Komorowski’s Korner – Sudbury Electric Makes Electric Storage Heaters Make Sense – Cornwall – June 16, 2010

Electric Storage Heaters Come to Sudbury by Richard Komorowski

Cornwall ON – Most of Ontario, with the notable exception of Cornwall, will be using Smart Meters by the end of this year.

The reason given for the conversion to Smart Meters is to balance the electric load on the Ontario grid and generating facilities. If we use more power at night, when demand is relatively low, and less during the day, this will save on the amount of power we have to generate during peak periods.

In turn, this reduces the need and cost of building ever more generating stations, and makes it easier to close coal fired stations, which generate incredible amounts of pollution.

Unfortunately, it is difficult for most people to adjust their power consumption to take advantage of the lower rates offered during low peak times. Typically, we heat our homes during the day, and turn the thermostat down at night. With Smart Meters, we will be heating our homes when electricity is expensive, and turning down the heat during the relatively cheap nights.

There are two major problems with the new power rates for smart meters. First, the high and mid peak periods are too complex, and vary according to the time of year. This in itself can make it difficult for people to adjust their consumption.

Secondly, and more importantly, the difference in the high peak and low peak rate is not sufficient to make it economically viable for the average homeowner to upgrade an electric heating system to take advantage of the new rates. In Europe, which is far ahead of North America in energy conservation, off peak rates are about 20 to 25% of high peak rates. Over here, the difference is far less.

Sudbury Hydro Ahead of the Pack

Greater Sudbury Hydro recognizes the need for load balancing, and the fact that the current Smart Meter Rates don’t make it easy for the homeowner. As a result, Sudbury Hydro is providing a major incentive towards installing storage heaters. They will pay (subject to certain conditions) 75% of the conversion cost, up to $2,500 per home.

Your browser may not support display of this image. With this incentive, the homeowner can upgrade their heating system and quickly pay for the upgrade with their reduced energy bills. These savings will continue year after year, long after the improvements have paid for themselves.

How does it work?

The easiest way to take advantage of the new rates, without sweating at night and freezing during the day, is with Electric Storage Heaters. These come on during the low peak rate period, and store the cheaper energy to heat your home during the day. Their operation is really simple: at night, electricity warms a heat reservoir, such as a specially designed high density brick core, to a high temperature.

Image courtesy of Steffes Corporation, Bakersfield, VT

They heat up the house so it is comfortably warm when morning arrives, but not too much, thanks to a specially designed insulation barrier around the bricks. During the day, some air louvers in the radiator open, to allow air to pass through the brick core. This may also be assisted by a fan.

During the day, air circulates around these hot bricks, and warms your house. The next night, the cycle repeats.

These systems really do work well –  just ask anyone from England or Continental Europe. Moreover, as gas and oil become increasingly more expensive and scarce, electric heat, whether storage or through a heat-pump, or a combination of these two, will become the only form of heat for all houses.

Note: If you wish to contact the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure to find out when similar programs will be rolled out in other areas of the province, please email him directly at Brad Duguid


  1. Yes. These things do sound like they make sense. We should be looking to Europe for proven ideas rather than trying to reinvent in the wheel. The Germans are supposed to be far ahead in recycling for example.

  2. If we did switch to the Electric heat storage units how would that change our electrical requirements?
    Most furnaces now use an efficient VFD for the motors and power requirements are very small. The igniters in oil furnaces are momentary.
    What would then happen is power consumption time would switch. Now we would be taxing the system at low peak rate period. At that point hydro decides to adjust the times and rates.

    One would also need plenty of room for proper installation. A small unit would leave people freezing while a too large unit would needlessly waste energy

    Right now we have the ability to produce more then enough power to suit our needs. What we do lack is an efficient distribution network, it is also old. Coal fired plants have been upgraded significantly reducing emissions.

    The big stink should be on nuclear energy. No emissions but a half life of plutonium that would outlast us all and no place to put it.

  3. Are these availble in Ontario, specifically Ottawa?

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