Using storage heaters efficiently

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

Storage heaters are a type of electric heater. They’re also called night storage heaters.

Storage heaters are designed to work with energy tariffs like Economy 7 that have different prices for electricity at different times.

They use cheaper electricity during ‘off-peak’ times to store heat. You control when the storage heater releases heat during the day.

It’s important to make sure your storage heater is set up correctly so you don’t pay more for electricity than you need to.

Check your energy tariff

If you have storage heaters, you’ll usually be on an Economy 7 tariff.

Economy 7 gives you electricity for:

  • a below average price for 7 hours at night - the off peak price

  • an above average price during the day - the peak price

There are other tariffs that have off peak times - for example, Economy 10.

If you don’t know what tariff you’re on

Check your energy bill. If you’re on a tariff with off-peak prices, you’ll see:

  • 2 or more prices ‘per kWh’ for your electricity - they might be called the ‘day’ and ‘night’ rate or the ‘peak’ and ‘off-peak’ rate

  • 2 or more sets of meter readings

Talk to your supplier if you’re not sure what tariff you’re on.

Check the times your energy is cheaper

If you’re on Economy 7, you’ll usually get your 7 hours of cheaper electricity sometime between 11pm and 8am.

The exact hours depend on your supplier or where you live - contact your supplier if you’re not sure.

Your off-peak hours change when the clocks change. For example, your hours might be midnight to 7am in winter. They would change to 1am to 8am when the clocks go forward in March.

If you’re not on an off-peak tariff like Economy 7

Talk to your energy supplier. Tell them you use storage heaters and you want to make sure you’re on the right tariff.

Tell them how much you use your storage heaters so they can help you find the best tariff for your situation. If you have storage heaters but rarely use them, Economy 7 might be more expensive.

Using your storage heater

You might have a storage heater that has 2 dials. The numbers on the dials usually go up to 5 or 6.

Example

This is an example of an older storage heater with manual controls. 

You might have a storage heater that has buttons and a digital display.

Example

This is an example of a modern storage heater that can do some things automatically.

Using a storage heater with 2 dials

Your storage heater should be directly connected to your off-peak electricity supply. This means it automatically charges up with heat when the cheaper off-peak time starts.

The 2 dials on your storage heater will usually be labelled:

  • ‘input’ - or sometimes ‘overnight charge’

  • ‘output’ - or sometimes ‘room temperature’ or ‘boost’

Set the input dial to control how much heat is stored during the off-peak time.

The higher you set this dial:

  • the more electricity you use

  • the more heat you store for the next day

Set the output dial to control how much of the heat you’ve stored is released.

Setting how much heat is stored

It’s a good idea to set your storage heater controls before you go to bed.

Set the output dial to the lowest number - this stops heat being used overnight.

The number you set the input dial to depends on how much heat you think you’ll need the next day. Check tomorrow’s weather and think about how much you’ll be at home.

Use these settings as a guide:

Season Input setting
Season
Spring
Input setting
1 to 3
Season
Summer
Input setting
1
Season
Autumn
Input setting
1 to 3
Season
Winter
Input setting
5 or 6

Setting how much heat is released

Set the output dial during the day to release the stored heat. Turn it up for more heat and down for less heat.

It doesn’t matter what the input dial is set to during the day - it won’t automatically store heat during peak times.

During the morning and afternoon, try to set the output as low as you find comfortable. The less heat you use during the day, the more you’ll be able to save for the evening.

For example, during colder months you might use the following settings:

Time of the day Output setting
Time of the day
Morning
Output setting
3
Time of the day
Daytime
Output setting
2
Time of the day
When you're not at home
Output setting
1
Time of the day
Evening
Output setting
5

If you don’t need heating because the weather’s warm

Turn your storage heater off at the wall.

If you run out of heat

Set the input to a higher number at night. This will store more heat at the off-peak price, so you’re less likely to run out the next day.

Some storage heaters have a setting that gives extra heat at any time.

