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Night storage heaters

Storage heaters work by storing heat generated by cheap night-time electricity and releasing this heat during the day

Most storage heaters are wall-mounted and look a bit like radiators. They work by drawing electricity over the course of a few hours at night, and storing it as heat in a ‘bank’ of clay or ceramic bricks to use the following day. The advantage is that they can consume electricity at night, when it’s cheap, and release their heat many hours later.

They are designed to work with Economy 7. This is a tariff in which night-time electricity is much cheaper (typically about a third of the price) – but day-time electricity is more expensive. The cheap hours are normally from 12 midnight until 07.00 in winter, and from 01.00 to 08.00 in summer, although this can vary. We have more information about Economy 7 here.

Storage heaters have a set of simple controls. An input setting allows you to regulate the amount of heat that the heater stores overnight. This is important because, although night-rate electricity is cheap, there’s no point paying for more than you need. If it’s not particularly cold, or you’ll be out of the house for most of the day, you don’t need to set the input to maximum because there’s no point storing so much heat. Most storage heaters will only charge up at night, so you can leave the input setting without danger of using expensive day-rate electricity.
The controls also have an output setting that allows you to regulate the amount of heat that the storage heater releases. The higher the setting, the quicker the heat is released into the room. This means that if the output is high all day then the heater will run out of stored heat. It is better to adjust the output gradually, saving some heat for the evening. Overnight, or when you are out, you should set the output to minimum, otherwise the stored heat you have paid for will be wasted.

Some storage heaters have a ‘boost’ setting. This doesn’t use ‘cheap-rate’ stored heat, but when turned on uses expensive daytime electricity, so it should only be used if the stored heat has run out.

Even if your night storage heater controls are different, they still operate on the same input and output principle.

Night storage heater controls can be a bit confusing, so we've produced a short (2 minute) video describing how to use them. Depending on your needs and circumstances (i.e. when you are at home during the day and how much warmth you require), your ideal settings may vary from those demonstrated in this video, and may change from day-to-day.

Modern storage heaters
The latest storage heater models have been improved in terms of efficiency, responsiveness and controllability. New models can hold more heat for longer periods, with better insulation to ensure heat is only released when it’s needed (often via a fan-assisted system).

Many modern storage heaters also feature a thermostat and timer or programmer. This means you can set heat to be released at a time that suits you (for example when you get up in the morning) and it makes operating them much more ‘hands-free’. Some models allow you to set the programmer and monitor heating remotely via a mobile app.

Upgrading to a modern storage heater can help reduce your energy bills by about 10% whilst giving you more control over when you heat your home and how warm it gets.

High heat retention storage heaters
The most efficient modern storage heaters are called ‘high heat retention storage heaters’, and are up to 27% cheaper to run than standard storage heaters. In addition to the features of other modern storage heaters, these models achieve even better heat retention and are able to estimate the next day’s heating demand based on user heating habits and climatic conditions (meaning you do not need to worry about adjusting input settings). High heat retention models include Quantum heaters (from Dimplex/Creda and Heatstore), Elnur (Gabarron) Ecombi HHR heaters and the Stiebel Eltron SHS and SHF range.

Replacing old storage heaters with high heat retention models may also improve the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating for the property.

CASE STUDY: Jack and Gwen’s storage heater

In winter, Jack and Gwen are in most of the day. This means they want their storage heaters to charge fully at night, so they set the input to 6 and the output to 1 or off. In the morning, to warm the house up, they turn the output to 4. Once the house is warm, they turn it down to 2, and in the evening when it becomes chillier, they turn it up to 5 or 6 to use up the remaining stored heat.

It is now summer. Tomorrow, Jack and Gwen will be out most of the day and because the weather is warmer they only want a bit of heat for the evening. So they set the input to 3 overnight. As always, the output is set to 1. In the morning they keep the output on 1 as the room is warm enough. When they come back in the evening they turn the output to 3-4, giving them some background heat over the next few hours.

Storage heater tips for lower bills

  1. The ‘output’ setting of your storage heater should be turned off at night; and also when you are out of the room or out of the house.
  2. The ‘boost’ setting can be used to throw out extra warmth. But it uses expensive daytime electricity, so use all the stored heat first by opening the output fully before using boost.
  3. Avoid using supplementary plug-in heaters. It’s better to turn up the input on your storage heater and store more heat.

This information is available to download as an easy read leaflet.

Frequently asked questions

Are electric storage heaters as cost effective as gas central heating?

Generally electric storage heaters are more expensive to run than gas central heating. However to keep costs down homeowners with electric storage heaters should ensure they are on Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariffs to take advantage of lower, off-peak electricity prices at night.

Need more help?

We can advise you about saving energy, or help you understand what grants and support you're eligible for:

Contact us Or freephone: 0800 082 2234

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Who should I contact to get my electric storage heaters serviced?

A qualified electrician would be able to service electric storage heaters.

Need more help?

We can advise you about saving energy, or help you understand what grants and support you're eligible for:

Contact us Or freephone: 0800 082 2234

Next question

View all frequently asked questions

Download the PDF

Download this PDF document

This information is available as a freely downloadable PDF from this page.

For more domestic energy advice, view all our advice pages.

Funding for heating upgrades

If you have electric heating in your home, there's funding available to help upgrade your heating system - saving you energy and money! 

Find out more here.

Priority Services Register

If you live in the green or blue areas, we can sign you up to your local priority services register if you're over 60 or you rely on electricity for medical or mobility reasons or you have a hearing or visual impairment or a long-term health condition.

Click here for details.