[Update: For the latest advice on funding, contact your local council or visit our ECO page here.]
We often speak to customers who have old storage heaters installed in their homes, many of whom reside in flats without access to mains gas – 9 times out of 10, they ring to complain about how their existing storage heaters don’t provide sufficient heat to keep the house warm and also the fact they are expensive to run.
The good news is that there are new type of heater known as ‘Quantum storage heaters’ that are far more efficient than the older models, which should help you save considerably on your heating bills. The other feature of these Quantum storage heaters is that they retain their heat longer after a charge, so you should be able to use the heat when you want it, rather than having to use expensive peak rate electricity to charge them when you need them.
Now as a quick recap for those readers who are unaware, storage heaters take advantage of cheap electricity at night (normally via the Economy 7 tariff) to charge. They then release the heat during the day as required – one of their major shortcomings is that the older models struggle to retain their charge (or heat), instead they leak so by the time you want the heat, you actually need to recharge the storage heaters. The new Quantum range of Storage heaters retain their charge far better, since they are extremely well insulated – so they release the heat as and when it is needed.
The bad news is that replacing your old storage heaters with these new storage heaters is not cheap – a new Quantum storage heater costs about £700 without installation, so for an average 2 bed flat with 4 rooms requiring heating, it might cost about £2,500 to get installed.
This is obviously quite a stretch for most of us, so is there anything out there that can help lower this initial install cost?
Does the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) grant help with storage heater replacement?
In its current form, ECO unfortunately does not cover the cost of new storage heaters . The ECO, if you don’t already know – is a pot of money paid out by energy companies (like British Gas, EON, Npower, etc) to fund energy efficiency improvements – whether they are boilers, loft insulation, cavity wall insulation or district heating systems. This funding actually comes from the social and environmental component of your energy bill, so you and I all contribute towards it.
The ECO was designed to help those most in need with heating costs, by providing grants for new boilers, loft and cavity wall insulation, however the scope of this scheme unfortunately only funds a limited number of energy efficiency improvements.
So if you are off-gas grid and have storage heaters or you have a warm air system, the current ECO provides very little in terms of direct funding to help with the installation cost and the customers are asked to contribute quite a lot of money up front, which many low income households can ill afford.
The good news is that ECO is changing!
New ECO (part 2) from spring 2015 should help fund new storage heaters!
Well if you are prepared to wait a little bit, the Government have acknowledged the fact that the current scope of ECO is not inclusive and are consulting on changes to the policy as we speak.
According to the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) in their proposed changes to the ECO policy: “We propose to change the rules so that the repair or replacement of a broken or not functioning electric storage heater is subject to the same scoring mechanism as the repair or replacement of current “qualifying boiler”.
What the civil servants are actually saying here is: if these proposed changes to the ECO go through Parliament in Autumn 2014, we will expect storage heater systems to be treated the same as existing boilers for funding. The change is good as it should provide a bigger ECO score, which means more funding and hopefully provides a lot of help to those households who are on low incomes and are eligible.
What if your existing storage heaters are broken now and so you can’t wait this long?
Local Authority Grants for Storage Heaters
The days of local authority pots of money sloshing around are far behind us, however if you find that the Green Deal and other grants just don’t cover enough of the upfront cost, it is still worth speaking to your council to find out if they can help. Our advice is to speak to the private housing department of your local authority and see if they would help with the installation cost – this is when you have explored all options mentioned above.