Home heating systems
By Amy Hupe
Article 8 of 8
Find out all you need to know about storage heaters, including how much they cost and how much you could save on your energy bills.
If you're on a time-of-use tariff, such as Economy 7 or Economy 10, and you use electricity to heat your home, a storage heater could help you take advantage of lower off-peak electricity rates.
Here, we'll help you decide whether a storage heater is right for you, which type to go for, and how much you can expect to pay for a good model.
Are you paying too much for your energy? See whether you could save by comparing gas and electricity prices.
Storage heaters explained
Storage heaters are electric heaters that store thermal energy by heating up internal ceramic bricks during the night, and then use this to heat your home during the day.
Storage heaters are primarily designed for customers who are on a time-of-use electricity tariff, such as Economy 7, who pay a cheaper rate for their energy during the night (usually 12-7am). Using a storage heater allows customers on these tariffs to use cheaper off-peak electricity to heat their home during the day.
As electricity is more expensive than gas, storage heaters are only really cost-effective if you are off the gas grid.
Cost of storage heaters
Storage heaters vary drastically in price, depending on which type you go for and which brand you choose. Cheaper, more basic models can be bought for as little as £150, but most cost £200 upwards.
More expensive storage heaters tend to be more efficient, and therefore will cost less to run.
Types of storage heater
There are five main types of storage heater. The type that you go for will depend on the level of control you want, the energy efficiency of the room you want it for, and your budget.
|Storage heater types|
|Type||Typical price guide||Main features|
|Manual storage heaters||£200-400||The cheapest, most basic type of storage heater. Manual models store energy at night and then release heat automatically during the day. They will continue running even if the room is already very warm, unless switched off manually.|
|Automatic storage heaters||£250-500||Automatic models have a built-in thermostat which controls the amount of thermal energy stored according to the room's temperature. An automatic model could help you shave an additional 15% off your energy bills.|
|Automatic combination storage heaters||£300-600||Automatic combination storage heaters combine a storage heater and a traditional electric convection heater in one casing. The convector heater can be switched on at any time to provide a boost of warmth when needed. Combination heaters require a permanent power supply, and are best for large or busy rooms where a storage heater alone isn't sufficient.|
|Quantum storage heaters||£500-800||This newer breed of fan-assisted storage heaters use less electricity and so tend to be cheaper to run than other models. Quantum heaters come with a special LCD control panel and let you customise heating programmes to suit your lifestyle. Currently, the only manufacturers to offer these models are Dimplex, Creda and Heatstore.|
|Fan-assisted storage heaters||£500-800||Incorporating a silent fan, these storage heaters have more than double the insulation of standard storage heaters. Fan-assisted storage heaters are usually part of an automatic combination model, but they can be found in a couple of automatic ranges (Dimplex FXLi and Creda TSF Turbo) and one manual range (Dimplex VFM).|
Table notes: Typical price guides represent the most common prices for each type of storage heater. Ranges are based on a sample of 152 storage heaters, exact ranges are (sample size in brackets): manual storage heaters (48), £149-£1,867; automatic storage heaters (45), £165-£1,221; automatic combination storage heaters (50), £175-£906; quantum storage heaters (9) £525-£834; fan assisted storage heaters (34), £175-£1,867.
Storage heater installation costs
You'll need to make sure you get your storage heater installed by a qualified electrician. Prices can vary so make sure you always get at least three quotes. You can find a recommended electrician who has been through our rigorous checks by visiting Which? Trusted Traders.
Installing a replacement storage heater usually costs from about £45 if there is existing wiring. It will cost more if it's a new installation, as this will require new wiring. Prices also vary depending on location.
Generally speaking, the more you spend on a storage heater, the more features your model will have.
Storage heater features
Common useful storage heater features include:
- boost function - some storage heaters have a boost function to give you extra warmth when you need it
- fan assist - a number of storage heaters, usually auto-combination models, include a silent fan that helps to dispel heat more efficiently
- programmable heating schedules - many newer storage heaters allow you to set customised heating patterns, just as you would with gas central heating
- size - if your room is large, or not very energy efficient, you may need a larger storage heater to warm it effectively
- thermostatic controls - some heaters come with thermostatic controls, which will keep the temperature of the room at your chosen temperature.
Manual storage heaters are the cheapest to buy, but are very basic and don't allow much control over the heat output. This can lead to wasted energy and overheated rooms.
Because of this, manual storage heaters are gradually being phased out and replaced by more efficient, automatic models. An automatic storage heater will save you money in the long run, but usually cost more up front.
Pros of storage heaters
The main advantage of storage heaters is that they're cheaper to run compared with other types of electrical heating that operate during peak hours.
Although older storage heater models can be bulkier and fairly basic, many of the modern versions come with a built-in thermostat. This allows them to release heat as needed, depending on the external temperature. This means you'll use less energy overheating your house when it doesn't need it, and should help you save on your bills.
Storage heaters are exceptionally quiet, even those that use a fan.
They are easy to install and can be situated anywhere that electricity can be wired, and a wall bracket mounted.
Cons of storage heaters
Storage heaters use electricity, which is more expensive than gas, so are typically only used by households that are off the gas grid.
If excess heat is stored by some basic models, it will still be released. This can lead to overheated rooms.
By the evening, much of the stored heat has usually been released, when in fact this is usually when most households want to crank up the temperature.
Need an extra burst of heat? We reveal the best electric heaters.
Storage heaters and solar panels
If you have solar panels, the savings you make from using the electricity you generate will always outweigh the money you'll make by exporting it back to the grid.
With this in mind, it's worth using the electricity your panels generate to charge up storage heaters during the day, and release the heat in the evening.
Storage heaters and asbestos
Some older storage heaters, typically those produced before 1974, used asbestos to reduce the risk of fire. If a storage heater containing asbestos is damaged, it may release asbestos dust and fibres. If asbestos fibres are breathed in, they can cause damage to lungs, and are known to contribute to a range of cancers.
If you have an old storage heater in your home and are concerned that it contains asbestos, you can visit Storageheaters.com for a full list of affected models.
If you do discover that your storage heater contains asbestos, you should contact your local council to organise the heater's safe removal.