Every storage heater that has ever been made works in exactly the same way. They consist of a core of ceramic blocks which are heated by electric elements. These blocks were originally similar in size to ordinary house bricks (which is why they were and still are called bricks) except that they had grooves in them for the heating elements and to allow circulation of air through the core. Over the years the size and shape of the bricks and the material from which they are made have changed, although they have always been of a size and shape and weight which allows them to be easily handled by just one person.
Once the power to the heating elements comes on the bricks start to heat up, and a few hours later they will be very hot indeed. This core is surrounded by insulating panels.
Over the past fifty years many new insulating materials have been developed. Originally some of the heat used to warm the room came through the walls of the heater and some from warm air circulating through the core. As better insulating materials were developed more and more of the heat warming the room came from the air circulating through the core and less and less through the walls of the heater, and then a fan was added to give better control of the flow of air through the core. Today's storage heaters have such good insulation that the only heat coming into the room is from air being blown through the hot core by an ultra-quiet fan and then the warm air coming out of the bottom of the heater at floor level, the outside of the heater is barely warm to the touch.
To warm the room when no heat is stored in the core, for example during a cool evening in the summer months, today’s storage heaters also include a conventional convector heater - this is discussed further on another Page.
Storage heaters are not central heating: each room has its own separate heater with its own controls. We live in a late-Victorian mid-terrace house on four floors, with lots of stairs and landings. In 1979 we installed eight storage heaters. We wanted the heater in the hall to keep the hall and all the stairs and all the landings “nice and warm” twenty fours a day and seven days a week, and forty years later this is still what we want, and forty years later it is still doing exactly that. It has stopped working only once in this time, and that was the second day after the 1987 “hurricane”, when we had had no electricity for two nights running. And over the past forty years we have spent not one penny on repairs or maintenance on it, or in fact on any of our storage heaters.
Of course over forty years we have replaced the heaters in the other rooms, one at a time, not because the old ones have stopped working but because the children have left home and our life-style and our life-style expectations have changed. In the same way, if you were installing a new gas-fired central heating system today you would not choose the same sort of system your parents would have chosen forty years ago.
The rest of this Section of my Web Site is only about our experiences of the latest Quantum heaters because if you want to find out about modern storage heating telling you about our ten or twenty or thirty or forty year old ones will not help you. But there is another Page on early storage heaters.
All Quantum heaters work in exactly the same way, they differ only in the number of bricks in the core and so the amount of heat they can store. If you do not buy one big enough for the room you want to heat it may not always be warm enough unless you also use the convector heater, but this uses full-price electricity. If you buy one too big it will work perfectly, it will be the same height and depth but a little longer. It will not cost any more to run but will be a little more expensive to buy. You can work out what size you need by looking at the Quantum Web Site but if in doubt buy the next size up.
A storage heater needs two separate power supplies. The first is for the interruptible supply which heats the core. This must have its own connection to the house distribution board and meter, and will have its own 30 A circuit breaker. The second is for the fan and the micro-processor which controls the heater, and also the convector heater; this can be connected to the ordinary 13 A ring main circuit.
A Quantum heater is programmed from a touch-pad on the top. You can set the temperature you want for each hour of the day and each day of the week or for holiday time. Remember that storage heating is not central heating: because different rooms have different heating requirements storage heaters in different rooms can be programmed completely separately. Don’t forget to turn on the child lock if you think you need to. If a room is large enough to need more than one heater you can program just one heater and set all the other heaters in the room to be slaves which follow the same program.
Programming a Quantum heater can be as easy as setting up the controls on a gas-fired boiler, but if you are new to storage heaters it might be worth while to ask your installer to spend a few minutes in helping you to set up the controls for each room separately.
The latest Quantum heaters have a Smartphone app which allows you to control them remotely, each one separately if you want!
Speaking from experience, if you regularly have little children in your home it is best (and of course most convenient for you) if the main wall switches are at waist height rather than skirting board height - otherwise you may not notice that they have been turned off until the house is cold - two days later!