How To Light An Outdoor Propane Heater

So you have finally invested in an outdoor propane heater and can use your garden patio or outdoor lounge area in somewhat colder temperatures.

Due to efficiency, performance, and price, you chose a propane heater, but the task of adequately fitting the propane tank and safely lighting the heater might seem like a daunting one.

  • How do you even know whether the propane gas is full or not?
  • How long is it until it runs out of propane?
  • How do you fit the tank to the heater in a safe manner?

If you have these questions, or similar ones, about lighting up your propane heater, this article is for you!

Preparing For The Task

Before we go into the exact steps of lighting your outdoor propane heater, we have to go through a couple of safety tips and preparation tips everyone should know.

The fact is, if you haven’t ever turned on a propane heater or connected it to a heater, oven, or perhaps a grill, you need to start from the basics if you want to do a good job. 

Choosing The Location Of The Heater

One of the first things you have to look at is the location of the heater. Though most new heaters come with sensors that shut the machine off when it tips over or overheats, putting your propane heater 20 cm away from a highly flammable outdoor curtain still wouldn’t be a good idea.

Try finding a place for your propane heater, which will be the least dangerous, even if the sensors mentioned earlier and safety systems don’t work.

You might even have to reorganize your patio or the space you want to use to have a safe place to place your heater without compromising its efficiency. 

Checking The Propane Level

It is somewhat more of a convenience tip than a safety tip since if you don’t have propane in your tank, you will need to buy more, but it won’t cause any harm.

However, there could be a valve problem, or some other tank components might be damaged in some rare cases, thus letting the propane leak out somewhere.

If you know your propane tank was full the last time you checked it, and now it isn’t, it is safer not to use it since handling propane tanks with leakage is very dangerous. 

1. Weighing Your Propane Tank

There are many ways to check the propane level in a propane tank, even without using a propane tank gauge. One of them is to weigh your propane tank. You can easily do this with a tank gauge scale.

The propane tank’s TW (tare weight) is usually around 17 pounds, and the average full tank will have 20 pounds of propane.

By subtracting the TW from the tank’s weight, you get the amount of propane you have, which will give you an estimate on how long it will probably burn. 

2. Do The Water Test

Another way is to spill a cup of boiling water over the side of the tank. By touching the tank’s side, you will feel a part where it gets cold, which signifies the top of the propane level.

Make It Child-Safe

If you have any children around, one of the most critical steps you need to take is to make the heating system kid-safe. Lock the door to the propane tank, and try to find a heater that has its control panel or buttons somewhere up high.

Not only would it be annoying for a child to tamper with the heater, but it can also be hazardous if the safety steps haven’t been taken beforehand to ensure the safety of the people present.

Also, have a fire extinguisher nearby if you plan to use a heater, especially with children around. You never know what might happen. 

Step-by-step Guide To Lighting Up Your Propane Heater

 1. Determining The Time Of Usage

So after you have carried out a couple of safety steps to ensure that your night on the patio will be a fun one, without firefighters and sirens, it is time to turn the heaters on.

The first step is to determine when you should turn it on. Suppose you are having guests coming over for an outdoor dinner.

Suppose you wait to turn on either an electric or outdoor propane heater when your guests arrive, or worse, when everyone has already taken their seats outdoors. In that case, we can guarantee that at least the beginning of the dinner won’t be enjoyable. 

Make sure you turn on your heater at least 15 minutes before the guests arrive or before you go out to relax. Especially if you are using a propane heater, the flame from the burning propane needs a couple of minutes to heat the whole device to working temperatures, at which time you would shiver in the cold. 

Also, don’t forget to turn on any heater if you are organizing something in frigid weather. If you have any extra heaters on the ceiling or a fireplace, turn them on or make a fire for about 10-20 minutes before your guests or family members arrive if you want the best experience. 

