Storage Heaters Explained: Costs, benefits and types
02 October 2020 | Matt Mostyn
Once upon a time they were clunky and inefficient – but nowadays, advancements in technology mean that storage heaters can do something pretty darn cool. Or should we say warm?! That’s because they can help you save energy and lower your bills.
Here’s our in-depth guide to teach you everything you need to know about this smart, efficient way to heat your home. Read on to find out more about what storage heaters are, how they work, and whether they’re right for you.
What are storage heaters and how do they work?
Storage heaters use off-peak energy to store heat. How do they do that? By warming internal ceramic bricks during the night, when there’s less pressure on the National Grid. And then voila, heat is gradually released throughout the following day.
Storage heaters are highly insulated – which means they can retain stored heat for quite a long time! And because they use off-peak energy, which is cheaper than standard rate electricity, you’ll likely pay less for your energy and lower your bills. This makes them particularly ideal when you use them with a money-saving Economy 7 tariff.
Not only that, but storage heaters help fight the climate crisis. They don’t charge up during the day, when there’s higher demand for carbon-heavy gas-powered electricity on the grid. Instead, by charging at night when the grid is more likely to be powered by renewables, storage heaters are a lower-carbon form of heating – helping to support a greener, more flexible grid.
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Storage heater benefits
The main benefit with storage heaters is that they’re cheaper to run than other forms of ‘peak-hour’ electrical heating systems.
Modern storage heaters also have some clever built-in features that make them pretty nifty performers!
While older storage heaters can be bulkier and a little more basic, those made after 2018 come with a few built-in extras to make heating even more efficient. Think things like programmable timers, fans and built-in thermostats.
Storage heaters are exceptionally quiet, even those with a fan. Plus they’re simple to install, being easily mounted onto any wall (though we recommend getting a specialist to install them).
And because they come in a range of different sizes, it’s easy to choose a heater that works in the space you have. Plus because they only use electricity, they can be placed anywhere where electricity can be wired.
Read our practical guide on smart thermostats and how they can help you control your heating from everywhere and reduce your energy bills.
Storage heater features
Some common storage heater features include:
- A boost function, to give you extra warmth when you need it
- A silent fan (in auto-combination models) to circulate heat more efficiently
- Programmable heating schedules, to let you set customised heating patterns for different days and times – just as you can with gas central heating
- Thermostatic controls, so your room’s heated to the perfect temperature
- Remote controls, so you can even operate them from your smartphone over Wi-Fi
Cons of storage heaters
There’s lots to get excited about when it comes to storage heaters – but it’s not all sunshine and roses. There are one or two other things to consider before you decide that they’re right for you. Here’s our rundown of the main drawbacks:
- Storage heaters use electricity, which can be more expensive than gas
- With some of the more basic models, excess stored heat can sometimes make a room actually feel a little too warm (if there is such a thing over winter!)
- Much of the stored heat can sometimes be used up by the evening – which is often the exact time you want to crank up the temperature!
Types of storage heaters
Nowadays, storage heaters come with a range of features, including digital programmers, open window sensors, electronic room temperature controls and Wi-fi controls. Most modern models also have built-in thermostats, and many are fan-assisted to help circulate the heat.
In general, the more you spend, the more features your model will have. Check out some of the major brands, such as Creda, Dimplex, Elnur, Heatstore, Stiebel Eltron and Vent Axia.
Dimplex’s Quantum storage heaters are some of the most advanced and economical around. You can programme them with daily and weekly schedules and set the room temperature. And for the tech fans out there, an iQ controller monitors the room and learns your heating habits! They also have a fan, a thermostat, a child-lock and a boost function to give you instant heat when you need it.
In general, there are 3 main types of storage heater – automatic models, combination models and high heat retention models. Find out about each of them below:
These have replaced the old storage heaters, where you had to manually select how much heat to store. These newer models are designed to detect the room temperature and set themselves, so they’re much more efficient.
These work the same way as automatic models, but they can also add extra heat during peak hours if necessary. They also have more advanced controls, for a bit of added flexibility.
High heat retention models
These use the latest in storage heater technology, and feature highly-insulated cores and quiet fans. They’re ideal for releasing heat exactly when it’s needed – and they can also bring you instant heat during the day if you want it.
Storage heater costs: How much do storage heaters cost?
Storage heaters can vary dramatically in price. It all depends which type you go for, and which brand you choose.
Basic models can cost as little as £150 – and expect to pay around £700 for a high heat retention storage heater.
It’s worth bearing in mind that more expensive storage heaters are better insulated and more controllable – making them more efficient and cheaper to run.
Storage heater installation costs
Storage heaters need to be installed by a qualified electrician, and prices can vary – so it’s a good idea to get at least three quotes.
Installing a replacement storage heater usually starts at around £70 if there’s existing wiring (excluding the cost of the new heater, and depending on your location).
New installations will cost more, as wiring in will need to be included as part of the job.
How to use your storage heater
You’ll usually find your storage heater controls on the top of the heater itself. Once you’ve found the perfect heat setting, you shouldn’t need to fiddle much with the controls unless there’s a cold snap!
For most storage heaters, the following two settings are the main ones you’ll use:
- Input – this controls the amount of heat stored during off-peak hours, and it plays the biggest role on your running costs. As a general rule of thumb, in mild weather set the input to low, and in cold weather, set it to a higher setting to store more heat.
- Output – to avoid wasting heat, make sure the output switch is turned down/off at night, or when you’re out.
Storage heaters and solar panels
If you have solar panels, it’s worth using the electricity your panels generate to charge up storage heaters during the day and release the heat in the evening.
In fact, using solar panels to charge storage heaters is an excellent way to kick carbon and cut your running costs. And with solar technology evolving fast, and the cost of solar energy plummeting in recent years, the benefits just keep stacking up!
Storage heaters and climate change
As a green energy company, we’re big fans of modern storage heaters. Why? Because they’re better able to precisely control your heating, so you waste less of the stuff!
Making better use of cheaper, greener off-peak energy is a key part of reducing our carbon footprint. And when you consider that 15% of the UK's carbon emissions come from heating our homes, we love any solution that uses more of it from renewable energy sources.
Plus, storage heaters give greater control over when we use our energy, and how much of it we consume. Can’t say greener than that!