio Heater to Prevent Ignition Issues

How to clean patio heater to prevent ignition issues
How to clean patio heater to prevent ignition issues

Cleaning your patio heater regularly is essential to prevent ignition issues and ensure safe and efficient operation. Follow these steps to clean your patio heater effectively:

Step 1: Safety first

Before starting any cleaning, turn off the gas supply to the patio heater and allow it to cool completely. Make sure there are no open flames or nearby sources of ignition during the cleaning process.

Step 2: Remove debris

Gently brush off any dust, dirt, leaves, or debris from the exterior of the patio heater. Use a soft-bristled brush or a damp cloth to wipe down the surfaces.

Step 3: Clean the burner and orifice

Carefully remove the burner assembly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Inspect the burner for any clogs or obstructions. If you notice any dirt or debris, use a soft brush or compressed air to clean the burner ports and orifice. Ensure that all openings are clean and free from blockages.

Step 4: Inspect the thermocouple and thermopile

Check the thermocouple and thermopile for any corrosion or soot buildup. Gently clean them with a cloth or fine-grade steel wool to ensure proper functioning.

Step 5: Clear the gas lines

Examine the gas lines for any rust, sediment, or clogs. If you find any issues, use compressed air or a pipe cleaner to clear the lines.

Step 6: Check the automatic vent

 If your patio heater has an automatic vent, ensure it’s open and unobstructed. Proper ventilation is crucial for safe operation.

Step 7: Clean the heater filter

If your patio heater has an air filter, remove and clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A clogged filter can impact the air-to-gas ratio and affect ignition.

Step 8: Inspect the gas control valve

If you suspect a damaged gas control valve, it’s best to leave the inspection and repair to a professional technician, as this involves working with gas connections.

Step 9: Inspect other components

Check the ignition system, circuit board, and any other components specific to your patio heater model for signs of wear, damage, or malfunction. If you notice any issues, contact a qualified technician for proper diagnosis and repair.

Step 10: Reassemble and test

Once all components are cleaned and inspected, reassemble the patio heater following the manufacturer’s instructions. Turn on the gas supply and test the ignition to ensure proper functioning.

To prevent future ignition issues, incorporate regular maintenance into your patio heater care routine. Clean your patio heater at least once a year or more frequently if you notice any signs of dirt or rust buildup.


1. Can I fix a clogged burner orifice myself?

Yes, you can attempt to fix a clogged burner orifice yourself. Carefully inspect the orifice and use a soft brush or compressed air to clean any dirt or debris. Ensure the orifice is clear before attempting to relight the patio heater.

2. How often should I clean my patio heater to prevent ignition issues?

Regular maintenance is important to prevent ignition issues. Clean your patio heater, including the burner, orifice, thermocouple, and gas lines, at least once a year or more frequently if you notice any signs of dirt or rust buildup.

3. Is it safe to repair the gas control valve on my own?

Repairing the gas control valve can be complex and potentially hazardous, as it involves working with gas connections. For safety reasons, it is recommended to leave gas-related repairs to qualified professionals who have experience and knowledge in handling such tasks.

4. Can a dirty air filter cause the main burner to not ignite?

Yes, a dirty air filter can affect the air-to-gas ratio, leading to ignition issues with the main burner. Cleaning or replacing the air filter can help ensure proper combustion and ignition.

Final Thoughts

If you encounter issues with your patio heater where the pilot light is on, but the main burner fails to ignite, don’t fret. There are several potential causes for this problem, ranging from minor issues like clogged orifices to more complex concerns like faulty gas control valves or circuit boards. Taking a systematic approach to inspect and troubleshoot these components can help you identify and resolve the issue.

While some troubleshooting and maintenance tasks can be performed by yourself, remember that safety is of utmost importance when dealing with gas-powered appliances. If you feel uncertain or uncomfortable with the troubleshooting process, it’s best to seek assistance from a qualified technician. They have the knowledge and expertise to diagnose and repair the problem correctly, ensuring the safe and efficient operation of your patio heater.

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I am Donald M. Beyer and I am backyard enthusiasts. I am a homeowner who has been doing DIY projects in and out of my house for many years. From simple backyard lunches to making an old-school pizza oven in my own backyard, I have a lot of experience in turning my backyard into my and my family’s personal playground.

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