A storage heater is an electrical heater that uses “heat banks” to charge the heater. The heat banks consist of insulated clay bricks and ceramic elements to maintain heat when the heater is off. Storage heaters charge during off-peak electricity hours for cost-efficient heating. In the United Kingdom, off-peak electricity hours provide discounted prices for electric use. Both types of storage heaters have an adjustable output that releases more or less heat from the heat bank.
Automatic storage heaters are generally more expensive than manual storage heaters. The unit is set to generate heat at a comfortable temperature selected by the user. After an automatic storage heater is set, it turns on to generate enough heat in the heat bank to consistently meet the temperature set by the user.
Manual storage heaters do not have automatic settings. The user adjusts the heater’s temperature as the weather gets colder or warmer. Manual heaters should be adjusted daily to ensure the heat bank is properly charged for the next day’s weather forecast.
Off-peak electricity hours are times when electrical suppliers decrease the electrical wattage to conserve energy. To improve a home’s energy efficiency, some electrical suppliers install a meter that designates when electric is supplied at a reduced wattage. These types of meters generally reduce the electricity output during peak hours and allow a storage heater to run more economically.
Although automatic storage heaters are more expensive, they adjust heat based on the room’s temperature. After a comfortable room temperature is selected, an automatic storage heater turns on and charges the heat bank during off-peak hours. The result of automatic settings is about 15 percent more efficient than a manual storage heater, which pays for the higher cost of the storage heater in a short time frame.
The National Energy Foundation suggests storage heaters are used to supplement another heat source during cold winter months. Storage heaters perform efficiently in well-insulated homes, providing up to 90 percent of the heat for comfortable living conditions. During off-peak electricity hours or if an electricity meter is installed to lower costs, run appliances such as dishwashers, washers, dryers and storage heaters at different times to take advantage of the lower electricity rate.