How to Light a Propane Heater

Written by: Paul Cathro

Updated on: February 16, 2022

Propane heaters might have a reputation for being dangerous, but when used and lit correctly, they are some of the top heaters on the market. Today, we show how to light one correctly.

Propane heater flame

Propane heaters are becoming increasingly popular due to the fact that they can warm up a space in a very short amount of time. They are particularly popular for heating outdoor spaces at night, during parties or gatherings.

A propane heater can be very dangerous, though, so it’s important that you follow any instructions on how to light a propane heater very closely.

Size is Important

One of the most vital decisions you need to make when buying a propane heater is choosing the right size. Propane heating units can be very dangerous if you use one that is too large for the area you need it for. This is because, when heated, a propane heater will produce a large amount of both heat and carbon monoxide. If a large heater is used in a small, enclosed space, this is very dangerous.

Generally, a small propane heater is perfect for small gatherings outdoors, such as camping or an outdoor party. Larger propane heaters are more suited for use commercially on building sites or within a warehouse.

For extra safety, make sure that the propane heater you purchase has lots of added safety features. Most importantly, you’ll want one that has an Oxygen Depletion System (ODS) alarm, as this will warm you if oxygen is low nearby – which is an indicator of carbon monoxide.

You’ll also want extras such as weather shields and a manual shut-off. Never use your propane heater indoors (unless it is a special ventless indoor model), as these heaters are for outside use only. This includes not putting it inside a tent.

Gas terrace heater

How to Start a Propane Heater

Once you have a suitable propane heater, and you have it set up correctly outdoors, it’s time to learn how to light a propane heater. If you are using it in a garage or warehouse, make sure that the heater is placed near a door for ventilation.

Also, be careful when moving your propane heater into position. If you have a large heater, these can be very heavy, so it’s advisable to use something like a trolley to move, so as to avoid injury. 

Once in position, you should conduct a few last-minute safety checks before you hook up your gas. Firstly, check the regulator for any damage. It’s your regulator that will control the flow of gas into your heater, so it’s important that your regulator is working efficiently – excessive flow could lead to a fire or explosion.

Damage to a regulator is pretty obvious – such as large cracks or feeling loose – so you’ll spot this fairly easily.

Once you’re satisfied that everything is in order, you can begin the lighting process by removing your valve cap and then attaching your heater to the propane tank. This valve is usually at the top of your tank. These are often very tight, so you may want to use a glove for extra grip.

When attached, twist the regulator knob anti-clockwise, leaving it on the “medium” setting.

Take a look at how the top propane heaters for garages compare in our latest article.

row of matches

Lighting Your Propane Heater

Now that you’re ready to light the heater, take a match or lighter and place it in front of the mesh screen near the regulator. Never touch the flame to the mesh though, ideally, you want to hold the open flame around 1 inch from the mesh.

Some propane heaters will have metal wiring in front of the mesh screen. This is to prevent you from putting your hand too close. To light these heaters, you will need to use matches that are extra-long.

With your open flame near – but not touching – the mesh, you now need to push the safety shut-off valve button. This button is usually near the mesh screen and when you push this button in, the burner should light. When the flame takes, continue to hold the safety shut-off button down for approximately 30 seconds. After this time, slowly release the button, or the flame may get extinguished.

Propane heater flame

Turning Off Your Propane Heater

When you’re finished with your propane heater, it’s very important that you turn your heater off safely and according to the guidelines given by the heater’s manufacturer.

Firstly, you will need to turn the regulator dial to the “off” position. This should currently be sitting at medium, so you will need to turn it clockwise until it’s sitting at the “off” positioning.

Straight after turning the regulator off, you need to close the propane tank valve. To do this, just move it in the opposite direction to when you opened it earlier. This will need to be turned continually until it won’t turn anymore. Otherwise, some propane may continue to leak through, which can be very dangerous.

Your heater will remain to be very warm for around 10 minutes after this step, so you shouldn’t touch or move it as this stage.

Ideally, you will want to wait for the heater to completely cool down. This will take around 20 minutes normally, however, if there is any heat still coming through the heater then you will need to wait longer. You can test this by placing your hands near the heater – do not touch the heater! This can lead to burns.

When the heater is completely cooled down, you can now detach the heater from your propane tank. To do this you will need to twist and/or turn the rubber fastenings until the heater can be removed from the valve without needing force.

Once detached, the heater needs to be stored facing down. This is important to prevent water from clogging your heater and causing problems. 

Then simply reattach the valve cap onto your propane tank. You may need strong hands for this, as the tighter the valve is attached, the better. Again, a glove will help your grip here.

Learning how to light a propane heater can be scary, especially when so many danger warnings are associated with these heaters. There is no need to worry, though, as long as you follow the instructions carefully and use a well-maintained propane heater. When used correctly these heaters are wonderful, especially for an outdoor party. Instead of escaping indoors when the sun goes down, you’ll be able to party the night away too!

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About the Author Paul Cathro

Paul is an ex-HVAC engineer with 5 years 'in the trade'.

He acquired in 2022 and aims to make it the internet's most comprehensive HVAC resource for small homes in the next few years.

You can learn more about Paul's story here.

Browse his published work on the website here.

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