Storage heaters are typically composed of clay bricks or other ceramic material, of concrete walls, or of water containers. This material serves as a heat storage medium. There are electrical heating elements embedded in the material which can be switched on to heat the storage medium and thus to store energy.
The stored heat is given off continuously (through thermal radiation and convection). To speed up the heat transfer, storage heaters may come equipped with mechanical fans that can move air through the heater; see the section on fan-assisted storage heaters.
Storage heaters usually have two controls - a charge control (often called "input"), which controls the amount of heat stored, and the draught control (often called "output"), which controls the rate at which heat is released. These controls may be controlled by the user, or may operate automatically once the user selects the target room temperature on a thermostat.Storage heaters are usually used in conjunction with a two-tariff electricity meter which records separately the electricity used during the off-peak period so that it can be billed at a lower rate. In order to enjoy the lower rates, the house must be on a special electricity tariff. In most countries, storage heaters are only economical (compared to other forms of heating) when used with such a special tariff. In the United Kingdom the Economy 7 tariff is appropriate.