Electric Storage Heaters: How They Work in 2022

A storage heater with an electricity symbol hovering over it

Many people in Ireland have storage heaters fitted in their homes but not everyone knows what they're for and how they can help you save money on your energy bills. In our complete storage heater guide, we'll go into the details and examine what a storage heater is, how they are used, arranging installation and possible savings you could make.

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What Is a Storage Heater?

A gold radiator

Storage heaters, also known as heat banks, are wall-mounted heaters that draw electricity during the night time when energy rates are usually cheaper and store the electricity as heat in a bank of ceramic or clay bricks inside the heater.

The heat stored is then released over the coming day. Of course, to get any financial benefit from a storage heater, you will need to be on a Nightsaver tariff in order to take advantage of cheaper electricity at night.

Is a Storage Heater the Same as an Electric Heater?

A storage heater is technically an electric heater, but not all electric heaters can be considered storage heaters.

This is because while a storage heater does draw on the electricity supply, there are also many other types of electric heaters which convert the electricity to heat for releasing at that moment instead of storing it for later use, such as convection or fan heaters.

What Types of Storage Heaters Are There?

A gold radiator

There are currently five different types of storage heaters:

  1. Manual
  2. Automatic
  3. Automatic combination
  4. Fan-assisted
  5. Quantum

Manual storage heaters

Manual storage heaters are the most common type of storage heater, in principle because they are the cheapest and the oldest type. They simply absorb heat energy and release it slowly. The disadvantage of manual heaters is that without a thermostat or timer, heat is not always available when needed. For example, in the cooler winter evenings.

This is because without a timer function, stored heat is released throughout the day and can “run out” before the evening time. For many people this is quite impractical as they are away from home during the day and require heating later on when they arrive home.

Manual storage heaters may be cheap but this is a pretty big drawback and we would advise spending a few more quid on one of the types below before purchasing a manual heater.

What Are Automatic Storage Heaters?

Automatic storage heaters do exactly what it says on the tin - they automate storage and release of heat. An upgrade on manual storage heaters, automatic ones eliminate the issues faced by manual ones by allowing heat release to be timed.

The addition of a thermostat also prevents rooms from overheating and slows the release of heat to make sure you’ll still be toasty come later on in the day.

What Are Automatic Combination Storage Heaters?

Also called combined storage heaters, automatic combination storage heaters are automatic storage heaters which also have a convection heater. The convection heater setting can be run concurrently with manual heat release or either mode can be used on its own.

The advantage of the added convection heating is that you can use it to “top up” your heating if stored heat runs out before it should.

What Are Fan-Assisted Storage Heaters?

Fan-assisted storage heaters are the same as manual or automatic storage heaters, but use fans to help spread heat more evenly around the rooms they are in. Most come with automatic functions such as a timer and a thermostat, but do make sure the make you are thinking of buying has such functions before you invest in one.

These storage heater-types can avoid the issues of hot and cold spots which can arise when using manual heaters.

What Are Quantum Storage Heaters?

Quantum storage heaters are to manual storage heaters as a Tesla is to an old Ford Fiesta. These modern-looking heaters can be manually and digitally controlled and can be up to 27% cheaper to run when compared to other types of storage heaters. This is achieved by a more efficient and well-insulated core.

Quantum storage heaters also have a fan to better distribute heat and complex inbuilt algorithms that enable them to learn the heating habits of users, much like a smart thermostat. Many quantum storage heaters can connect to WiFi and be controlled from a smartphone.

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How Do I Use a Storage Heater?

Two gold electricity bolts

First and foremost, make sure you have a Nightsaver meter installed, as you will need another meter to record usage of cheaper night-time electricity. While you can still use a storage heater with a regular electricity tariff, we don’t advise it as you will pretty much eliminate any savings you could make by using a storage heater.

An important point to note is that storage heaters work individually. While at first glance this may seem like a bit of a pain, it’s actually quite useful. It means that you wont need to heat unused rooms or will be able to spend less on certain rooms which are unoccupied for most of the day, for example, bedrooms.

You can then crank up the heat in the main communal areas such as the kitchen or sitting room. In order to use your storage heater, you will need to turn the switch on both for storing heat and releasing heat. Depending on which type of storage heater you have, you’ll also need to set the input and output dials.

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What Is Input?

