Storage heaters can be an ingenious way to heat your home using the cheapest electricity, but for many of us the way they work is a complete mystery. We’ve set out to unravel the how they work, how much electricity they use, and how we can get the most out of them.
Storage heater tariffs
Before you understand how much electricity a storage heat uses, you need to understand when and why it uses it that way. It ain’t a plug and play heater that you buy for a tenner from Argos, it’s a smart piece of kit that requires you to understand it.
Storage heaters are such a pretty smart invention because they exploit a fundamental problem with energy generation (and UK energy generation in particular) and they use it to their advantage.
When you think of energy generation, you might think of coal, or nuclear, or wind. These are three prime examples of the problem. None of these methods of energy generation cane be turned off; the coal plants need to operate all night to be efficient, the nuclear reactor doesn’t turn off, and the wind doesn’t stop blowing. Which is fine, until we’re all asleep, using very little energy, and these power plants are still pumping power out.
We don’t have the battery storage capable of handling all this energy, so it’s a case of trying to convince people to use it when it’s being generated – at night. This is why dual rate tariffs exists, often called Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariffs. Instead of offering a fixed rate, they let us use energy cheaply during off peak hours and then charge us more during the day.
Storage heaters are therefore designed to store up as much energy during the cheap night hours, for us to use when we need it. If you’re not on a dual rate tariff, your storage heaters are not achieving this, and are probably costing you an absolute fortune.
Storage heater running costs
Assuming that you only use it charging on your lower rate tariff, a 2kw high performance storage heater would have a running cost of around 13p per hour.
Storage heater usage
The thing about this system is that it requires you to take a bit of an educated guess on how much warmth you’re going to require the following day. If it’s been cold all week but you suddenly get a warm day, your storage heater may well have been on all night, storing up (and using up) energy that you’re never going to use!
One of the biggest issues we find with storage heaters these days is people setting them to store heat every night, regardless of actual usage. Whether you use it or not, you’re paying for the heater to soak up that energy and convert it to heat. Heat which, unless it’s utilised, will just leak away.
Although the actual number varies between systems and the buildings they operate in, more storage heaters will have lost the majority of their heat after about 12 hours of standing. That means that if you’re getting home from work at 7-8pm, you might be disappointed in how little is left to warm you up.
In this instance, you might find yourself throwing caution to the wind and turning the heater up, despite it requiring the use of the much more expensive electricity. This means that, if the storage heater doesn’t suit your lifestyle, you could end up using a whole lot more electricity than you expect and paying a whole lot more for it.
Why you shouldn’t buy a new storage heater
Even if the storage heater seems like a good option for you, we think it’s not.
Remember at the start of this article where we discussed those energy generation technologies that allow dual tariffs to exist? 2 out of 3 of those are coming to a close in the UK. Britain is aiming to be coal free by 2025, while many of our biggest nuclear plants are reaching the end of their life.
That means that the dual tariff days are numbered. We suggest you take a look at your other options for heating without gas.