When determining the usage time, consider how long you will turn on the propane heaters since you might need to buy another propane tank if you plan on having an all-night cocktail party and your tank is only one-fourth of the way filled. Make sure you have enough propane to fuel the whole night!

2. Checking & Fitting The Hose

Now, for the propane tank’s actual lighting, the first step you need to take is to check whether you have the propane hose.

Usually, devices like outdoor heaters come with a propane hose already attached to the propane tank holder. Still, we recommend you check it before using the propane heater since you need to purchase one if there is no hose. 

If you have the hose in place, take out your propane tank and start to assemble it. Since the hose is probably connected to the heater already, what you need to do is remove the safety cap from your propane tank (if you have one) and then fasten it on the hose, using a wrench to tighten the nut.

You can purchase gas leak detection liquids for a couple of bucks, or you can use soapy water or shaving cream to detect any leaking by placing some on the part where the nut and the end of the hose meet, checking for any bubble-like formation. 

If you have your propane tank securely and safely connected to the heater, you can start turning it on!

3. Opening The Propane Tank Valve

Okay, so you have your propane tank adequately connected to the device, it is time to turn on the heater. This step varies somewhat by each device, but we will run through a general idea of how propane heaters work. 

First, open the propane gas tank by turning the valve counterclockwise (rarely, you might have to turn it the other way to open it, depending on the country, region, company, or the exact model of gas tank).

Opening the valve fills the hose with propane gas, which you can regulate at the heater. If you have a filled propane tank, this means you will have nothing else left to do with the tank until it runs out. 

 4. Releasing Propane Into The Chamber

Now that you have the propane tank in place, secured and safe, with the valve turned on (remember, you have to turn it entirely on, not halfway!), you can head over to the heater’s control panel or control knobs and start the fire. 

Generally, most outdoor propane heaters have knobs that you can use to control the flow of the propane. Usually, they have to be pressed in and turned 90 degrees in one direction (usually counterclockwise) to allow gas flow.

This works by pushing a button or using a remote control, perhaps even a touchpad on some devices. Still, on most propane heaters you are likely to confront in your lifetime, a large majority will have control knobs. 

 5. Igniting The Fire

Once you have turned the propane’s control knob, you will have to press the ignition knob/button. This one is usually red and distinct from the other knobs.

You should press it a few seconds after turning the propane knob so that the gas can enter the chamber and ignite. Thus the burning starts.

Make sure to press the button and hold it down, possibly keep it there or push it multiple times (depending on the type of heater you have), but make sure that the propane catches fire at this point.

If it doesn’t, the safest thing is to turn everything back to the neutral position, wait a minute or two, and then try again. 

 6. Keeping The Knob Pressed

After turning the propane knob and igniting it, it is best to keep holding the propane knob for about 30 seconds in the pressed-in, turned position for the flame to keep burning correctly.

If you take your hand off the knob too early, the amount of air in the system or the coldness of the device might cut out your fire, and you will have to start again.

For this very reason, we advise you to press, turn and hold the knob, ignite the fire, and once it has ignited, release the ignition button, but keep holding the propane button for about 30 seconds. 

Propane Heater

7. Enjoy Your Flame 

Let go of the knobs and the buttons, and enjoy your flame. Please turn on your propane heater somewhat before you want to use the heat it provides, but when turning it on, you will immediately feel the warmth radiating through the air.

After the heater gets up to working temperature, it will quickly heat your patio or other garden areas you want to use!

Best Outdoor Propane Heaters

An article on propane heaters wouldn’t be complete without recommending some actual products to the readers. There will be all different outdoor propane heaters in this list, and they will not be in any particular order since everybody’s standards are different.

Someone looking for a luxury, high-tech device to heat a 5000 square foot outdoor lounge will not look for a product in the same range as someone who wants a heater over a patio for four people.

For this reason, we tried collecting all different types of propane heaters for all other occasions and requirements.

We tested every single product on this list so that we can confidently recommend them to you. Read on for our top 10 propane heaters!