This extra heat uses electricity at the more expensive peak price.

How you control the extra heat depends on the storage heater you have. There might be a separate switch or dial - sometimes called a ‘boost’ control.

In some storage heaters, the extra heat is turned on automatically when the stored heat runs out.

It’s important to know how these settings work on your storage heater. Your electricity bills might be high if you regularly use extra heat.

If you’re not sure how it works, check the user manual or look for instructions online.

Check the instructions

You can find the manuals or guide for your storage heater on the manufacturer’s website.

Some common storage heaters are made by:

You can also search online for videos showing how to use your model of storage heater.

Using a storage heater with a digital display

Your storage heater should be directly connected to your off-peak electricity supply. This means it automatically charges up with heat when the cheaper off-peak time starts.

Modern storage heaters can be set up to automatically decide how much heat to store at off-peak times. They use information about the weather and your usual heating patterns.

Modern storage heaters also have controls to automatically turn your heater on or off during the day.

You can set:

  • the temperature you want the room to be

  • the times you want the heater to be on or off

Set the room temperature

Use the dial or buttons to change the thermostat temperature. When the room reaches that temperature, the heater reduces how much heat it gives out.

It won’t always be able to reach the temperature you’ve set if there’s not enough heat left.

You’ll usually find that a temperature between 18°C and 21°C is comfortable. If you have a health condition that could be made worse by the cold, you shouldn’t set your thermostat lower than 21°C.

Set the timer

Your storage heater might have pre-programmed timer settings like:

  • ‘out all day’ - so it only gives out heat in the morning and evening

  • ‘home all day’ - so it heats all day

You can also create your own timer settings.

If you don’t need heating because the weather’s warm

Turn your storage heater off at the wall.

You shouldn’t lose any of your settings - modern storage heaters usually have a battery that backs up your clock and any timers you’ve set.

If you run out of heat

Some storage heaters have a setting that gives extra heat at any time. This extra heat uses electricity at the more expensive peak price.

How you control the extra heat depends on the storage heater you have. It’s sometimes called the ‘boost’ setting.

You might also have an ‘auto boost’ setting that automatically turns on the extra heat when the thermostat drops below the temperature you’ve set. It’s best to turn the auto boost off.

It’s important to know how these settings work on your storage heater. Your electricity bills might be high if you regularly use extra heat.

If you’re not sure how it works, check the user manual or look for instructions online.

Check the instructions

You can find the manuals or guide for your storage heater on the manufacturer’s website.

Some common storage heaters are made by:

You can also search online for videos showing how to use your model of storage heater.

Make sure your storage heater is safe

Don’t cover the surface of your storage heater or put things too close to it. For example:

  • don’t hang clothes or washing on your heater

  • don’t put furniture directly in front of your heater - leave a gap of at least 30cm (or around 12 inches)

  • if there’s a window above your heater, don’t let curtains hang too close to the top of the heater - leave a gap of at least 7.5cm (or around 3 inches)

If your storage heater isn’t working

If you rent your home, your landlord is responsible for making repairs to your heating. Tell your landlord if your storage heater isn’t working and needs to be repaired.

Get help with repairs if you rent from a private landlord.

Get help with repairs if you live in social housing.

If you own your home and need to find someone to repair your storage heater, make sure you find a trader you can trust.

Replacing storage heaters

Older storage heaters with manual controls can be less efficient and cost more to run.

If you’re thinking of replacing old storage heaters, you could:

  • get a more modern storage heater - ‘high heat retention’ storage heaters are the most efficient

  • get connected to the gas grid and get central heating - this might not be possible if you live in certain places

  • replace storage heaters with a heat pump - this is a low carbon way of heating that uses less electricity, but can be expensive to install

You might be able to get help with the cost of a new storage heater or heat pump, or getting connected to the gas grid and getting central heating. Check if you can get help making energy efficiency changes to your home.

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Page last reviewed on 05 July 2023