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What are storage heaters?1
Storage heaters are electric heaters designed to make the most of Economy tariffs by heating up overnight using cheap electricity and warming the house throughout the day. Thermally retentive bricks inside the heater body store heat overnight and release it during the day by allowing air to circulate over the bricks, carrying warmth out into the room. Room temperatures can be raised or lowered by increasing or decreasing air flow around the bricks via easy-to-use dials at the top of the heater. Once the bricks have cooled, they must be charged up again overnight before they’re ready to be used again.
Are storage heaters economical?1
The primary selling point of electric storage heaters has always been that they are cheap to run. However, in today’s world with modern lifestyles and many more heating options available, storage heaters do not always work out as the cheapest choice.
Storage heaters work by making the most of cheaper night time electricity tariffs, charging up overnight and releasing heat during the day. This is all well and good in principle, but in practice this reveals a number of issues which means they’re not suitable for everyone:
When storage heaters run out of charge, you have to wait until the next day before they’ll kick out heat again. This means you’ll be left cold if you under-estimate the amount of charge required.
The downside of all economy tariffs is that they charge an inflated rate for energy usage during the day. So if your storage heaters run out of heat, it will be very expensive to raise the temperature via alternative means such as fan heaters or panel heaters.
It’s also easy to over-estimate how much charge you need, wasting energy and over-heating your rooms when the weather turns warm.
Storage heaters constantly leak heat from the moment they begin charging. If you have a storage heater in your bedroom, you may find it too warm to sleep if you prefer cooler temperatures at night.
Storage heaters are warmest in the morning when they have a full charge and coolest in the evening as they will slowly leak heat throughout the course of the day. If you have a 9 – 5 working routine, you will find it difficult to benefit from your storage heaters, as they will give out most of their heat while you’re out of the house.
Whether storage heaters will be economical for you or not mostly depends on your lifestyle. If you’re at home all day and don’t use many other appliances, you’re in a prime position to make the most of storage heaters. You’ll often see storage heaters in office and public buildings for this reason. However, if you require heat deep into the evening, storage heaters will work out as wasteful and unhelpful. A more controllable and efficient solution such as modern electric radiators will often work out cheaper even on a regular tariff.
Should I choose storage heaters or electric radiators?1
The only advantage of storage heaters is that they can make use of Economy 7. If Economy 7 is not for you, then neither are storage heaters.
Storage heaters are not inherently efficient – heat leaks from the bricks from the minute you start charging. This means a lot of the power used does not turn into effective heating; it’s simply lost into the room overnight when there’s no-one present to benefit from the warmth. Another common complaint is that storage heaters require you to predict your heating needs a day in advance. So, if you’ve put it on low charge in anticipation of a warm summer’s day but find that the weather takes a turn for the worse the next morning, you can be left with little usable heat and a cold house come evening. Your only option then may be to use a top up heater using inflated day time rates, thereby eradicating any potential saving you may have made using your storage heater.
Electric radiators, meanwhile, are completely controllable and very efficient. Nearly 100% of the power they use is turned into heat, immediately and effectively. Thermostatic controls and digital programming means they only heat at the temperatures you want, providing a completely responsive and adaptable heating system. Their advanced control functions mean that it’s much easier to monitor and reduce your energy usage so they often work out cheaper to run, even if you’re on a standard electricity tariff. It doesn’t matter what your lifestyle is or what hours you need to work around, modern electric radiators will always provide effective heating at the exact right time.
Before you choose between these two systems, you’ll need to analyse your own heating habits and whether you could stand to benefit from an economy electric tariff. So, for example, if you work from home during the day and need a steady supply of heat, a storage heater system could be beneficial. However, if you have a varied lifestyle that makes your coming and goings unpredictable, it’s highly likely you will find that storage heaters are not flexible enough to meet your heating needs.
How are storage heaters installed?1
Storage heaters always require professional installation because they need to be hard wired to the mains ‘night time’ circuit of your property. This ensures that when your heaters draw energy, they will be using the electricity meter for the cheaper night time rates. It’s worth bearing in mind that storage heaters are very heavy due to the bricks contained in their housing, so even if you’re not installing them yourself, you may need another person on hand to help move the heaters into the property.
What kinds of storage heater are there?1
Modern storage heaters have been developed with a raft of additional features designed to make them more controllable and efficient. Here are some of the main categories and features to look out for, depending on the level of control you need.
Manual: these are traditional models that haven’t changed much since storage heaters were first created. They feature input and output dials at the top of the heater to manually adjust heat output and charge. Manual models are basic but may be the preferred choice if you’d rather undertake all heating adjustments yourself.
Automatic: these look similar to manual models but have the ability to self-regulate charge and output. Once you’ve chosen your ideal settings, the automatic charge regulator will prevent the heater from overcharging and keep energy usage as low as possible.
Combination: if you’re worried about your storage heater running out of charge at an inconvenient moment, a combination heater might be the optimum choice. These use a built-in convection heater to provide top-up heat at short notice, but be aware that they will be using expensive day time rates and incur greater costs if this feature is used regularly.
Fan-Assisted: these premium storage heaters have a much higher level of insulation to ensure they retain more heat overnight. They use slow moving electric fans to pull air over the bricks and offer a more precise level of output control compared to standard heaters which operate by simply opening and closing vents. These heaters offer a greater range of control but their fans do draw a small amount energy using the more expensive day time rates.