We’re on the hunt for the best tabletop patio heater! (Spoiler Alert! The Napoleon tabletop heater is our favorite, for those who want to make a sound quick purchase).
We spend a lot of time on our patio and deck, with family, friends, entertaining guests, or just when we want some time to ourselves in the morning or evening. We’ve tested all the top brands, so you don’t have to… To name a few: AZ Patio Heaters, Fire Sense, Napoleon, Lava Heat Italia, Energ+, and the list goes on…
Our Tabletop Patio Heater review criteria includes:
- Gas (propane) vs. Electric
- Assembly & Instructions
- Heat Output & Distribution
- Light Output
- Build Quality
Tabletop Versus vs Traditional Full-Size
Both do similar jobs, but we feel they each have their own benefits which boil down to surroundings, number of people, and layout of your patio. In addition to tabletop and full-size (freestanding), there are also a variety of other patio heater alternatives. Read our full review of the best patio heater we’ve found.
Full-Size Patio Heaters
We also own a large full-size patio heater, we love it, and it’s great for heating up large spaces, and huddling around. A few drawbacks to the traditional full-size heaters is that they consume quite a lot of propane, and aren’t as effective when a larger group is seated around the table. However, if you’re looking for a more multipurpose heater, read our review on our best full-size propane patio heater.
You’ve probably encountered a time where guests sitting closest find it too warm, and anyone sitting too far from it doesn’t feel warm enough. While shifting guests around, and adding a few blankets can easy solve this, we wanted something better.
Tabletop Patio Heaters
Our first encounter with a tabletop patio heater was at a friend’s house, where we were very intrigued because it checked all the boxes for a better and more practical outdoor heat source versus our large full-size patio heater.
First thing we noticed was it’s smaller footprint, measuring in at around 3 feet high and 1 foot wide, these are easily moved around and portable. Some have a weighted base, and they are all quite sturdy, so you don’t have to worry about them tipping over. If you’re concerned about safety, rest assured that most have an anti-tilt safety feature, that automatically shuts off the unit if it does tip over.
The electric one just needs to be plugged in to turn on, and the propane heaters are powered by a 1 lb propane cylinder. Propane cylinders easily fit inside of the housing unit out of view; or alternatively, most propane heaters can be hooked up to a 20 lb propane tank using an adapter hose (sold separately).
Operation is very straightforward, as you would come to expect. Most of them turn on with the push of a button or a turn of a knob. The tabletop heaters that we reviewed were either electric or propane, so we could feel the difference for ourselves.
How we determine the Best Table Top Patio Heater?
A lot of our readers ask us, how do you choose the best products out of so many, or, the winner? The grading system we use incorporates: assembly, quality, reliability, safety, style, value, and functionality.
We check what materials the product is made of, the finishes, and durability. We even leave the tabletop heaters out without covering them, to see how well they hold up against the elements.
Bonus points are given to propane heaters which last longer, and provide an option to use a 20 lb propane tank adapter as we found many people propping this up around their outdoor bar and eating areas, side tables, BBQs, and prep stations.
Gas vs Electric?
Propane Table Top Heaters
Propane operated heaters usually use a 1lb cylinder of liquid propane which can be purchased for $3 – $5 each, or in bulk. The propane tanks are nicely concealed, but are still easily accessible for replacing empty tanks. During our tests, an average 1 lb. propane cylinder will last you approximately 1-2 hours on the highest setting, and up to 4-5 hours on a lower setting. If you are looking to extend your usage, many models are compatible with an adapter hose so you can hook it up to a full 20 lb propane tank.
Electric Table Top Heaters
Electric tabletop heaters are great for indoor and outdoor use, and only require a standard 110 volt plug. Without the need to rely on propane means that these heaters are virtually silent, free of emissions, and odorless. We quickly assumed that this may be a good way to avoid burning through a few propane cylinders to save some money, however quickly realised that the energy consumption can be fairly high as well.
Winner: Best Propane Tabletop Patio Heater
The Napoleon Tabletop Patio Heater 11000 BTU Propane, Stainless Steel is the best propane tabletop heater we found
Key features we enjoyed about it are:
- Easy to turn on, just a push of a button, no need to light
- Heat is fully adjustable, like a stove
- Strongest heat output compared to similar heaters
- Portable and small form factor makes it ideal for camping or moving it around your patio
- An optional adapter hose retrofits the heater from 1 lb cylinder to a 20 lb propane tank
- Good quality, made of stainless steel
- Anti-tilt switch which automatically shuts off the unit if it tips over
It was a close competition, but we chose this heater over the rest because of it’s heat output, overall build quality, and design.
Tabletop Heat Output
Heat output is stated at 11,000 BTU, and feels a lot stronger than the other propane models that we tested. Additionally, we found that the propane consumption was actually quite low considering the heat it gave off. A 1 lb propane tank lasts us 6-7 hours on a medium setting, which is quite a bit longer than other units we tested.
Tabletop Heat Distribution
What I really like about this tabletop heater, is that it provides direct and even heating for everyone seated around the table. Since it sits on the table, the heat radiates towards anyone sitting around it and you feel it more evenly. In comparison with our full-size patio lamp, because it sits on the side you only feel the heat on the side that heater is facing. Keep in mind, tabletop patio heaters are not as strong as the full-size heat lamps, it will not heat a large area. If you are using this to heat up a small area, or have it on a table with about 4-5 people sitting around it, or have a partially enclosed deck, then this is perfect!
Another feature which I enjoy, asides from the heat, is that the tabletop heat lamp provides a nice glow for ambient lighting. It’s bright enough to light up the area, and creates a nice, cozy, and comfortable ambience. You only need a 1 foot clearance height from the ceiling, which is great for a partially enclosed patio.
Overall build quality is what you would come to expect from a reputable brand like Napoleon. The ignition uses an electric pilot, and the body is made out of sturdy stainless steel. Some of the other heaters we reviewed had flimsier parts, and even sharper edges along exposed parts of the heater such as the propane access door.
Closing Thoughts: Two is better than one…
All in all, it’s great to have this little heater around the house, just as an extra backup heater, or even in case a small emergency occurs. Also, because it’s portable, you can bring it with you to use in the outdoors, camping, bonfires, outdoor activities, we have seriously brought this tabletop heater to so many places with us!
Since purchasing, we’ve bought another two!
We have one near our outdoor kitchen (prep area), another by our lounge area side table, and the last one at our outdoor dining table. The warm glow it throws off sets the mood for our outdoor living space. The matching styles and colours make our place look awesome!
Best Electric Tabletop Patio Heater
The AZ Patio Heater – CA HIL-1821 Tabletop Electric Patio Heater
Key features we enjoyed about it are:
- Super easy to assemble, just a few screws
- Safety Anti-Tilt Switch comes in handy especially when used indoors
- Heater is Waterproof (IP Certified) which is great for withstanding the elements (tropical or rainy climates)
- Weighted base makes it more sturdy and less likely to tip over
- 2 heat settings so you can adjust the warmth
- No Propane Necessary – quite obvious, but nevertheless noteworthy. This means no trips to the hardware store or running out of propane while using it
- Stainless steel finish and durable
- Indoor and Outdoor ready
Where to Buy
We recommend purchasing on Amazon because they usually have the best prices. Free 2 day shipping is available if you have an Amazon Prime account.
I do strongly recommend purchasing a cover for your tabletop patio heater, to protect it from the elements and so you also don’t have to worry about it if you forget to store it away.