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Are Storage Heaters Dangerous? 4 Things To Know

A storage heater is an energy-efficient heating appliance that stores heat using the off-peak electricity at night and then distributes that heat throughout the day. Naturally, some people are concerned about storing this much heat inside a device. So this begs the question – are storage heaters safe to use?

Storage heaters can be dangerous if you have an old model that contains asbestos. They also tend to get extremely hot and can become a fire hazard if you’re not careful. Other than this, storage heaters are known to dry out the air, which can lead to skin conditions and might aggravate your asthma.

In this article, I’ll share a comprehensive look at the various dangers associated with storage heaters. I’ve also highlighted different ways you can minimize these risks, so you can use your storage heaters safely and get the most out of the device.

Things To Know To Safely Use Your Storage Heaters

Storage heaters are relatively safe as long as you use them following the proper guidelines. However, if you don’t treat it with caution, it can become a danger to you and your house.

Here’s a look at the main dangers associated with a storage heater:

  • Old storage heaters might contain asbestos.
  • The grill of the storage heater can get extremely hot.
  • Covering the storage heater can make it a fire hazard.
  • Storage heaters can severely dry out the air.

In this article, I’ve provided more details on each of these factors. I’ve also highlighted what you can do to minimize these dangers and safely get the most of this super-efficient heating appliance.

1. Old Storage Heaters Might Contain Asbestos

Old storage heaters that were manufactured before the 1970s used asbestos – prolonged exposure to which can lead to mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer. As such, if you’re using a vintage storage heater, it is a potential health concern for you and your family.

Asbestos has excellent heat resistive qualities. Back in the 60s and 70s, it became a prevalent source of insulation – used in virtually almost all heaters and many electrical appliances. 

However, people identified the dangers associated with asbestos and decreased its usage over the years. Modern storage heaters – most models released after 1974 don’t use asbestos.

If you’re worried that your storage heater might contain asbestos, I’d recommend that you check out this list of storage heater models containing asbestos. You can also watch this detailed YouTube video on how to check whether your storage heater contains asbestos: 

If you find that your old storage heater does indeed contain asbestos, I’d advise that you dispose of it and get a new one as soon as possible. 

That said, don’t just throw it out or dump it somewhere, since there are strict laws and regulations regarding asbestos disposal and recycling. It’s best to call a professional or your local council and follow their suggestions. 

2. The Grill of the Storage Heater Can Get Extremely Hot

As the name implies, a storage heater stores heat and thus can get extremely hot. Near the grill or vents of a storage heater, temperatures can peak up to 230°F (110°C). As you can imagine, accidentally touching it for even a couple of seconds can leave you with a serious burn.

Furthermore, storage heaters are typically mounted near the floor. This amplifies the danger for children and pets. The elderly can also trip over the device and fall on it, which can result in a severe injury.

What’s worse is that mishaps like these do happen from time to time. Here’s an article highlighting how a storage heater at a primary school melted a plastic box containing children’s toys that were touching it.

That said, this is one of the more manageable problems. All you need to do is install a safeguard (caged box) that surrounds the storage heater. This will prevent anybody or anything from accidentally coming in contact with the heater. The safeguard will also increase its dimensions, making it more noticeable and less likely to trip on.

3. Covering the Storage Heater Can Make It a Fire Hazard

Because storage heaters can get so hot, it requires proper ventilation. Don’t cover it with anything or place furniture or objects too close. 

For instance, many people put a towel or blanket over their storage heaters to quickly warm them up. This is a terrible idea. You don’t want anything made of wool or cotton to be in contact with something so hot, since it can potentially lead to a fire.

Additionally, don’t place chairs or your study table too close to the storage heaters. Having big furniture nearby can disturb the natural heat dissipation process. As a result, the storage heater will get hotter, either damaging the device or becoming a fire hazard.

As a rule of thumb, you should keep at least a 3″ (75mm) gap between the storage heater and any furniture you keep on its side. If you have a curtain above the heater, maintain a minimum of 10″ (250mm) gap to avoid any mishaps.

4. Storage Heaters Can Severely Dry Out the Air

Storage heaters can drastically reduce the relative humidity inside your room(s), making the air extremely dry. 

If you have asthma triggered by dry air, then using a storage heater can cause severe breathing trouble. The low humidity levels can also lead to dry sinuses, and even nose bleeds. People with dry skin will also find the low humidity environment extremely uncomfortable.

That said, this is not a significant problem. You can program the storage heater to slowly release the heat, which shouldn’t dry out the air too much to make it uncomfortable.

You can also offset these disadvantages entirely by using a humidifier. Just remember to clean the humidifier regularly, or else bacteria and fungi growth can cause allergies and further aggravate your asthma.

Another simple solution is keeping a glass of water in the room with the storage heater, which should help re-humidify the air as the heater is working.

Key Takeaways

Old storage heaters are dangerous since they contain asbestos which can cause cancer with prolonged exposure.

Storage heaters are also extremely hot, and mismanagement can lead to accidental burns or fire breakouts.

The device also drastically reduces the relative humidity in the air, which can trigger asthma and cause irritation for people with dry skin.

That said, if you follow the proper guidelines, a storage heater is just as safe as any other household electronic appliance.


  • Steve Rajeckas

    Steve Rajeckas is an HVAC hobbyist with an avid interest in learning innovative ways to keep rooms, buildings, and everything else at the optimal temperature. When he's not working on new posts for Temperature Master, he can be found reading books or exploring the outdoors.

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