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Please help me work out storage heater/ immersion heater issues!

(31 Posts)
jobnockey Wed 10-Feb-16 13:20:05

hello - sorry for rather long post but i need some help re: storage heaters. We’ve just moved into a rented property which has an economy 7 meter, storage heaters and immersion heater.

I don’t want storage heater nightmare stories as we totally love the house, just having some issues at the moment whilst getting used to how everything works… I’m hoping someone out there will be able to help as the estate agents are useless!

So, there are a total of 3 combination convection/storage heaters in the property, 1 of which I have got to work (switched on at wall, set input and output – this is giving out heat)

The other 2 heaters, instead of having an on/off switch at the wall, are plugged into those timer dial thingies (we used to have one on Central Heating controls, where you flip the little switchy bits to the time you want it on/off). I have switched it to on (rather than timed) thinking that this would mean heater will charge overnight etc but no, nothing has happened. I don’t know what the timer is for – is it just for the convection controls? (FWIW I had the timer on initially thinking this would control when it took in heat but apparently not as this didn’t work either)

Does anyone know what I’m doing wrong? The only think I can think of is that the storage heater doesn’t work and the convection heater was on a timer – which I haven’t yet worked out how to use????

Anyone have any clues? I cant find anything on the internet about storage heaters being plugged into timers…

Second is the immersion heater. It’s a simple on/off switch – I can’t see a timer or a thermostat. I don’t know whether to keep it switched on all the time or to have to try to remember to switch it on and off. Internet gives conflicting advice about this – anyone with real life experience who can help?

The house is generally draft free and heats up quite quickly once the convection heaters are switched on so I am fairly confident the storage heaters would be ok if only we could get them to work!

Anyone with more knowledge than me of heaters know if 3 storage heaters would cost less that just using an few hours of convection a day (i.e. couple hours in the evening, 1 in the bedroom in the morning)

I hope someone can help it’s giving me a headache trying to find information!!!

(we also have an electric ceramic hob but that is one for another thread! Trying to persuade landlord to upgrade it to an induction hob!)

peggyundercrackers Wed 10-Feb-16 13:38:15

maybe the storage heaters don't work and that's why you have convection heaters as well?

Hot water immersions seem to be used differently by different people - some leave them on all the time other put them on when the want hot water e.g. if you want hot water at 10:00 you switch it on at 08:00. When I lived at home it was switched on and off when we needed it - parents said they couldn't afford to leave it on all the time - this was 35 years ago though - no idea if they are any more efficient now as they got rid of it when they put GCH in and ive never lived in a house with one since then.

jobnockey Wed 10-Feb-16 13:52:40

Hiya, thanks for quick reply! I should clarify that the heaters are 1 unit but a combination of a storage heater but they're also able to be a convection heater as well (I only know this by googling... my knowledge of electrical heating appliances has increased by 200% in the last few days!)

I think the idea is you can just use the convection to 'top up' the stored heat or use on a chilly summer night if you don't have the storage heater on at the time - hope this makes sense.

the water actually heats up really quickly once immersion is switched on, in about 30 minutes it was hot enough for a shower, and then seems to stay hot for ages too. The tank looks fairly new so i'm guessing it must be super insulated. it's just annoying to have to remember to keep switching it on/off but I suppose we'll get used to it eventually if this is the most economical thing to do...

PigletJohn Wed 10-Feb-16 15:28:59

please show us a photo of your electricity meter, consumer unit, nearby electrical boxes, and the wires and cables around and between them.

What colour is the hot water cylinder?

jobnockey Wed 10-Feb-16 15:47:13

Thanks... I'll take some photos when I'm home tonight... although I know the water cylinder is green.

specialsubject Wed 10-Feb-16 16:29:28

storage heaters are perfectly usable with planning, understanding and the right tariff.

they should be wired so they only come on during your economy 7 hours, which vary.

job 1 - check your tariff, find out your night rate hours
job 2 - learn about the input and output controls

GUESSING that the other heaters aren't connected to the eco 7 timer - but are they? Again, see if they work during eco 7 hours.

re the immersion; most efficient way is to set it to come on during the cheap rate. This gives you your hot water until the next night time. Every time you run the hot water, cold comes into the tank. So do the washing up in one go AFTER showers/baths. Regular running of bits of hot water will cool the rest down. This is of course the same for any hot water tank system.

if your letting agents do nothing but flick hair, demand your landlord's contact details.

PigletJohn Wed 10-Feb-16 19:22:42

is there just one immersion heater, in the top, or is there one low down, in the side, as well?

jobnockey Wed 10-Feb-16 20:39:23

There's a pipe going into the top and one into the bottom...

jobnockey Wed 10-Feb-16 20:42:07

I haven't got any wifi at home yet so can't seem to post any photos... Will have to do it from work tomorrow..

PigletJohn Wed 10-Feb-16 20:44:22

the immersion heater is not a pipe, it is the electrical part. You will see a thickish flex going from a switch in the wall into a black plastic or grey metal round cap.about 100mm dia.

You can only see the cap because the element is in the water

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Wed 10-Feb-16 20:51:29

Storage heaters should be "on" so they flick on by themselves overnight - the timer - depends which way the dial works - a picture would be useful.

jobnockey Wed 10-Feb-16 21:58:28

In that case it looks like the immersion is going in the top only...I'll put some photos on tomorrow, thanks for your help!

