Written by Terry Smith
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UK’s best table top heaters: gas and electric compared price, fuel economy, and safety
This article was last updated on December 1st, 2021 at 3:24 am
We’ve all been there. You’ve had a fun day in the garden with family and friends, catching whatever sun you can and filling up with barbecue. Now, the kids are worn out and tucked safely away in bed so you decide to extend the fun into the evening with a few drinks and maybe a spot of dinner, and that’s where the best table top heater, or even patio heater comes in perfect. So there you are, drink in hand with a smile on your face…for a while. That’s when you are rudely reminded about the temperature drops that can occur at night in the UK, even after a warm, sunny day. After grinning and baring it out for a while you decide to retreat indoors to the warmth, but feel a little sad that you couldn’t enjoy the night air as you’d planned.
Well, it doesn’t have to be that way next time and all it takes is for you to purchase a good table top heater. There are a lot of products to choose from, some better than others, but with a little help from our table top heater buyer’s guide and reviews, you should be able to get the right kind of table top heater to suit your own personal setup. And if not, there are so many quality alternatives now like parasol heaters, hanging patio heaters, wall mounted heaters, and some pretty high spec infrared heaters all ideal for outdoors that won’t break the bank and will keep you warm. You can even get table top fire pits if you prefer something a bit more traditional.
But let’s try table top heaters first – there are some super super heaters in this category as well – in this article you’ll know the pros and cons of the different types of heater such as gas (some cool options here trust me) or electric, and you’ll have a good idea about which products are worth your hard earned cash. Let’s dive in with our first review of the best table top heaters.
Best table top heaters: editor picks
Best table top heater overall: Firefly 2.1kW Table Top Electric Heater great combination of price and economy
Best gas table top heater: Kingfisher PH300 Garden Outdoor Table Top Patio Heater
Best bio ethanol table top heater: BRIAN & DANY Tabletop Portable Bio Ethanol Fireplace
Best electric table top heater: Firefly 2.1kW Table Top Electric Heater
Budget pick: BRIAN & DANY Tabletop Bio Ethanol Fireplace – you won’t believe how well these ethanol heaters are priced
Table top heaters buyer’s guide
Still feeling a little perplexed when it comes to table top heaters? Fear not, for we have a little buyer’s guide here to help you with the pros and cons of each type. Hopefully this guide will leave you feeling better informed than when you arrived and help you to make a good decision on your purchase.
Gas vs bio ethanol vs electric
From a price perspective bio ethanol heaters are absolutely superb. For a start, you get plenty of heat out of a bio ethanol heaters but literally for a fraction of the cost – BRIAN & DANY Tabletop Portable Bio Ethanol Fireplace is so cheap! The glass panels are designed to keep you safe – if I had kids I’d probably want to think about infrared so the Firefly. On the other hand you have the gas butane table top from Kingfisher that has a balance of safety and freedom. The biggest constraint of electric is the power lead length – and rest assured many do complain. The La Hacienda is only a couple of metres – this almost guarantees the need for a longer power cable extension. The biggest constraint of bio ethanol is you need to let the unit cool down before re-filling.
Most power – gas table top heaters
Gas table top heaters are usually the type that produce the most heat, especially if you use propane instead of butane. In some cases, switching to propane can significantly improve the performance of the heater. These models often give you the greatest control over the level of heat too (Kingfisher is great for this) – a bio ethanol heater that you simply light isn’t controllable – an electric infrared often has controls but you’ll find yourself on the top setting and still chilly with the colder evenings.
If you are going to buy a gas table top heater, check to see if there is a hose and regulator included or you will have to purchase them separately as well as a gas tank. Gas heaters are usually cheaper to buy than electric models but there is the extra cost of the gas tank to consider.
Most stylish – electric
These models are usually more stylish and compact in design than gas models, and some of them can look amazing. There is also no fear of running out of a fuel source (unless there is a power cut) so you can use them for as long as you wish. Good brands will have electric table top heaters that can be used for in excess of 5000 hours – both La Hacienda and Firefly.
Although the running costs are much lower for electric heaters when compared to gas and bio ethanol types, the initial cost can be much higher and the heat produced isn’t on par with gas powered heaters.
Bio ethanol cleaner than gas
These are the environmentally friendly choice as they run on a bio fuel that does not produce harmful emissions – the BRIAN & DANY Tabletop Portable Bio Ethanol Fireplace can be used as a result of not having toxic smoke or fumes that can harm your friends and family. They produce a flame that looks great encased between the panes of glass and this is something that you don’t get with any other type of table top heater. The heat produced is quite good considering their compact size but they only run for around 45 minutes once fully filled with fuel.
Bio ethanol heaters usually have the lowest initial cost but they do need to be constantly refilled every time you use them. You also have to wait for the unit’s to cool down before you can actually refuel and ignite them again which might annoy some people. Having two or three of them at hand would be a way around this issue though. There are also some safety issues with these bio ethanol models and you need to be especially careful with them, particularly when reigniting them or making sure the fire is completely out.
Where to get bio ethanol?
