For homes that use electricity for heating, a storage heater can be an ideal method to take advantage of time-of-use tariffs like Economy 7 or Economy 10, paying a cheaper rate for electricity during the night.

What is a storage heater?

The concept of storage heaters was born in the 1960s to make the most of excess electricity generated overnight.

These electric heaters are designed to store thermal energy during the night, by heating up internal ceramic bricks. This heat is then used when needed during daylight hours to heat the home.

Features of a storage heater

Storage heaters can benefit from a range of features:

  • A boost function to provide additional heat when needed;
  • Some models of storage heaters incorporate a fan to evenly distribute heat;
  • Many modern storage heaters have programmable heating schedules to allow you to customise your heating requirements;
  • Larger storage heaters are available for bigger rooms;
  • Some storage heaters come with thermostatic controls, so you can keep a room at the desired temperature.

How does a storage heater work?

The majority of storage heaters work by using ‘off-peak’ electricity to heat elements, which then heat the ceramic bricks which are surrounded by a layer of insulation.

As the bricks increase in temperature, the casing of the storage heater gets hotter, which is used to heat the room when the cost of electricity is at its most expensive.

However, some storage heaters use a clay core system instead of ceramic bricks.

Types of storage heater available?

There are various types of storage heaters to choose from. A HIES installer will be able to give you further advice on which system would best suit your particular needs.

Manual storage heaters

The most basic type of storage heater, manual models continue to function even when a room is warm unless physically switched off. Manual storage heaters consist of two main controls – input, which regulates the amount of heat that the heater stores; and output, which controls how fast the heat is released.

Automatic storage heaters 

Automatic storage heaters monitor air temperature with inbuilt sensors and adjust heat output in accordance with the temperature of the room. This makes them a more cost-effective option than manual storage heaters.

Fan-assisted storage heaters 

Fan-assisted storage heaters can be more effective at heating a room as they blow warm air from beneath the heater. These heaters are available with two-speed fans for variable heat output control.

Static storage heaters 

Static storage heaters release heat in two different ways, both using natural convection. A top flap releases hot air once the heater is charged, while a constant release of heat is also released without additional energy costs.

Combination storage heaters

Combination storage heaters are very similar to static storage heaters but incorporate an internal resistance to generate additional air convection when needed. These models can operate as a convector heater, a static storage heater or as both at the same time.

Choosing the best storage heater for you 

There is a range of things to take into consideration when deciding on which storage heater would best suit you. This will depend on the size of your property, how well insulated it is and what it is likely to cost. A HIES installer will be able to advise you further on this.

How efficient are storage heaters?

Storage heaters are only an efficient form of heating if you are not on the gas grid, as electricity is more expensive than gas.

You will also need access to cheaper ‘off peak’ electricity tariffs in order to benefit from storage heaters.

Storage heater costs

Depending on which model and brand you choose, storage heaters can vary considerably in cost with a basic model likely to cost between £150 and £200. The most efficient storage heaters will be more expensive than this but will cost less to run and therefore save money in the long run. *1

According to figures from the Green Age, a 2kW high-performance storage heater would have a running cost of approximately 13p per hour, when charging on a lower rate tariff. *2

Using your storage heater efficiently?

Your storage heater manual will contain all the information you need on how to operate your particular model. However, most storage heaters comprise of two main controls – input and output.

Input controls the amount of heat that the storage heater stores during off peak times, determining the running costs. During cold weather, the input will need to be on a higher setting to store more heat, but this can be set to low in mild weather.

To avoid wasting heat, the output control will need to be turned down or off during night hours or when the house is unoccupied.

Installation

Installing a replacement storage heater will cost from around £70 with existing wiring. If it is a new installation and requires new wiring, this will cost more. *1 Storage heaters must be fitted by a qualified installer – find your nearest HIES installer for more information.

Finding an installation company

All HIES Accredited Installers are continually vetted in many areas in order to give consumers trust, confidence and peace of mind. 

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Pros and cons of storage heaters

Pros 

  • Storage heaters are cheaper to run than some types of electrical heating that use electricity at peak times;
  • Many modern storage heaters have a built-in thermostat, allowing them to release heat when required;
  • They use less energy when it isn’t need;
  • Storage heaters are very quiet, even fan-assisted models;
  • Storage heaters are easy to install and can be placed anywhere, providing a wall bracket can be mounted and electricity can be wired;
  • Storage heaters are more flexible than central heating;
  • No plumbing, pipe work or flue modernisation is required;
  • There is no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning with storage heaters.

Cons

  • Electricity is more expensive than gas, so storage heaters are not a practical alternative unless you are off the gas grid;
  • Some basic models will release excess stored heat, leading to overheated rooms
  • Most of the stored heat has usually been released by evening time – the time that most households require additional heat.

Using storage heaters with solar panels

If your home has solar panels, it makes sense to use the electricity you generate to charge up storage heaters throughout the day and release the heat when needed in the evening.

The cost savings that you can benefit from by doing this will be greater than what you could earn by exporting the generated electricity back to the grid.

Looking out for asbestos

In order to reduce the risk of fire, asbestos was used in some older storage heaters. This is usually in models manufactured before 1974.

Asbestos dust and fibres may be released if a storage heater containing asbestos is damaged, and if these are breathed-in, they can cause lung damage. They are also known to contribute to a range of cancers.

If you have any concerns that your storage heater does contain asbestos, contact a HIES installer who will be able to advise you further.

You should contact your local council to arrange the safe removal of your storage heater if you find out that it does contain asbestos.

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