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Blog Post 17 February 2022

A guide to using electric storage heater controls

Do you know how to use the controls on your electric storage heaters?

Understanding how controls work and knowing how to use them properly can help to run your heating system more efficiently. This can help to reduce your energy bills by ensuring you’re only using heating when you need it.

It’s estimated that between 5-10% of homes in the UK currently use electric heating. If you’re one of those households, our guide can help you use your controls to reduce the cost of keeping warm.

What are electric storage heaters?

These are the most common type of electric heating – and the second most common type of heating system behind gas and oil boilers. They’re sometimes referred to as night storage heaters as they’re designed to work with electricity tariffs that supply cheaper electricity at certain times of day, usually overnight.

If you’re in Scotland, you may have another meter type that gives you afternoon or evening periods for your storage heaters, in addition to the overnight charge. If that’s you, Home Energy Scotland can help you understand your tariff and controls.

If you have older storage heaters, they have input and output dials. The input dial controls the electricity used, and the output dial controls the release of stored heat.

Input dial

The input controls how much electricity your heater uses, and how much heat you’ll get. The higher it is set, the more electricity it will use and the more the heat will be stored. How high you set the input dial depends on how cold you think it’s going to be the next day.

If you think it will be cold, this should be set high so that the heater stores enough heat to last you the next day. If the weather will be milder tomorrow, turn it down so that you don’t store more heat than you need. Remember, the higher the setting, the more electricity you will use – and it will cost more to run. And any changes you make to your input setting won’t happen until the next day.

Output dial

The output dial controls the release of heat – the higher it is set, the quicker heat emits from the heater. If it’s set on minimum, the heater will still release out the heat that’s been stored overnight – it will just do it more slowly.

Think about your daily routine and see if you can set your output control to suit this. To make the heat last all day, we recommend you leave the output dial on the minimum setting when you go to bed, and if you’re out during the day.

If it gets colder during the evening, you can turn the dial up higher to let the remaining heat escape faster. Don’t forget to turn the dial back to minimum before going to bed. Adjusting the output dial won’t cost any money, it is only releasing the heat you’ve already paid for, which the input dial controls.


Some heaters have an optional boost. You should only use the boost function if you’ve run out of stored heat as it may be using the most expensive electricity rate if you’re on an Economy 7 style tariff. Try to use this minimally and only in the coldest weather if you’ve run out of stored heat.

Newer electric storage heaters

If your storage heaters are newer than 2018, it’s likely they will have better controls and be more efficient.

Modern storage heaters generally come with improved controls, including an automatic charge control, thermostat and programmer. These controls work together to ensure that once the programme is set, the heater can control itself without you needing to make any adjustments, unless you want to change the programme.

It’s worth asking your installer to explain the controls to you; many manufacturers publish videos online explaining how to change them if needed.

If you have a different type of electric heating system in your home, our advice page may have more information to help you take control of your heating and electricity bills.

Last updated: 17 February 2022