You can get bio ethanol online quite easily. Amazon sell it in a decent sized pack. Go for the bigger pack and it’s only 2 quid a litre – don’t do to B and Q – they are charging a hefty four quid a litre. Overall Amazon has the best deal on this and added advantage it gets brought directly to your door.
If you need it fast though, your options are limited so be sure to be organised with this one and keep it in stock – it’s not like propane where you can head to almost any petrol station and find a supply..
So with that all said, let’s look at the best table top heaters:
1. Firefly 2.1kW Table Top Electric Infrared Halogen Garden Outdoor Patio Heater with Brown Rattan Base and 3 Heat Settings
Firefly’s 2.1 kilowatt electric halogen table top heater is another very stylish option to add to your garden furniture collection – they had another listing similar but this one is the upgrade and I think a much better bit of kit!
It has a lovely brown rattan weave, cone shaped base, combined with eye catching stainless steel shaft and heater frame. The effect is both modern and stylish and would look great sat on any type of garden furniture.
For extra durability, Firefly have made the frame of this table top heater out of anodised extruded aluminium alloy which is completely rust proof, strong, and lightweight. Like the La hacienda, this model is designed to work for at least 5000 hours and the high quality feel to it gave me no reason to doubt that claim.
What stuck out for me with the Firefly over the La Hacienda is rather than just having a single heat setting, the Firefly has 3 to choose from so you can select from 900w, 1200w, or the maximum heat setting of 2100w. We used it on the 2100w max as it was particularly chilly that evening and it comfortably warmed up 6 people sat around a large table and I could still feel the heat as I walked away from the table. It was mild, but it was still there.
One thing to be aware of is that these halogen heaters don’t produce the same type or level of heat that a gas powered one can, so if you are looking for the most heat you can get, I would go with a gas powered table top heater like the Kingfisher PH300.
This heater also double up as a table lamp and the light coming its metre high position illuminates the surrounding area in a nice welcoming glow. The light has been designed well so that it isn’t too bright to make you squint and offering a bit more of an intimate mood while still providing adequate light for dining, or even relaxing with a good book.
Like the La hacienda, the rattan weave base of the Firefly 2.1kw model has been specially weighted so as to not get easily blown or knocked over, but it doesn’t have the same anti-tip safety cut off feature.
It does have a longer power cord though, even if it is only a metre longer at 3m. You will still probably have to use an extension lead if your garden is anything more than tiny, but the extra metre might come in handy.
2. Kingfisher PH300 Garden Outdoor Table Top Patio Heater
We kick off our gas heater reviews with the Kingfisher PH300 as, in my opinion, it is the cream of the crop. It’s just a good all-rounder that does what it was designed to do without issues and for me, reliability is right up there as one of the main things I look for whenever I’m buying products such as this.
The Kingfisher PH300 runs on gas and can be connected to any regular propane or butane tank using the 6ft long hose that comes with the heater. You will have to purchase a regulator separately but you should be able to get one from your local DIY shop and shouldn’t cost more than a few quid. You can learn more about propane heaters at the link provided.
One of the many things that this gas table top heater has going for it is that it is quite economical so you won’t be spending a fortune on gas unless you are using it 24/7 all year round. Refilling a gas bottle is much cheaper than the initial cost of buying one anyway so don’t worry too much about it.
It also starts up quickly and easily thanks to its Piezo ignition system which creates a voltage from a crystal such as quartz to ignite the heater. This means that you don’t have to have a separate electrical power source for the ignition to work and makes it very reliable.
Standing 88cm tall and weighing just under 5 and a half kilograms, the PH300 is the perfect size and weight for a table top heater. It’s tall enough so that the heat can cover enough area, and has enough weight to it that it won’t be blown over by a strong breeze yet is still easy to carry and move around.
The design, while pretty basic, still looks nice and is certainly far from being an eye sore. The stainless steel heater part on top is quite attractive, but the stand and base are powder coated green and fairly plain.
Build quality-wise, Kingfisher have a done a good job with this table top heater, making it feel solid and durable without letting it raise the price tag too much. It was also simple and quick to put together out of the box.
The heat the PH300 produced using a propane tank as fuel was good enough for me on a summers evening, but if you’re looking for something to use all year round you should probably not be looking for a table top heater and instead be searching for a large patio heater. I like that there were 4 different heat settings to choose from and the warmth could be felt in about a 6m radius.
Like I said earlier, the Kingfisher PH300 table top heater is a great all-rounder that shouldn’t disappoint anyone looking for something to take the chill out of a summer’s night, just don’t expect it to heat your entire garden as it wasn’t designed or intended for that purpose.
3. BRIAN & DANY Tabletop Portable Bio Ethanol Fireplace
The next review is another bio ethanol portable table top heater, this time from Brian & Dany. It is very similar in price and design to the G8 model we reviewed above, with a main heater compartment shaped and sized like a tissue box, and two tempered glass panes to enclose the open flame.
I would say that this model gives off a larger flame than the smaller BRIAN & DANY in this review, and also a little bit more heat. It’s not a great deal more, but it is noticeable. We sat ours in the middle of a medium sized patio table and it produced ample heat for everyone around it.
