Getting to know your storage heater

Storage heaters can be tricky to use. Obscure labels, multiple meters and, at times, daily (or even hourly!) setting adjustments may add to the confusion, but we’re here to help you crack the code and make the most of them.  

Put simply, storage heaters store heat from electricity at night and slowly release it during the day. They’re a good option for all-electric homes that don’t need to be heated everywhere, for example in rooms that aren’t used often. Storage heaters work with a special two-rate electricity deal where electricity used at night is cheaper than electricity used during the day. 

  • The ‘Input’ control may also be referred to as the ‘Charge’ or ‘Autoset’ control
  • The ‘Output’ control is sometimes called ‘Boost’
  • Boost’ is also the name given to a separate control that uses expensive ‘on-peak’ electricity to provide a quick burst of heat – not to be confused with the above!

Older storage heaters come with two knobs – one for adjusting how much heat they ‘soak up’ overnight (called ‘Input’) and another for adjusting how fast that stored heat is released during the day (called ‘Output’). The ‘Input’ determines how much electricity the storage heater uses (and, consequently, impacts your energy bill); the ‘Output’ lets you decide how and when that heat gets circulated around the room.

Storage heaters won’t produce heat when the knobs are turned counter-clockwise all the way (e.g., if yours has numbers, when the dials are set to the lowest number). To make sure you have heat for the next day, turn the ‘Input’ dial clockwise. The more you turn it (i.e., the higher the number), the more heat will be stored overnight. The ‘Input’ setting is usually adjusted seasonally – low numbers when you don’t need heat, high numbers when you need to keep warm. Make sure that the ‘Output’ dial is fully turned off before you go to sleep so that the stored heat doesn’t all escape overnight.

Unlike the ‘Input’ control, the ‘Output’ setting needs adjusting throughout the next day, depending on how you wish to heat your home. For example, for a burst of heat in the morning, you might like to set the ‘Output’ to a high number for a short period of time. Or, if you plan to be away, turn the ‘Output’ to its lowest setting until your return. Be mindful that the heater has a finite amount of stored heat, so releasing too much too quickly might mean you won’t have enough by the end of the day to keep warm.

Many storage heaters also have a built-in convection heater that you can control through a ‘Boost’ function to add instant heat to a room. It’s often a switch, not a knob, and will light up orange/red when it’s on. Be aware that the boost comes at a cost – higher on-peak electricity prices – so only use it if you really need to, for example if you’ve run out of heat for the day and you’re cold.

Modern storage heaters come with additional controls and sensors, such as timers and thermostats, which make them a lot easier to use. They can also create a more even room temperature throughout the day if you open the adjustable flap as the room cools down, or set your timer based on when you’re going to need the heat. Many also come with product locks, which restrict access to some of the functions and may be helpful in a household with young children or vulnerable adults.

You’ll likely find two switches at the wall – one that supplies off-peak electricity to the heater and one that supplies on-peak electricity for the ‘Boost’ function (you may only see one switch if you don’t have a ‘Boost’ switch). Turn these off at the wall during the summer months to avoid accidentally wasting heat, energy and money. Note: If you have a digital display, you may need to reprogram the heater controls.

Trial and error!

For more information about storage heaters, visit our Home Energy pages. If your heater is broken or inefficient and you can’t afford to replace it, contact us for help.