If you have found this article, and are looking for Economy 7 alternatives then the chances are you are one of the many people stuck in the Economy 7 rut, the victim of the Energy Companies’ ever increasing prices, especially on the daytime portion of the Economy 7 tariff, which seems to increase relentlessly every year. At the time of writing this article, most Economy 7 users are paying almost double the price that standard electricity customers pay for their daytime electricity, and news has been announced in the press that some SSE Customers are paying 35% more for Economy 7 due to the recent round of price increases (November 2013)
Suffice to say that Economy 7 Storage Heating is expensive to run, and its getting more and more expensive each year, forcing more and more families and vulnerable groups into fuel poverty. Yes, once again it is those least able to afford expensive energy price hikes and those most vulnerable to cold weather who lose out – yet again.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it is generally widely accepted that Storage Heating is NOT the most efficient method of heating a house or a flat either, especially in an older building or one in a state of poor repair and effectively any use of Storage Heating requires you to plan the following day with almost military precision and watch the weather forecast the previous Evening, and set the heater controls before retiring to bed, ready to face the weather conditions the following day and hopefully, adequately heat the room.
Get this balance wrong, and you can be left boiling inside the house on a warm day, and freezing cold on a cold day, should you have forgotten to switch on the storage heater the night before, or have set it too low / high!. This gamble is even more applicable in Spring and Autumn, where in the UK, temperature swings between outside warmth and cold can appear and be very unpredictable even with a weather forecast.
Storage heaters were actually originally designed to be used in offices and workplaces outside of mains gas areas with the intention of keeping the workplace warm only during working hours, hence why they are very warm, and at their most effective at the start of the working day, but have given out the majority of their heat by 4pm – 5pm. Improvements in modern storage heater design have included better levels of internal insulation and controls which delay the output of their stored heat until later in the Afternoon, however these improvements still fell short of basic physics and even modern storage heaters have lost the bulk of their heat by Evening, leaving many people cold during the winter months, when they return from work or it goes dark during the late afternoon and the outside temperature rapidly drops below freezing.
For most Economy 7 / Storage Heater users, there is the reliance at some point in the Evening to use portable Electric Heaters to top up the heat from the flagging storage heaters. Often these supplementary heaters are switched on at a time when the customer is paying well over the odds for their peak rate Electricity. Even a low cost 2kw fan heater or Convector heater will consume two units of Electricity for every hour it is run, and with an average cost of 20p per unit for peak rate electricity, it will cost a princely 40p per hour just to run one small heater in order to keep the temperature of one room to a comfortable level, and that is an eye watering £2.00 just to pump a small amount of additional heat into a room for a period of five hours!.
Electricity Companies, know that the bulk of their Economy 7 customers are generally located in rural areas, living in supported accommodation or are Tenants of Landlords – non of which can easily obtain Gas Central Heating or will go to the expense of fitting cheaper, more efficient methods of heating, and so additional Electric Heaters are generally their first and only choice.
The net result, is that the Energy Companies continue to hike their daytime peak rates in order to claw back most of the discount that they give on the seven hours of off peak overnight electricity. Its a win – win situation for the energy companies, but the Economy 7 consumer loses out, and is faced with extremely high electricity bills as a direct result, bills which increase far faster than their domestic single rate counterparts, after all, E7 customers have two tariffs which get hiked, non E7 customers only have one tariff.
Now for the good news!, there are some alternatives available which can save money, without making changes / improvements to the building or paying for expensive installation and maintenance costs.
The first, and recommended alternative to Electric Heating is to use a Japanese Inverter Heater, fueled by Paraffin or Domestic Heating oil. These are portable fan assisted heaters, which require no installation, create no condensation issues and require no external flue or modifications to the property. Basically fill these clever Inverter Heaters with Paraffin (or ideally domestic Heating Oil for maximum savings) plug in and switch on for instant low cost controllable heat for around 6p – 7p per kw/h – which is almost 70% cheaper than Economy 7 daytime rates and even around half of the cost of standard electricity tariffs. This was how I personally solved my own storage heater woes, and my £100+ month Electricity bills during the coldest months were replaced by a reasonably modest £40 per month heating oil purchase!. Learn more about using these heaters, the savings that they offer and my own experience of heating a property with them, on my Home Heating Using Paraffin Heaters page.
You can also use Portable Calor Gas heaters, which run on bottled Butane or LPG gas. The cost of running these is around 13p to 16p per KW/H (which is still a saving over the 20p+ KW/H daytime E7 rates), but they do not offer quite the same type of saving as the above Paraffin Inverter Heater, however the actual outlay cost of buying the heater itself is less than the Inverter Heater. Calor Gas heaters do produce some condensation and require good ventilation, and so they should only be used in larger rooms and with good ventilation.
If you live in a poorly insulated building, then you will probably should also consider buying a form of personal heating, which is designed to heat the person directly, rather than the air in the room. Examples of these types of heater include Halogen Heaters and the new range of Infra Red Panel Heaters, both of these types of heaters direct their heat directly at a person, rather than heating the entire room space, which, in a poorly insulated or drafty property can prove expensive.
All of these suggestions will effectively save you quite a large amount of money compared to running expensive supplementary Electric Heaters, however further savings can be made by improving the heat retention of your room or property and that is to better the insulation level itself. Whilst improvements to the property fabric can be expensive, some of these improvements can be done cheaply and without the permission of a landlord, such as investing in self-application insulating window film, fitting draught excluders to all external doors and considering also putting curtains over these doors. If excessive damp or condensation is also a problem, then a dehumidifier should also be considered, as these can not only save damage to the building and walls, but a humid / damp room can actually feel much colder than it really is, and so drying it out will result in the requirement to pump more heat into it.
Additional savings can also be made by simply only heating the room which you are using at the time, and you can also buy heated throws which can be put over you whilst you watch TV or read at night. Electric Blankets are also a good idea if you suffer from the cold during the night and are far more effective and significantly cheaper than actually heating the entire room
The cost of running a heated throw is around 15p – 20p for a 12 hour period, whilst the cost of running an Electric Blanket is roughly the same, although of course, if you have an Economy 7 tariff then the blanket will be running largely on the cheaper off peak tariff overnight, and in this case, should cost no more than 4p – 5p per night.