PigletJohn Wed 10-Feb-16 22:20:24

that's a pity, because it will not be long enough to reach to the bottom, so the cylinder will never be full of hot water (the hot water rises to the top, and the cold water stratifies sharply and lies at the bottom of the cylinder, it is not stirred up and the layers do not mix). Water for the taps is drawn from the pipe at the top of the cylinder, and it is filled through the pipe at the bottom.

An immersion heater has a 3kW element and costs about 36p per hour to run at peak rate, and about half that at off-peak. It can warm about 60 litres of water in an hour (less in winter when it starts out colder). When the water reaches target temperature, the thermostat turns it off. An insulated cylinder will waste about 2kWh a day in escaping heat which will warm your airing cupboard. You can reduce it further by improving insulation, especially of the pipe coming out of the top.

Check your electricity bill to make sure you are on an E7-sort of tariff (your electricity meter should have two readings on it, possibly displayed by pressing a button, and there will be an indicator to show which rate is in force at the time you look at it). There will be a mechanism for automatically changing the tariff, like a timeclock or a radio switch, that I may be able to identify from the photos.

jobnockey Thu 11-Feb-16 09:15:12

Thanks pigletjohn, I guess that means we probably shouldn't leave it on all the time? It's annoying that there's no timer as would be good to heat it up for a few hours before we get up in the morning...

jobnockey Thu 11-Feb-16 09:17:46

Here's photos of the meter set up... We haven't actually set up an account yet but have a quote for an E7 tariff we're planning to go with...

jobnockey Thu 11-Feb-16 09:21:25

My other gripe is getting the storage heaters to work... They look like this..

jobnockey Thu 11-Feb-16 09:26:29

Like this (trying again)

jobnockey Thu 11-Feb-16 09:31:28

But two of them are plugged into the wall like this... And I can't get them to work other than with he on/off switch in the side which is the convection heater... The timer doesn't seem to do anything? I'm stumped!

jobnockey Thu 11-Feb-16 09:38:30

Just to clarify i mean the on./off switch on the side of the unit, not the timer plug...

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Thu 11-Feb-16 09:38:44

The timer should be switched to an Auto setting - it will have on/off/auto

The little thing will either need to be up or down - for when it starts heating up over night - so either down 12 -6 (ovs depends on tariff) with everything else up or up 12-6 I've seen both timers you'll have to try it

The correct time should be by a little arrow so 9.30 ish now

The input on the top is how much heat you want in - so max if very cold and out put the same - or min output in the miring saving some for later

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Thu 11-Feb-16 09:40:14

I think the timer is the middle button but can't quite see - you need to push the blue pins down - 12/6 or whatever and set the correct time

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Thu 11-Feb-16 09:41:29

Heater needs to be on - but won't be till the timers clicks on as it prevents the electricity till the right time

jobnockey Thu 11-Feb-16 10:38:59

Hi Sallyhasleftthebuidling... i can't work out why a storage heater needs a timer? we have another one in the same room exactly the same except it's not plugged into a timer (wire goes straight into an on/off switch) and that seems to be working as a storage heater no probs...

PigletJohn Thu 11-Feb-16 10:43:05

Looking at your metering setup:

you have a meter capable of recording Peak and Off-peak usage separately

There is a radio-controlled switch that should turn the meter between Peak and Off-peak according to a timed signal sent out by the supplier. This enables it to give you the hours set in your tariff, and it can turn on different houses at slightly different times so there is not an enormous surge on the network.

You have a consumer unit for general circuits, and a separate one (almost certainly) intended for the off-peak storage heaters and immersion.

I cannot see any timer to turn the storage circuits on and off at off-peak times (some houses have this) so you need to turn the storage heaters and immersion on either manually, or with your own timer.

If you want to find out your off-peak times, look at the meter. There is a flat spinning disk. During the day, one of them will be spinning, and during off-peak times, the other one.

The installation is very old. Perhaps from about 1970. The consumer units have had (relatively) modern MCBs fitted to replace the original rewirable fuses. I can't see colour coding but the blue one is probably for the immersion heater. There should be labels to identify what circuit each MCB controls. The ones for sockets should be marked B32 and the ones for lights should be B06. The immersion heater one should be B16

Those CUs are not suitable for an electric shower. I can see a thin cream wire which might be for a doorbell. It is unlikely to be suitable if it has been connected into the CU.

The earth connection looks rather small and I can't see evidence of main bonds to the gas and water pipes. There is no RCD protection against faults and electric shock.

looking at your storage heaters
They appear to have two flexes going into them. They will have been designed to take a timed off-peak supply on one, that will be "off" during peak times; and a permanent supply on the other, to run the convector heater. You need the timer on the "off-peak" flex, which usually has a permanent connection, not a flex.

It is very common for storage heaters not to work, especially in rented homes. Most often it is because someone has put towels or laundry on top, which prevents the heat getting out, causing overheating, which melts the thermal safety link. It is an easy job for an electrician to replace the link. The landlord will blame the tenant for breaking the safety instruction.

your immersion heater
If it does not have a timer, you can either turn it on when you go to bed (or at the time your off-peak starts, once you know it) and off when you get up; or have an E7 timer fitted in the airing cupboard. Horstmann make suitable timers. They have the facility for a manual override if you need to top up the cylinder during peak times. A qualified electrician is required, especially considering the age of the electrical installation. He may express an opinion about the Earth connection and the Main Bonds (if any).

PigletJohn Thu 11-Feb-16 10:55:52

BTW looking at your timer pic, the way it has been connected, with the cores exposed, is disgusting and unsafe. Try not to bump into the wires with a hoover or pet.

Avoid metal light switches and lamps., until advised otherwise by a competent person that the earthing is adequate, which at that age it might not be.

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