Does your patio heater struggle to get hot or get to the highest settings? There might be something wrong inside it. Here are some fixes you can try.

Patio heaters are simply amazing. If you stop for a moment and think about your life before owning one, you’ll find that there’s a myriad of problems your appliance has solved for you.

I can’t remember the last time I was in my backyard without one.

That being said, even wonderful appliances can fail from time to time. If you’re reading this, yours won’t get hot or won’t stay at the highest settings for long. I had this happen to me not so long ago, so trust me when I tell you that I understand your frustration.

There are several reasons why this could be happening, and to find the right one, I had to do thorough research, and gather useful information. Today, I want to share it with you, so you can get your patio heater back to normal.

Below, I’ve prepared a list with the most common causes to this occurrence, and the simplest steps you can take to address them. I know that, if you stick to them religiously, you’ll be back to cranking the heat all the way up without further inconveniences.

Ready? Let’s go!

Fixing a Patio Heater That Won’t Get Hot

When something like this happens, it’s human nature to try and find the quickest answer to the problem. And while this might work well in other areas, when it comes to troubleshooting, going about things this way, is a bad practice.

You might think that having your heater fail to heat up, and fail to go to the highest settings are two different problems, but, in most cases, they’re not.

Sometimes a faulty power source could cause both malfunctions, it all depends on the severity of the damage. Bear with me, and be patient. I promise we’ll get to the bottom of this.

Here are some fixes you can try:

  • Test your outlet
  • Check your power cord
  • Replace your thermocouple
  • Clean your pilot

#1 Test Your Outlet

technician fixing wall outlet
Continuity is essential to an outlet

I want to start off this list by looking at your power sources.

A patio heater that won’t get hot or go to high could be struggling due to a faulty wall outlet. This only applies to you if your appliance is an electric model, since, as you know, propane heaters do not require electricity.

Diagnosing a bad wall outlet can be tricky, since the signs can be very similar to those of overheating and short-circuiting.

When your outlet is unscathed, it should supply enough electricity for your heater to get hot, and reach your preset temperatures. However, when it malfunctions in any way, its ability to do so could be severely compromised, thus causing your problem.

As stated above, depending on the severity of the damage to it, it could be preventing the heater from staying at the maximum settings, or keeping it from heating up altogether.

Solution: Try a different outlet.

First, carefully unplug your patio heater, and let it cool down completely. Once you have done that, gently transport it to a different section of your house, and plug it back into a different power source. Preferably, as far removed from the outlet you normally use, as possible.

Should this take care of the problem, mystery solved!

If you want a DIY challenge and own a multimeter, you can use it to test the suspicious outlet for continuity. This is totally optional, but strongly encouraged, as a faulty outlet could be the first sign of a greater malfunction in your home’s electrical layout.

#2 Check Your Power Cord

black power cord in white background
Try to use another cord to test the power supply

Moving on to the next chain in the power supply link, we must not rule out the possibility of the power cord being to blame.

If you’ve ever stripped one of these cables, you know that inside their rubber housing, there are several smaller cables in charge of transporting electricity. And while they’re built to last, they’re certainly not indestructible.

Apparently unimportant bad practices, such as storing your cord improperly, and keeping it tangled or pressed against a wall in a sharp angle, could be more than enough to do it in.

Just as it happens with your outlet, depending on how damaged the cable is, it could be supplying some electricity to your appliance, or none at all, explaining why it either won’t get hot, or won’t reach the highest settings.  

Solution: Use a different cord.

I don’t expect you to have a spare lying around, just waiting to be used for testing, but on the off chance that you do, go ahead and use it. This will provide you with an immediate answer, and save you both time and money.

Just make sure it meets the same amperage and voltage requirements as the broken one.

If you don’t have another cable, that’s fine too. You can Google search your patio heater’s make and model to find the right replacement at any online marketplace.

#3 Replace Your Thermocouple

Thermocouples sensor probe isolated on white background
Damaged thermocouples won’t let the heater function properly

Thermocouples are a godsend. Without them, our household appliances would be constantly vulnerable to extremely high temperatures.

In case you’re not familiar with what a thermocouple does, let me briefly explain. This component is responsible for measuring and adjusting the internal temperature of your patio heater as needed.

When it works normally, you should have no problems getting your appliance to heat up or reach the highest settings. However, any malfunction on it could trick it into thinking the unit’s already operating at high temperatures, even when it’s not.

It is of the utmost importance that you replace your thermocouple as soon as you suspect it to be malfunctioning, as failing to do so will leave your appliance vulnerable to further catastrophes.

Solution: In order to replace the thermocouple, please follow these steps:

  1. Carefully unplug the appliance, or cut off gas supply, and let it cool down completely
  2. Delicately remove the screws connecting the heater’s head to the rest of the unit’s body
  3. Remove the head, and place it somewhere you can work on it comfortably
  4. Your thermocouple should be close to the pilot (if your model is gas-powered), remove it, and test it for continuity
  5. Assess the component’s viability, and replace if necessary

The process may vary from model to model, but the broad strokes should be the same for all of them.

I’d be remiss not to mention that, sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with the part, and it just needs to be moved a little closer or further away from the pilot’s flame.

Surprisingly, distance can greatly affect the accuracy of its readings, so try this before looking for a replacement.

#4 Clean Your Pilot

Lastly, let’s talk about how well you maintain your pilot.

It might seem like something unimportant, but keeping your internal components clean and unobstructed at all times is essential to your heater’s adequate functioning.

As you know, propane models use a gas canister, a gas line, a patio heater, and a pilot to provide the heater with proper gas flow, and a steady flame. When any of these compromise the passing of propane through them, you could experience heating issues.

No matter how high you crank up your appliance’s settings, if the pilot is obstructed by debris or gunk, the flame will stay the same, and the temperature won’t increase.

This would not only explain your current situation, but also put you at risk of gas leaks, and canister explosions, as gas is being sent through the gas line, but it’s not being fully released, causing pressure buildup.

It is of the utmost importance that you do not put off fixing this.

Solution: Ideally, you want to clean your pilot once every two months. This will prevent any kind of debris or gunk from forming in and around it, and ensure proper gas flow at all times.

If you’ve waited too long between cleaning cycles, you might encounter some stubborn residue. If that’s the case, you can use a little water and vinegar to soften it up, and make it easier to scrub off.

Conclusion

Owning a patio heater that won’t get hot or go to the highest settings, is like owning a car with no tires. It sure does look pretty, but, for all purposes, it’s useless.

When this happens, not only are you stuck with a malfunctioning appliance, but also in the uncomfortable position of having to figure out what the problem is, and finding a solution for it.

Luckily, as I hope you’ve learned in this piece, addressing most of the causes behind this situation is fairly simple and not very time-consuming. More often than not, double-checking your power sources and keeping your pilot clean, will do the trick.

Thank you so much for sticking with me all the way to the end. If you found this article helpful, why not become an expert in the subject through our other incredible resources below?

I wish you all the best!