My house is outfitted with in-room electric storage heaters (installed in late 90s). The model is Stiebel Eltron ETS 208 (and 308). Those hail from the age where night-time electricity rate was relatively low, so they "accumulate" energy overnight and then release it over the course of the day.

Stiebel Eltron ETS 308

One of the heater units has just started sparking and burning inside (not sure whether due to shortage or something else) - we were lucky to be home and cut power immediately to stop the fire/smoke. Given that the units are ~20 years old, it might be a good sign we have to replace them.

Question: what would you recommend as a replacement for such units? My understanding is that this "smart" electricity usage is no longer relevant, as the rate is the same for night and day, so maybe the new standard for such heaters might be vastly simpler... Recommendations are very welcome.

UPDATE: Closing the loop. I've ended up picking a plain vanilla baseboard heater (more specifically, Dimplex 60" 2,500W one). It is yet to be seen if it has any notable effect on my power bill. One interesting thing about it is that it supports some kind of wireless control protocol called CONNEX. There aren't too many thermostats that support it but there are still some. If I like what I see with it and end up using similar model to replace the remaining ETS heaters, I will most probably get such multi-zone thermostat as well.

  • I have always wondered if these were worth the cost and space. Electricity in the Pacific North West used to be dirt cheep. Having someone check the unit out it may be a simple fire rod that has failed (much like a oven element) may be way cheaper than a replacement system of whatever type you decide to go with.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 16:23
  • It means I'll have to check 5 units anyway - no way I'm going to take chances with other units after I've seen it sparking flames inside. I'm not obsessed with replacing them but given the age and the accident this morning, I'd like to understand what people replace those with. Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 16:27
  • Not trying to make lite of arcs and sparks but when the heating elements fail in electric heaters they usually do so in spectacular fashion. Most of the time we cannot see it but when a nicrome wire heater fails there is a arc as the wire separates then a much larger one if the wire hits the case. When elements calrod like in ovens stove top burners fail it usually looks like arc welding until they burn open or trip the breaker. Having the unit serviced elements / fire rods replaced if needed would bring the unit back to "new" condition for much less than a new heater.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 16:42
  • 1
    That assumption is faulty, the electricity market is completely insane right now. Peakers are more expensive than ever (except for solar, which works exactly when peakers are needed), wind is exploding, nuclear is coming back (both base load), it really depends on the whimsy of your power company. Electric cars may deter nighttime discounting as they can charge at night. Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 18:58

2 Answers 2


Electric heaters are cheap.

You can get a 2000w electric heater for like $50. If storage heaters make no sense right now, don't get one, and buy a plain electric heater instead -- it's not like you're making a huge capital investment.

Or consider heat pumps

If you want to make a capital investment, and storage isn't a requirement for you, you can consider heat pumps. They are much more efficient than thermal heaters, since they are only moving heat, not creating it. However, they shut down in very cold weather, so heat pumps need auxiliary heaters, usually electric. If that is a millivolt gas system, the house will heat without electricity.

The usual objection is people don't want to ruin their ceiling with bulky ducts. The answer to that is the "mini-split" (surely there must be a noun here), which is a heat pump with one outside unit and several "registers" which can be controlled separately.

Storage heat pumps are also possible, but hard

This uses two variations on common heat pumps. The idea is that if the heat is being interchanged with media that is closer to the desired temperature, the heat pump is vastly more efficient.

First, some heat pumps interchange not with air, but with a fluid of some kind. Ground-sourced heat pumps interchange their heat with underground coolant loops cooled/warmed with earth deep underground, which tends to be of moderate temperature. This can also be done with well water. Large facility heat pumps interchange heat with facility service water, which is pumped around the facility. The service water is cooled or warmed at a central boiler room.

With a storage heat pump system, you have a storage tank of a good thermal storage fluid (like water) which you preheat or pre-chill using cheap evening power. Then by day, your heat pump draws efficiently from this tank.

These systems are not common, or not cheap.


I would get pricing to replace the whole heating system. The type of system is up to you. If electricity is the only source available to you I would consider a heat pump system over straight electric resistance heaters. The heat pump system would be much more expensive but could yield much lower heating bills plus you get A/C if you want to use it. Other systems are hot water (zoned or not), Natural gas or fuel oil. Get some books or use the computer to educate yourself, and get numerous prices. And remember the cheapest is usually not the best in the long run.

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