How to Start an Old Brown Propane Heater: A Comprehensive Guide

Starting an old brown propane heater can be a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and precautions, it can be a straightforward process. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the step-by-step instructions, safety considerations, and technical specifications to ensure a safe and successful start-up of your old brown propane heater.

Choosing a Heater and Being Safe

Before starting the heater, it’s crucial to ensure you have the right type for your needs. Small propane heaters typically produce up to 5,000 BTUs per hour, making them suitable for camping and other outdoor activities. Larger heaters, on the other hand, can emit between 10,000 and 45,000 BTUs per hour, making them ideal for heating large warehouses or building sites.

When using a propane heater, consider the following safety features:

  • Heat-resistant burners: Ensure the burners can withstand high temperatures without compromising safety.
  • Rain- and wind-resistant shields: Protect the heater from the elements, which can affect its performance and safety.
  • Lightweight body for easy handling: A lightweight design makes the heater easier to move and position.
  • Manual shut-off options: Provide a quick and easy way to turn off the heater in case of an emergency.

Always use propane heaters in a large, well-ventilated space. Avoid using them in small, enclosed spaces like tents or bedrooms, as they can pose a serious risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Lighting the Propane Heater

how to start old brown propane heater

To light the propane heater, follow these steps:

  1. If the heater is heavy, use a hand-truck, trolley, or wheelbarrow to move it to the desired location.
  2. Check the regulator and replace it if needed at a local heating store. The regulator is responsible for controlling the flow of propane to the heater, and a faulty one can affect the heater’s performance and safety.
  3. Remove the valve cap using gloves, if necessary, to protect your hands from the metal components.
  4. Hold the match or lighter about 1 inch (2.5 cm) away from the mesh screen and ignite the pilot light.
  5. After the pilot light ignites, hold the button for a further 30 seconds, then slowly release the control knob.

Shutting off the Propane Heater

After using the heater, follow these steps to shut it off safely:

  1. Wait 7 to 8 minutes for the heater to cool down completely. This is crucial to prevent any potential fire hazards or burns.
  2. Test the heat after 15 to 20 minutes by placing your hands around the head of the propane heater. This will ensure the heater has cooled down enough to be safely handled.

Technical Specifications

The technical specifications for starting an old brown propane heater include:

  • Propane tank: Ensure the tank is filled and in good condition, with a capacity of at least 20 pounds (9 kg) for small heaters or 40 pounds (18 kg) for larger models.
  • Propane heater with an ODS (Oxygen Depletion Sensor) alert: This safety feature automatically shuts off the heater if the oxygen levels in the room drop below a safe level.
  • Gloves: Wear heat-resistant gloves to protect your hands when handling the heater.
  • Hand truck (if needed): Use a hand-truck, trolley, or wheelbarrow to move the heater if it’s too heavy to lift.
  • Lighter or matches: Ensure you have a reliable source of ignition to light the pilot light.

DIY Tips

When lighting the pilot light, follow these DIY tips:

  1. Locate the pilot light before attempting to light it. This will help you identify the correct spot to apply the flame.
  2. Hold the gas knob down for a minute after lighting the pilot light. This will allow the thermocouple to heat up and keep the gas flowing.
  3. Vacuum and clean the heater before use. Dust and debris can affect the heater’s performance and safety.
  4. Turn up the thermostat to ensure the heater is working properly. This will help you identify any issues with the temperature control.


  • If the heater isn’t working, never try to repair it yourself. Bring it to a professional repair person or consider buying a new one.
  • If water lodges in the heater, don’t use it. The components will have been damaged, and it will be dangerous to use the heater.
  • Never use the heater in an area where combustible elements are in the air, as this can increase the risk of fire or explosion.

By following these detailed instructions and safety guidelines, you can safely start your old brown propane heater and enjoy its warmth and comfort. Remember to always prioritize safety and consult a professional if you have any doubts or concerns.


  1. Help with older (50’s-70’s?) propane heater use : r/DIY – Reddit
  2. How to Light a Propane Heater: 15 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow
  3. How To Light your Furnace Pilot Light. Lighting Gas Heater Pilot Light – YouTube
  4. How To Light The Pilot Light On A Gas Heater – YouTube
  5. How To Start Your Dyna-Glo Patio Heater – YouTube