1. Heater Buddy Indoor-Safe Portable Radiant Heater – Best Overall

As a Mr. Heater product, the Buddy is a great medium-sized propane heating device, indoor-safe. We chose it for our Best Overall category winner because of its high quality, reliability, and reasonable price.

The staple Mr. Heater design gives it a cool look, but it is more important because it is durable and reliable.

Whether for a small patio or a smaller campsite, Mr. Heater Buddy will heat any smaller space well. It can produce 4 to 9 thousand BTU, which is not even near the previous heater but is perfectly valid for everyday, lighter use. Check it out by clicking on this link to Amazon if you are interested!

2. Heater Little Buddy 3800-BTU Indoor Safe Propane Heater – Budget Pick.

While talking about category winners, we have to mention Mr. Heater Little Buddy. It is the ultimate budget option if you are looking for a smaller, less expensive heater, which still performs well and is highly reliable.

Like other Mr. Heater products, this one is also not elegant or luxurious, it is more about function, but in our opinion, this gives it its magical spark. 

It also works with a 1 lb propane tank and can provide heat for up to nearly 6 hours. If you are going camping and need a small heater in your tent, this might be the perfect option for you since it doesn’t produce high amounts of carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, but it still heats sufficiently. Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested!

3. Heater 125,000 BTU Forced Air Propane Heater

This propane heater deserves a place on our list since it is an absolute beast, a one of its kind, 125 thousand BTU Forced Air Propane Heater.

If you have an oversized garage that you want to heat quickly or a smaller shed in your garden to engage in your favorite hobbies, this propane heater is guaranteed to do a good job.

125000 British Thermal Units is an insane amount of heat produced, and the forced air technology is one of the most successful in rotating air in an enclosed space to heat it quickly or blow a lot of hot air inside a garage or room.

If you are looking for a reliable brand and a robust product, check it out on Amazon by clicking on this link!

4. Hampton Bay 48000 BTU Stainless Steel Patio Heater

Now for a classic, mushroom-styled (dome-top), free-standing propane patio heater. We bring you the Hampton Bay Stainless Steel Patio Heater, which can produce 48000 BTU.

All different propane heaters are suitable for various purposes, and this specific type of propane heater is probably the most widely-used one for patio heating.

It is stylish and elegant, even though there is probably a not-so-elegant-looking propane tank inside it. Most propane heaters of this type have burn times of 40 hours and have a low maintenance cost (0.3 dollars/hour of propane use), making them one of the best options for heating an outdoor space for a longer time. 

It is rain and weather-resistant and can warm up about 200 square feet without a problem. The only negative to it is that it doesn’t have wheels, and not every element of the heater itself is made out of stainless steel as advertised.

Still, the reviews also show that it is generally a great product that provides excellent heat outdoors when needed. Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested!

5. Golden Flame Square 46,000 BTU Matte Mocha

Another patio-styled propane heater, the Golden Flame Square 46,000 BTU Matte Mocha, is a stylish and practical solution for heating any outdoor space.

With its straight-edged design and high performance, it will be more than enough for heating some space for a couple of people to enjoy the fresh air even in colder weather. 

Golden Flame comes with heavy-duty wheels for more accessible transport, one of the features of a patio heater that you will need, since carrying one without wheels is quite a heavy task.

It also comes partially assembled, which, according to their info, reduces the assembly time by 50%. You would need to build most patios this size upon arrival, which is not an arduous task to do.

Still, it does require time, sometimes even an hour or two, so having a partially assembled heater arrive at your doorstep is convenient. Check it out here on Amazon if you are interested! 

6. Heater MH12B Hunting Buddy Portable Space Heater

When it comes to style and good looks, if you are not the type to enjoy an elegant design and a light cocktail party in your garden, but are instead the type to take an ax, a gun, and some gear and go out into the woods to camp for a couple of days, the Mr. Heater Hunting Buddy is your best bet. 

