What are storage heaters?
Storage heaters are a technology invented to get around the problem of wasted night-time electricity from nuclear and coal plants that cannot be switched off overnight. Put very simply, a insulated heating core inside is charged overnight and the warmth is then released the following day.
Electricity is more expensive than gas, but some properties are off the gas grid. In these cases, it is important to find the most efficient form of electric heating, as electric convection heating can be really expensive. Unless you want to invest in an alternative form of heating such as infrared, storage heaters could be an option.
Storage heaters were at their most popular in the 1980s, when they were still a fairly new technology. As more efficient forms of heating have come along, storage heaters are now less commonly installed than they once were. However, refinement in the last few years has meant they are a more attractive option than they were ten years ago.
Should I replace old storage heaters?
Yes – but look at other heating options first. Although new storage heaters are not cheap, they are more efficient than they used to be in a number of ways, so running costs will be cheaper. If you have old storage heaters, the insulation around the heating core may well have broken down over time and this will affect their efficiency. There are also several new features in new models (by companies such as Dimplex) that make them a more attractive option than they were.
What’s different about new storage heaters?
Newer storage heater models have been refined to iron out some of the problems with older models. They are more efficient and cheaper to run for the reasons below:
- More insulation around the heating core – up to twice as much – means new models hold heat better.
- Compact design. One of the main issues with storage heaters in the past was that they were bulky and looked ugly. Now they are normally around the same size as a standard radiator.
- Top-of-the-range models are fan-assisted, meaning better dispersion of heat.
- The controls are better, meaning you can normally set heating schedules for greater efficiency and thermal comfort. This means you don’t have to waste heat chucking it out when you’re not even in the house.
- Some models have a ‘Boost’ function, meaning you can still heat your home when there is more demand than usual. Until new models were introduced, once the heating you’d generated had been released, that was it. There was no more available until the next day. A word of caution though – using this function should be avoided as much as possible, as it is pretty much the most expensive way you can heat your home. It charges you the normal daytime electricity rate to run the heater.
- Fan-assisted storage heaters cost around £500 each, plus installation
- Dimplex Quantum storage heaters cost around £700 each, plus installation
- Running costs may be cheap if you use the heaters carefully
The future of Economy 7
Using storage heaters on any energy tariff other than Economy 7 will never be a cost-effective option. While the Economy 7 tariff is still around, you can charge your storage heaters at night, while electricity is at its cheapest. If used correctly, generating the heating at night and releasing it in the day will mean you’re not paying more expensive daytime rates.
Before you spend hundreds on new storage heaters, however, you should note that Economy 7 won’t be around forever. The UK’s coal power plants will all be closed down by 2020, and the reason for cheap night rates will no longer exist. Running storage heaters without Economy 7 would be very expensive indeed.
Installing storage heaters
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