The input will control the amount of heat stored during off-peak hours, and as such, will be the setting which has the most direct influence on your electricity bill. A lower input is more suitable for milder, cool temperatures, such as in spring or autumn, while a higher input setting would be necessary during winter.

During the summer months or periods when the weather is warm enough that no heating is necessary, you should just switch your storage heaters off. Otherwise, they will continue to draw on the electricity supply at night.

Another advantage of storage heaters is that as they are not connected to pipes, as with traditional central heating systems, and so there is no danger of pipes freezing and bursting. You can turn them off completely while you are away from home on holidays.

What Is Output?

As I’m sure you have gathered, the output setting controls how much heat the storage heater emits, much like the valve on a radiator. You should turn the heater off when away from home, and set it to a lower temperature at night.

How Do I Use My Storage Heater Efficiently?

In order to use your storage heater safely and efficiently, there are definitely a few things you should keep in mind.

  • Don't Cover the Vents
    Do not cover the vents of your storage heaters. Doing so will prevent heat from being radiated or dispersed into the room, and could also cause a fire.

  • Don't Let Curtains Get Too Close
    If your storage heater is below a window, do not have long curtains over the window. Even with short curtains, there must be a space of at least 15cm between the bottom of the curtains and the top of the storage heater. Curtains around or on top of the heater could present a fire hazard. Additionally, longer curtains will actually funnel the heat out the window and not into the room where it is needed.

  • Don't Forget About Efficiency
    Installing some radiator reflector sheets behind your storage heaters is an economical way to increase their efficiency by reflecting heat back into the room, instead of allowing it to be absorbed by the walls. This is particularly useful in the case of external walls which tend to be colder.

For more information on how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to keeping your house warm and energy-efficient, we suggest you take a look at our guide on 101 ways to save money on your energy bills.

How Do I Get Storage Heaters Installed?

A silver electricity meter

Storage heaters should only be installed by a registered electrical contractor. Otherwise, if there is a fault, accident or fire caused by the heater, both the warranty and your home insurance could be invalid. Not to mention the potential dangerous complcations that could arise, such as electrocution or fire.

Storage heaters are relatively simple, quick, and thus relatively cheap, to install. The cost of installing storage heaters in your home is only a fraction of what installing central heating or underfloor heating system would cost. It is also much faster and more convenient to install as no piping needs to be retrofit.

Installers will remove and get rid of any existing heaters and carry out any electrical work needed, such as rewiring existing connections or wiring in new connections.

How Much Does It Cost To Get a Storage Heater?

This depends on which type of heater you buy, with manual storage heaters being much cheaper than Quantum heaters, for example. However, depending on the size and output capability of the heater, a storage heater and installation can cost between €469 to €660 per heater.

How Much Money Can Storage Heaters Save You?

How much money you can save with storage heaters really depends on your usage and the size of your house, but the Irish company Storageheater.ie claims your heating bills could be lowered by a whopping 40%.

The average gas bill in Ireland works out at €805 a year, although 21% of this is usually for heating water, which storage heaters do not do. That leaves €635.95 used for heating purposes alone, so if your usage is average, that means you could be saving roughly €254 a year.

An average three or four bed house has around ten radiators, so it could cost you between €4690 to €6600 to get your house kitted out with storage heaters. In the long term if you opt for the lower end of the heater pricing scale, it would still take you at least 18 years to “earn back” the investment.

Typically central heating installation can also cost around €5000 and you would be paying 40% more on your heating bills.

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What Are the Pros and Cons of Storage Heaters?

Perhaps you’ve already decided that storage heaters are for you, you’re still on the fence about it, or you’ve ruled them out completely. Whatever your choice, it could help to consider all the pros and cons before making a firm decision.

Pros Cons
Cheaper to run than other types of electric heating. Electricity is still more expensive than gas.
Very quiet. Manual storage heaters can cause overheated and underheated rooms due to a lack of control and timing.
Easy and quick to install. Most heat has been released by evening time.
No plumbing or pipework needed. Rewiring may be necessary.
Newer quantum heaters can be very stylish. A Nightsaver meter must be installed.
If one fails the others will still work, unlike if your boiler fails and you’re left without heating. Fire risk if clothes are dried on them or they are covered.
No need to leave the heating on while away to avoid frozen or burst pipes. Unless your heater has a convection setting, you can’t generate heat on demand.
Very little maintenance is required. Top-up convection heating will be charged at an expensive daytime electricity rate.

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