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Home & garden.

16 July 2021

Storage heaters explained

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.
Sarah Ingrams
Storage heater on wall 451084

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 electricity prices.

What are storage heaters?

Storage heaters are electric heaters that store thermal energy by heating up internal ceramic bricks during the night and then release heat from them to keep your home warm during the day. 

Storage heaters are primarily designed for customers who are on a time-of-use electricity tariff, such as Economy 7 and pay a cheaper rate for their energy overnight (usually 12pm-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 don’t have mains gas.

How much do storage heaters cost?

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 used to be five main types of storage heater, and they varied by the level of control, energy efficiency and price.

However, from 1 January 2018, all newly manufactured storage heaters must have certain features so that they comply with Lot20, part of the European Ecodesign Directive. This essentially means that all storage heaters you can buy essentially work in the same way.

All new electric storage heaters must meet a minimum energy efficiency rating of 38% for a heat output above 250W. To meet this, manufacturers are adding the following to their heaters:

  • Digital programmers
  • Open window sensors
  • Electronic room temperature controls
  • Wi-fi controls

Generally speaking, the more you spend on a storage heater, the more features your model will have. Major brands include Creda, Dimplex, Elnur, Heatstore, Stiebel Eltron and Vent Axia.

Most modern models have built-in thermostats and many also have ‘fan-assist’ to help spread the heat around the space. Also look out for high-heat retention casing and ‘intelligent charge’.

Dimplex’s Quantum storage heater range claims to be the ‘most advanced, economical off-peak’ heater. You can programme it with daily and weekly schedules (or choose from its three preset profiles) using its LCD screen, which is colour-coded for clarity. You can set the room temperature, while its iQ controller monitors the room and learns your habits so it can adapt to your movements. It also has a fan, a thermostat so you can set room temperature, a child-lock and boost function if you need heat straightaway. It costs around £800.

The following types of storage heater are unlikely to be on sale, but you may have them in your home already.

Manual storage heaters

The cheapest and most basic. They store energy at night and release heat automatically during the day. They continue running unless you switch them off.

Automatic combination

These combine a storage heater and a traditional electric convection heater. You can switch on the convection heater anytime to give an instant boost of warmth. They need a power supply and were usually installed in large rooms where a storage heater alone wasn't sufficient.

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.

You can search for a Which? Trusted Trader in your area using our search tool below.

Installing a replacement storage heater usually costs from about £70 if there is existing wiring (not including the cost of the new heater). It will cost more if it’s a new installation, as this will require new wiring. Prices also vary depending on location. 

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: newer storage heaters should have controls to let you to set customised heating patterns for different days and times, 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: new heaters have thermostatic controls, which will get the room heated to your chosen temperature
  • Remote controls: some models can be controlled via remote or from your smart phone over wi-fi

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, those made since 2018 must have built-in programmable timers, fans and thermostats. 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, will be mounted on to your wall and can be situated anywhere that electricity can be wired.

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 and 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 and release the heat in the evening. 

Find out more about solar panels.

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 these 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.