Infrared Heater Won’t Turn On? Troubleshooting Tips

Infrared heaters are handy and hardy. Powered by gas or electricity, they can warm the room or make your patio pleasant, and they generally last a good, long time.

But, like any machines, of course, they require a little preventative maintenance and can experience problems from time to time, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

We’ll tell you what to do if your infrared heater won’t turn on, and we’ll also discuss a score of common issues so that you can make sure that your infrared heater is up to the task of keeping you warm this winter.

Let’s talk about why your infrared heater won’t turn on and other infrared heater issues!

Troubleshooting Common Infrared Heater Problems

Troubleshooting tips if infrared heater won't turn on

Infrared Heater won’t Turn On

When your infrared heater does not turn on, it will generally boil down to 3 possibilities. We’ll list these and give you a breakdown from a troubleshooting perspective. The 3 most common issues are:

  • Insufficient/No power
  • Thermostat settings or issues
  • With gas heaters – improper gas flow

Insufficient/No power

The first thing to check is going to be your power outlet. Heaters draw a little more power than most other appliances, and as such, if a power outlet is not installed correctly, the associated breaker might trip. Check for a tripped breaker, then determine that this has not occurred.

Next, test independently by plugging in the heater to an outlet that you know to be working. If the heater works here, then a licensed electrician will need to check the previous outlet, and this is not an issue with your actual heater.

Thermostat settings or issues

Your heater will cycle on and off during regular operation, depending on the surrounding temperature and your thermostat settings. Try adjusting your thermostat settings to see if this causes the heater to begin operation.

If it is an older unit, the thermostat may need to be replaced, but you will likely need a professional technician to determine this.

With gas heaters – improper gas flow

If your infrared heater is powered by a gas such as propane, make sure that the gas valve is open. Gas heaters will require proper gas flow to function, and if the valve is not open, your unit may not start. You can also check for gas leaks with some steps that we will provide later in this article.

While heater gases such as propane have distinctive smells, these steps will let you double-check the lines to rule out any gas flow issues.

Heater Powers on but No or Poor Heat

If your heater will power on but is only producing very low or even no heat, then there are a few things that we’ll want to look at as well. Unplug your heater from the outlet, and you will want to use a hand vacuum so that you can clean any dust from the grill.

Check your manual and look for the section on your heater filters. These should be cleaned out regularly, as, during regular operation, your filters will build up lots of debris over time. When this becomes restrictive to airflow, many heaters will operate poorly or even stop running completely until the filters are unblocked.

If your filters are very dirty, it might be a good idea to replace them at this time.

You should also check your fans by plugging in the unit and observing them. If the fans are not turning or turning quite slowly, these may need to be cleaned as well for normal operation to resume. 

Heater is Producing Cold Air

In some cases, your heater will power on and seems to be running, but you find that it is blowing cold air. There are 3 likely causes for this sort of behavior which we will list below:

  • Cooling-down cycles
  • Overheated radiator
  • The fan-only setting is engaged

Cooling-down cycles

Give it a few minutes and see if the heated air returns. Many heaters will blow warm air until the temperature which the thermostat has been set for has been reached. At this point, they will blow cold air so that the temperature is regulated and does not exceed the required parameters.

Thus, if the cold air is infrequent, your heater is likely just regulating temperature and functioning as designed.

Overheated radiator

If the heater only heats briefly and then quickly changes to cold air, check your thermostat setting, and if it is not set improperly, you may have an overheating radiator. As a safety feature, most heaters will shut down the radiator if it reaches dangerous levels of heat.

If this seems to be the case, make sure that the fans and the filters are clean and conducive to proper airflow. If the radiator is still being turned off automatically, check with customer service for your model or consider having a local professional take a look as you may need replacement components.

The fan-only setting is engaged

Your heater will likely have a fan-only setting that may be engaged to help circulate the air once your desired temperature is reached. Make sure that this setting is not engaged.

If you have a digital model, check the settings through your display or with older models. Check the knob settings to ensure that ‘fan only’ is not selected.

Heater is Consistently Running/Never Shuts Off

If your heater is running and producing warm air but never shuts off or sufficiently warms the area, you should consider the volume of space you are heating. For example, infrared heaters are typically designed to heat 93 to 133 square feet, except for quartz infrareds, typically designed for 100 to 200 square feet.

If the area that needs heating is larger, your heater never reaches the temperature defined on the thermostat, so your heater will keep running in an attempt to correct this. You may require an additional heater if your current model is not rated for the space that you have in your room.

If the model is sufficient for the space you need to heat, check your filters and your fans to ensure proper circulation.

A Burning Smell is Coming from the Heater

Burning smells from your heater are most commonly experienced when first turning the heater on. This is generally the result of dust in the grill burned off once the unit starts heating up. A hand vacuum can help and should regularly be used to keep the grill clean between uses.

Ensure that you always unplug the heater before vacuuming, and with regular cleanings, the burning smell should go away as this is almost always dust.

Power Cable is Warm

We mentioned previously that heaters often draw more power than most appliances and so one thing you should watch out for is a warm cable. Unfortunately, this generally means that it is drawing more power than the outlet can comfortably handle, and so that outlet will need to be checked.

If you notice that the outlet’s faceplate is hot, you should unplug the heater, let it cool down, and try another outlet. If your heater usually functions without heating the cable, you should have the previous outlet checked by a licensed electrician. Do NOT plug anything else into that outlet, as it should be considered a potential fire hazard and thus dangerous.

This issue may also occur when the plug is not firmly in the socket but instead plugged in ‘loosely.’ This causes resistance, as the flow of electricity is less than optimal, and electricity tends to ‘jump’ to continue the flow.

This is easily corrected in such cases by simply plugging your heater cord firmly into the socket. If the cable is still warm after this, the outlet may have become compromised from the loose connection or an improper installation, and you should get it checked out by a pro as soon as possible. 

Do NOT use the outlet during this time as it should be considered unsafe.

Checking for Leaks in Gas Infrared Heaters

With gas infrared heaters, you can troubleshoot gas flow issues with a little bit of soapy water and a keen eye. Get yourself a spray bottle, mix up 1 part soap to 3 parts water, and pour this inside your bottle.

Spray down the gas feed hoses with this soapy mixture and look for telltale bubbles. These will let you know if you are leaking gas and need to replace the hose to restore a proper, safe flow.

You may further test or perform a little unclogging maintenance on these hoses with an air gun and compressed air, and this is good to do every year when it warms up. Use the compressed air to clean out and unclog any lines and then reconnect them to clean and ready for when the winter comes.

In Closing: Use these Troubleshooting Tips to your Advantage

Today we’ve discussed what you can do if your infrared heater will not power on or if it is experiencing other common issues. Be sure to take advantage of these tips, as these hardy heaters tend to work quite well, and when they don’t, the issues are usually relatively minor.

If you’ve followed these steps and are still seeing issues, then be sure to contact your heater’s manufacturer or a local technician, as further troubleshooting or even replacement parts may be required!