Storage heaters are a great option for households that use electricity to heat their homes or for those who want to zone their heating, for example those with rooms that are occupied infrequently. The heaters work by storing heat from electricity at night and gradually releasing it when it’s needed the following day. Typically, if used as intended, Economy 7 tariffs offer the best deals for households using storage heaters because it provides electricity at a cheaper (off-peak) rate for seven hours each night, although electricity day rates are often higher than other tariffs. If you’re on an Economy 7 tariff, it’s best to check the off-peak hours with the supplier as these times can vary between suppliers.
Most storage heaters have very simple controls yet they can be tricky to understand and operate efficiently. In addition to the switch on the wall, storage heaters are equipped with two controls: the input (also known as charge) and the output (or boost).
The input controls how much heat is stored overnight. The higher the number on the dial (or, if without numbers, the further the knob is rotated clockwise), the more heat will be stored overnight. If you plan to stay indoors on a cold winter’s day, setting this control as high as possible may be warranted. But if it’s not that cold or you anticipate being out of the house for the better part of the day, a lower dial setting may be more appropriate. There’s no point paying for more heat than you need.
The output controls how quickly heat is released during the day through an adjustable flap or damper. Heat will escape slowly on a low setting, while a high setting will release lots of heat quickly. The high setting is useful when you want to warm up a space in the morning but it will also deplete the stored heat faster, so it’s important to turn the dial down once the house feels warm. The output control should be set to 1 (or rotated fully anti-clockwise) overnight to prevent the storage heater from using excess electricity to heat an empty room, leaving you with insufficient heat for the day ahead. Ideally, the output dial should be adjusted throughout the day to maintain a comfortable room temperature. Just be aware that the higher you set the output, the quicker you’ll use this heat.
Some storage heaters have a built in convection heater, which can also provide a boost (not to be confused with the output control) of warmth during the day when the stored heat has run out. Be aware that the boost comes at a cost – higher on-peak electricity prices – so only use it if you really need to. These heaters are best suited to big or well-used rooms where the stored heat often runs out.
Modern storage heaters can come with additional controls and sensors, such as timers or thermostats, requiring less intervention by you. These can automatically adjust the overnight charge based on temperature sensors. They can also create a more even room temperature throughout the day by opening the adjustable flap as the rooms cool down.
One type of modern storage heater is high heat retention storage heaters. This new generation of heaters has a fan based system to circulate heat, a highly insulated core to better store heat and smart technology that can monitor weather forecasts and user patterns to regulate heat from the heaters accordingly. This makes these storage heaters one of the most efficient storage heaters currently on the market.
A retired couple lives in a rural area in a small, well-insulated home. They don’t have a mains gas connection and rely instead on electricity for their heating and hot water needs. Since taking retirement, the couple travels during the summer months but spends most of the winter months inside their home.
When it’s particularly cold, the couple want to store as much heat overnight as they can, taking advantage of their Economy 7 tariff. Just before they go to bed, they set their input to ‘6’ and their output to ‘off’. When they wake up in the morning, they turn the output up to ‘4’ to warm up the place. Once the rooms reach a pleasant temperature, the output is turned down to ‘2’. If they notice the rooms getting a bit nippy in the evening, the couple turns the output up to ‘5’ or ‘6’ to use up the remaining stored heat. If the stored heat runs out before bed, only then will they switch on the convection heat function to increase the temperature in their living room.
A professional couple with two school-age children live in a privately-rented flat in the city. Storage heaters provide heat to the flat, and the household is on an Economy 7 tariff. The parents drop their kids off at school on their way to work and pick them up on the way back. The family leads an active lifestyle and is usually out of the flat during the day.
Forecasters predict a cold snap mid-week, so the family makes sure to turn the input all the way up and turn the output all the way down as they get ready for bed. Before the kids wake up the next morning, the parents adjust the output to ‘4’ to warm up the flat in time for the morning rush. As the family leave for work and school, the parents set the output to its lowest setting. When they return in the evening, the output is turned back up to ‘4’ and increased as needed until bedtime.