Storage Heaters: Tips to Save 

For a printable advice leaflet please go here.

Storage heaters are common throughout Lochaber, being very cheap to install and manageable to live with when used correctly. Unfortunately if used incorrectly or in an inappropriate situation then they will struggle to produce the necessary heat for a reasonable cost. Storage heaters are normally used with the Economy 7 electricity tariff, where you get 7 hours of cheaper electricity overnight, but are also used with Economy 10 and some other tariffs. This low rate electricity can be half the cost of the daytime electricity, so it is really good to maximise their use.

Storage heaters work by charging up a set of bricks overnight, and then slowly releasing the heat through the day. The exact controls can vary a bit but the most common types have a basic ‘input’ and ‘output’ setting.

The ‘input’ controls how much energy the storage heater absorbs overnight, this can normally be set quite low for the beginning and end of the heating season, but in a cold spell through winter it will often need to be turned up most of the way. The ‘output’ normally controls a small flap on the top which allows more heat to escape, this should be turned down every night and turned up during the day when you’re not sleeping and additional heat is required.

People normally encounter problems with misunderstanding the output control, leaving it on the same setting all winter, which allows heat to escape all night and means the heater will be cool before the evening. By opening the output later in the day you will store more heat for longer and have it available when you need it.

Unfortunately you can still end up with a cold house in the evening, either due to accidentally leaving the output open overnight, or by a sudden change in the weather, and this is where an extra heat source can be useful. Some storage heaters come with a ‘boost’ option, where an extra, expensive, electric heater can be used to increase the evening temperature

The big points with storage heaters are:

  • Change the input setting regularly, turning it up as the weather gets colder, and down as it warms up again. Depending on your house layout you may need different settings in different rooms
  • Change the output setting several times a day, all the way down at night and then up during the day as you need more heat.
  • Avoid using the boost or additional electric heaters unless you really need it, they can be twice as expensive as the stored heat.
  • Much of the heat can be released during the day, so if a house is unoccupied all day then you may not see much of the heat yourself.
  • They can break down, with elements, thermostats and insulation failing over time. These can all be repaired or replaced, though often it is tempting to replace with a modern model.
  • Try and run other appliances (washing machines, immersion heaters etc.) overnight too, as all of your electricity will be cheaper overnight.

Everyone knows storage heaters are expensive to run, but they are also expensive to replace and a brand new heating system is a luxury that few can afford. Using the system you already have efficiently is the best way to minimise your bills and reduce your impact on the environment

There are a few extra points to consider, especially if your system isn’t quite ‘standard’:

  • Storage heaters can work very well with a fire or wood-burner, as the evening heat can be supplied from this source, allowing you to use a lower input setting and keep the output set low.
  • Economy10 tariffs have low rate periods throughout the day, allowing the input to be set lower and the output can be left low most of the time. You should have plenty of heat in the evening but the Economy10 tariffs tend to be more expensive.
  • Modern fan assisted storage heaters have more controls, and some are insulated enough to effectively store heat until the evening, making them far more effective for houses which are unoccupied during the day.
  • Storage heaters will struggle with large or draughty buildings but can be a good choice in small houses or flats.
  • Draughts and poor insulation have a major impact on how comfortable a house with storage heaters feels, these should be your priority for reducing heating bills.

Hopefully these points will help you to keep your home comfortable and energy bills down this winter!