Once filled with bio ethanol, the Brian& Dany will burn for around 45 minutes -no fuel is included with this product and has to be bought separately.
This table top heater includes a fire killer to extinguish the flame or control it, but you have to make sure that the fire is actually completely out as these heaters can be deceiving. I thought I had put ours out, only to come back from the kitchen 15 minutes later to find it burning again. Considering these table top heaters are designed to be used indoors as well as out, it could be a fire hazard if you are not very careful with them.
The lightweight portable nature of these bio ethanol heaters is something I really like about them. You can literally take with you and use them anywhere. I saw a photo online of someone who had put it in an old disused fireplace and the effect worked really well.
They are also quite versatile, and with a little bit of research online you can learn how these table top heaters can be used with combinations of fuels to create repellents for mosquitos and other annoying bugs.
These bio ethanol models are not without their faults as I think we have already pointed out, however they are low cost initially, not expensive to run, and do produce a decent amount of heat.
4. La Hacienda Tabletop Halogen Silver Electric Heater
The La Hacienda tabletop halogen silver electric heater might not be the cheapest option available but it does offer a level of style that simply isn’t matched by any of its competitors. La hacienda are known for producing garden furniture that really stands out amongst the crowd and this table top heater is no different.
The silver frame of this model, along with its modern and sleek design, give this Hacienda product a classy appeal. I bought one as a gift for my friend and it looked amazing sat on the glass table of her rattan garden furniture when we last went to dine with them, especially as the copper ‘glows’ a little when the lamp is turned on. It’s a nice, warming effect, if only mentally.
Speaking of warmth, the La Hacienda delivers in spades in this department despite only having one heat setting. The powerful 2100w halogen lamp uses infrared technology to get its heat right into your body without wasting precious energy and heat on the air around the table or heating up the glass table itself. It’s clever and it works well.
While the design is simple but elegant, the build quality is top drawer. This table top heater has been made with high quality parts and the craftsmanship is a cut above the other products we tested so it should have a long working life.
This is a good thing because the heating element in the lamp is not replaceable, so you will be left with a normal table lamp if the heater breaks after the warranty runs out. Still, the makers say that you will get more than 5000 hours out of this product before any signs of failing.
The La hacienda table top lamp stands 90cm tall and 50cm wide, the base has been weighted to keep it stable and safe from toppling over even in moderately strong gusts of wind. If somehow the heater is knocked or blown over, there is an anti-tip safety cut out feature.
Being an electric powered table top heater the initial cost of this product is higher, but because there is no need to keep purchasing gas or bio ethanol to keep it running, the initial cost is balanced out by the low running costs. Like a lot of the modern versions of these products, the la hacienda has been made to be as energy efficient as possible and won’t be giving you a heart attack when the electric bill arrives.
Something that lets this model down is the short power cord that is only 2 metres long. As most people don’t have outside electric sockets and instead plug into an inside wall socket, I don’t understand the decision to not make the cord much longer. It’s an easy work around with an extension lead, but when you a pay a lot of money for something, you expect a bit more thought to have gone into the design. A small gripe, I agree, but still a valid one.
After all’s been said though, this is a beautiful table top heater and lamp and it does perform its duties exceptionally well. The high quality of the product also inspires confidence and I don’t think anyone would be disappointed if they purchased this for their garden.
5. BRIAN & DANY Tabletop Bio Ethanol Fireplace
The BRIAN & DANY bio ethanol table top heater resembles a mini version of the type of fireplace you see in modern styled interiors. It has a matt black steel frame, rectangular base enclosed in two panes of toughened safety glass that are for both function and to add to the aesthetic. With dimensions of 34 x 17 x 16 cm it is compact enough to sit on pretty much any table or small surface.
As you’ve probably guessed by the name, this BRIAN & DANY table top heater uses bio ethanol as its fuel source, so if you are all about saving the planet, this might be the right choice for you.
You fill the heater (around 200-250ml) and that should burn for around 45 minutes. After that it needs to be filled again, but you will have to wait for the heater to cool before doing so, which takes about half an hour. With a bottle of Bio ethanol costing around 2 pounds (packs of 12 are available on Amazon for around 24 pounds), and a single bottle being able to refill this heater about 4 times, running costs are about 50p per 45 minutes of operation.
Some care has to be taken when reigniting bio ethanol table top heaters such as these as some excess liquid or vapours could be left from the previous usage and you might get a surprise burst of flame when you ignite it again. A bit of common sense should see you safe though.
One thing I do prefer about these heaters than the gas or electric powered models, is that you get to sit and watch the flame dancing through the glass and it just feels more relaxing and natural than having a bright bulb glowing over you. Another benefit of this fuel source is that there is no strong smoke or fumes that you would get with an open fire.
While this table top heater does produce a decent amount of warmth, and would be more than enough to keep 6 people around a table feeling snug, the fact that you only get that heat in spells of 45 minutes before having to wait again is a bit of a downside for me. Indoors it isn’t much of a problem as the heat stays trapped in the room, but outside is a different story. Still, they are relatively inexpensive so you could always buy two and have one ready to go when the other needs time to cool down.