Have you ever wondered what is electric thermal storage? This article will help you understand what it is and how it works exactly. This could be the right home heating solution for you.
Electric thermal storage is the process of storing heat into ceramic bricks. This process is due to electric elements being sandwiched between the bricks. The elements usually turn on during the off peak hours when electricity rates are cheaper to use.
So what is electric thermal storage and how is it used?
Electric thermal storage is the process of storing heat into ceramic bricks as mentioned above. Thermal storage is the process of storing energy in terms of heat into any large mass for example in floor heat. With electric thermal storage there are actually heating elements sandwiched in between the ceramic bricks.
The ceramic bricks can become is warm is 1300 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s insulation around the ceramic bricks to hold the heat in. This heat is naturally released throughout the day.
There are a number of different types of electric thermal storage units. The first type would be in floor heat mass. This typically would have water pipes running through the concrete floor or slab of the home or garage.
The water lines are usually filled with glycol and will circulate back through some sort of boiler or heat exchange. This heat exchange would have electric elements inside. The elements would heat the water as it passes by.
The heat exchange would also be stored with bricks in fact a large number of them. Once the bricks are heated up they would then slow release the heat stored to heat exchange into the water lines heating the floor.
What Is Electric Thermal Storage And What Kinds Are There?
Another kind of an electric thermal storage heater would be a large floor unit. This is usually designed to heat one level of the home. They come with a fan forced thermostat which will blow the heat around the room for circulation.
These heaters take up a little more space and intend to look similar to the old style radiators you would see in schools. They’re great when you need a whole floor of your house heated that has an open style concept.
Just a few years ago another style of electric thermal storage unit hit the market. These heaters are small room unit heaters that are great for cold spots in home. They are designed for areas up to 260 square feet.
These heaters operate on the same principle except they are a convection heater and so they are dead silent. They also store the heat into ceramic bricks. For more on these heaters
How does electric thermal storage save money on my power bill?
Electric thermal storage will help you save money on your power bill due to the night time usage. You actually buy the power from your local power utility at a cheaper rate. The heaters take the storage and enter the ceramic bricks during these cheaper rates.
The heat is then slow released throughout the day when you need it. They also heat at the same time there storing the energy. Since you are actually shifting your power consumption to the off peak period at a reduced rate this will naturally save you money.
It increases the efficiency up taking a regular electric heater and turning it into storage unit. Some power utilities work hard to shift their power production into the night time hours so they burn less fossil fuels and have a better carbon footprint.
What is a time of use meter?
In the picture above is there illustration of a time of use meter. This is a digital meter that records different time periods. It can actually tell in what period you’re using the most energy for.
When you receive your power bill you will see the different time slots in the different rates associated with each time slot. The advantage to this is that the whole home is on this meter and every electrical appliance in it. It’s quite simply easy to tell if you’re using power during the wrong time period.
You can see the huge advantage to having one of these meters . You can do anything from dishes to laundry even cooking a turkey during the off peak period.
Most people wait and due their laundry on weekends as this is one of the cheap power times offered.
What are the advantages of having this kind of meter with electric thermal storage?
To add to the above paragraph you can have your domestic hot water on this time of use as well. Usually your local power corporation will offer you all weekend at this reduced rate and in addition holidays.
The one downside to this meter did you should not be doing anything to consume large amounts of power during the peak periods. For example the clothes dryer or turning your heat on. Thermal storage heaters should be sized large enough to store enough heat to last you through this peak period.
If you do consume a larger amount of electricity during this period you will see it on your power bill.
Do the electric storage heaters have a fan?
Some of the full size room unit heaters do come with an internal fan. This fan will it intermittently turn on and off as it needs to circulate the stored energy in the bricks.
This design is for larger room sizes not having open style concept and you need to circulate the air through the room.
What about maintenance?
Generally there is very little or no maintenance with these units, they are designed that way. It is always a good idea once in the spring and fall to vacuum the grills on the front of the unit.
Make sure if you shut the breaker off in the spring when you turn it back on in the fall check the time and date on the unit. It is also not a bad idea to have your installer come back once every couple of years, take the unit apart and vacuum it out.
You should not half to take the unit apart for any reason. If you plan to change the flooring in a room for some reason then you should contact your installer to have then detach and reset the heater.
Do they come with any warranty?
Mostly all companies provide a 5 year parts and labour warranty bumper to bumper on each unit. If you have any issues or problems then just give them a call and they will come out to see you. Make sure you read your owner’s manual so it is not something silly like the breaker being shut off.
We get those calls a lot. Also we get calls saying the heater is not heating up. If you have it set to 20 degrees and the room is 22 degrees the heater will not turn on because it is not calling for heat. You will need to set the heater above the set point on the thermostat.
How do these compare to other room unit heaters?
Both Ecombi and Steffes are of the top leading technology in North America. The Ecombi units have an internal thermostat that senses the room temperature every 30 seconds. They also have a digital time clock built in the unit so it will know when to turn on and when to turn off with the off for thepeak power meter.
They can anticipate the charge time period for the next charge cycle and determine exactly how much charge to take into the bricks.