This heater isn’t different from the previously mentioned Mr. Heater Buddy, except for being slightly larger and having a different design and intended use. It is called Hunting Buddy due to its camo design and reputation for being a perfect hunting buddy.

 You also have an automatic low-oxygen shut-off system for safety, which comes in handy if you plan on taking it on a camping trip and decide to heat your tent with it. Even though these propane heaters don’t produce enough carbon monoxide to cause problems, it is still a great feature to protect you from further harm.

The automatic tip-over shut-off system is also an added safety system that might prevent you from setting your tent on fire. It is also an Amazon’s Choice product, which gives the extra validation you need to know you are dealing with a high-quality product. Check it out here if you are interested!

7. BELLEZE 48,000BTU Premium Outdoor Patio Heater

The BELLEZE Premium Outdoor Patio Heater is another higher-end-looking, elegant, sleek outdoor patio heater that made it onto our list.

The reason for that is its bronze-ish color (hammered bronze, specifically), in contrast with the metallic paint, gives this product a look that would fit in any elegant patio environment. It can pump out 48000 BTU of heat in a 15-foot diameter circle. 

It also has the crucial wheels for smoother mobility, so you won’t have to ask someone for help if you need to move it away somewhere.

The product is made for 20L propane tanks, which means that a lot of heating power can be stored and used for a low price since similar propane heaters can last for up to 40 hours on 20L of propane.

Aside from the fact that it is highly economical to use, it is also an excellent, quiet alternative to a fireplace, except that it is even more efficient. If you are interested, click on this link to Amazon!

8. DeWALT 68,000 BTU Cordless Forced Air Propane Heater

DeWALT is known worldwide for producing highly reliable, robust, and durable working machinery and devices. This is why it doesn’t come as a surprise that they have a high-performance portable heater as well, which, unsurprisingly, has an excellent rating on Amazon of 4.6. 

If you need to heat any working space or garage, perhaps, especially if it is a closed space with one or two openings like doors and windows, this DeWALT heater will do the job for you in no time. It is not as powerful as the 125000 BTU Mr. Heater alternative, but most people don’t need a powerful heater if we are honest.

If you own a workshop where you have eight tables and people working, it might be a better purchase, but the DeWALT is nearly as effective, and in our opinion, also looks better. If you are interested in a high-quality forced air propane heater that will never fail you, check out this link to Amazon!

9. Hiland Portable Propane Table Top Pyramid Glass Tube Patio Heater

After all the large, powerful heating devices, we believe there is also space on this list for the smaller devices, for the people who might not need to heat large rooms, but just a table. This tabletop patio heater is one of the best products for this purpose. 

It uses a 1lb propane tank, which, though it might seem like too little, is enough for around 3 hours on a high setting, which you most definitely won’t frequently need since the fire and heat pumped out this device is equal to 9500 BTU.

If you plan on inviting a couple of guests to have an outdoor meal, this small heater is perfect for heating people around a desk so they can enjoy their meal without worrying about the cold. Check it out here on Amazon!

10. Hampton Bay Tabletop Propane Gas Patio Heater 11,000 BTU Stainless Steel

Another great option if you are looking for a tabletop heater is the Hampton Bay Tabletop Propane Gas Patio Heater, which can produce up to 11 thousand BTU, and the heater’s body is stainless steel. 

Though arguably not as fashionable as the Hiland tabletop heater, it can produce more heat and a somewhat larger radius than the Hiland model, which is why we include it on our list.

If you have a similar sort of dinner as we mentioned in the Hiland review but have a larger table or are inviting more guests, you might need the power of this tabletop heater to provide the same level of comfort. Check it out here if you are interested!

Final Thought

Overall, it is relatively easy to light an outdoor propane heater. Now you can go with confidence that you will be able to do it yourself and have all of the parties and company over that you wish while staying warm during the colder months of the year!


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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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