Steffes units communicate via the outdoor temperature so they can anticipate temperature changes to make sure they take the appropriate charge for the next day.
Both style units work very well in the home with other heating sources. They can compliment a heat pump or any other heating source. It is important to have them installed as far away from other heating source they do not conflict.
Conflicting heating sources can cause problems. The thermal storage heaters need time to heat the bricks up.If another heating source is telling the brick heater is is already satisfied then it will not take a charge fir the next day or peak cycle.
How do I find an installer?
There is an installer network for each area . Depending on the country, state or province you live in you actually look for a dealer. They can sell you the product price up the job uninstall the product. They can also provide the warranty or answer any direct questions you may have.
Are theses type of heaters expensive?
The ecombi heaters start in a range of $800 and go up to $2000. You will need a minimum of two installed in your home to qualify for the time of use program. Additionally you may need some digital thermostats installed if you have any old baseboard heaters usually they retail for around $50 a piece.
There is also an option for digital hot water tank timer so that you can move your domestic hot water today off peak time. Moving your domestic hot water is a wise decision to get that power load into the off peak period.
Can I buy them second hand and install myself?
You can purchase these heaters second hand on buy and sell sites or on the internet. The issue with these is most installers or dealers will not touch them.
You need a certified dealer to pull the permit in order to get the time of use meter.
If you decide to install these heaters yourself good luck finding a contractor that will obtain the wiring permit or even put their name on your work. Just don’t do it.
How big does my electrical panel need to be?
Generally you should have a minimum of a 125 amp panel or more to support the load up the thermal storage heaters being drawn from the panel.
Preferably if you have a 200 amp service in your home then you’re most likely good to have the heaters installed. Some homes have a 400 amp service or even larger for larger square foot homes.
You’re dealer can work through the installation with you when they come to price up the job.
Will I have any damage during the install?
Generally you should not have damage to your walls during install . The heaters actually have a point of entry for the wire in the back lower part of the heater.
This is perfect for using your existing electric baseboard wiring . Most of the time we can just remove the baseboard, check the circuitry and reuse the wiring.
In some cases when we need to run new wires from the power panel if the ceiling is finished in the basement or the area that we are running the wires could lead to problems.
At this point the installer should tell you whether they need to cut holes or not. Sometimes it is necessary to get the wire from point A to point B.
We usually try to use an existing chase to fish the wires without causing any damage.
Does the wiring have to be inspected?
Yes the wiring needs to be inspected by your local inspection of authority. They will inspect the installation of the heaters the wiring the breakers in the meter base before they install the new digital meter.
You’re installer should pull all of the wiring permits necessary to complete the job for you. Your local inspection authority usually your local power corporation.
Do they still heat if the power goes out?
Yes this heaters will still hold and release the heat from the bricks during a power outage. The larger size heaters will actually hold a charge of heat for up to 24 hours. The heat will slowly dissipate after that point. They can also heat while charging.
In fact anytime we do any service or maintenance work to the heaters we always recommend that the customer shut the power off completely 48 hours prior to us getting there. The bricks are simply still too hot to work at them.
Some of the larger Steffes models can hold heat for days. This is due the the larger amount of bricks in the units creating more storage.
How do I change the settings on the storage unit?
All electric thermal storage heaters are little bit different when it comes to their programming. Refer to your owner’s manual for your particular product to find out which settings work best for your heater.
The display board below shows ecombi. On the display it is actually showing the set temperature for the room.
The clock symbol on the left is to check the time . The minus and plus buttons in the middle or to adjust the temperature up and down. The mode button on the right is to switch from storage only too basic electric heating mode.
There are internal settings in the heater however we do not recommend are you going to those.
Are there any rebates on these heaters?
Each area would have different rebates on the different thermal storage products. For example currently in Nova Scotia Canada we have an efficiency rebate of up to 40% on the heaters. This rebate is currently through efficiency Nova Scotia.
This makes a system more economical to install. They’re usually a mail in rebate after the installation is complete can you provide proof with your invoice.
The paperwork is minimum and your contractor can help you fill out all of the paperwork.
Are these heater safe for kids?
With any heating system you always need to be cautious with your children. The heaters are actually quite safe. The grills in the front are small so it is hard for children to stuff them with toys.
The actual convection heat that comes out of the top of the heater and only comes out up the front one third of the heater. The sides in the bottom of the heater stay cool.
Having said this it is not recommended to try to dry any clothes on top of the heater. This will set off internal sensors inside of the heater telling it to shutdown.
What size heater do I need ?
Typically we use 12 Watts per square foot on a basic install. So for a 120 square foot room you would need a 1200 watt heater. This may seem like a bit of overkill however more heat is better than less. You are charged for the time the heater runs.
If you have a 100 square foot room with a 1000 watt heater and it takes 2 hours to heat at 15 cent per kwh that would equal $ 30 cents
If you have that same 100 square foot room with a 2000 watt heater. It wold take only 1 hour to heat at 30 cents.
Same price to heat but the bigger heater is better if you have insulation or window drafts causing the smaller heater to work harder.