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Radiator Types: Buying Guide


With the many models and designs of radiators currently in the market, choosing the ideal radiators for your home can prove to be a daunting task. This is particularly the case, given that you have to balance functionality, practicality, and aesthetic appeal. But you need not worry any further as we have prepared just the right guide to help you purchase the best stylish and most efficient radiators for your home.

This guide will teach you all you need to know before investing in a new radiator. Some of the exciting factors covered in this guide include types of radiators, BTU measurements, and methods of powering radiators.

What to consider when purchasing new radiators?

As you have already guessed, shopping around for new radiators can be pretty hectic. However, to increase your chances of finding suitable radiators, consider the following factors:

Radiator Heating Mode

There are three methods of heating radiators in your home. The first one is using the hot water in your wet central heating system, the second is using electricity, and the last is using a combination of both. Radiator heating modes will influence your radiator purchase decisions as most people tend to go for similarly powered radiators, especially if they are replacing existing ones.

  • Plumbed radiators – Plumbed radiators use the hot water supplied by your boiler to produce heat for warming the different rooms in your house. The hot water circulating in your home’s plumbing system flows through the radiators, effectively warming them in the process. Swapping plumbed radiators for newer, more-efficient designs is simple. However, adding new plumbed radiators to your existing system might overwork your boiler.
  • Electric Radiators – Electric radiators use power from the mains electricity to heat the various rooms in your home. They contain a heating solution such as oil or water and a heating element usually located at their bases. Electric radiators are generally independent of the central heating system and are controlled in each room rather than centrally. Depending on the size and style of your electric radiator, you can either plug it directly into a wall socket or call a qualified electrician to install it.
  • Dual Fuel Radiators – Dual fuel radiators combine aspects of both plumbed radiators and electric radiators. They are essentially plumbed radiators with a mains-powered heating element inserted at their bases. These radiators can be used with central heating in winter and can be isolated and used as electric radiators in summer. This flexibility means you can use dual fuel radiators to heat individual rooms such as your bathroom and shower spaces without turning on central heating.

Home Décor

As earlier said, modern radiators are designed to add a touch of class and finesse to your home. But given that radiators are not one-size-fits-all attachments, you need to select the styles and designs that will complement the décor in the different rooms in your home.

Simply put, you need to consider the colour, style, and finishes in each of the rooms in your house. For instance, if you live in a Victorian-style home, you should install vintage radiators, especially those from the same era. By doing this, you will boost the aesthetic look of your home and add a touch of authenticity to it.

Similarly, if you live in a modern home, you should go for stylish and trendy radiators that will bring class to your home’s interior.

Your Existing Pipework

The location and orientation of the pipework in your home significantly impact the size or style of radiators you can purchase. If your existing pipework runs along the wall, you are generally lucky, as installing new radiators will be straightforward. In such a set-up, you can fit a new radiator directly in place of an existing one, provided they are the same size.

If the new radiator is wider than the existing one, you can always cut off the excess pipework. However, in situations where the new radiator is narrower than the current one, you will have to extend the existing pipework, or even better, call a qualified plumber to handle the installation.

Pipework that runs up from the floor can be a challenge if you install new radiators that differ in style or size from the existing ones. This is because you will have to lift floorboards and move pipes to ensure they fit into the new radiators.

BTU Requirements

Your home’s BTU (British Thermal Unit) requirements will determine the size of radiators you buy, regardless of their heating modes. BTU refers to the energy used to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.  In simple conversions, one watt of power equals 3.41 BTUs.

Several factors influence the BTU requirements of your home. Among them are the dimensions of your rooms, the type of insulation, and the number and type of windows you have. We recommend using an online BTU calculator to determine the BTU requirements for the different rooms in your house.

Once you have found the BTU requirements for a room, you can either go for one large radiator that can provide the exact amount or several radiators whose BTUs total up to the room’s requirements.

Preferred Radiator Material

Radiators are usually made from different materials, each having its unique qualities. Contrary to what many may think, the material the radiator is made of has a significant influence on the radiator’s performance. This is because it influences how quickly the radiator can heat up and how long it can retain the heat.

Cast iron radiators

Cast iron is one of the traditional radiator material choices and is commonly used in column radiators found in many Victorian homes. Cast iron radiators take a long time to warm up but retain heat long after it has been turned off, making them an excellent choice for big and drafty rooms.  These radiators come in a wide range of shapes and designs and are perfect for older period homes and contemporary décor. Cast iron radiators are usually heavy and therefore need to be mounted on sound walls.

Mild steel radiators

Mild steel is the material from which most contemporary designer radiators are made. The material is popular thanks to its affordability and ability to be moulded into different styles and designs. Mild steel radiators are durable and can last up to 50 years, and is a good fit if you are looking for reliable budget radiators.

Stainless steel radiators

The greatest flex of stainless steel radiators is that they are resistant to rusting; hence they will outlast most of their counterparts. Additionally, stainless steel radiators are highly efficient, have a high heat-retaining capacity, and are easy to clean and maintain.  Stainless steel is usually used in making bathroom radiators and towel rails, thanks to its resistance to rust.

Aluminium radiators

Aluminium is generally considered the best radiator material. This is because the material is a superconductor, meaning it heats up quickly and warms up the room quickly and efficiently. And given that these radiators are light, they are perfect for installing on interior stud walls. The only issues with aluminium radiators are that they are expensive and tend to cool down just as fast as they heat up.

Types of Radiators

Flat-panel radiators

Flat-panel radiators, also known as single panel radiators, are compact radiator units designed for homes with limited space. These radiators are usually made of joined flat columns filled with water or heating solution depending on radiator heating mode.

Double panel radiators

Double panel radiators are simply two single panel radiators stacked beside each other. These radiators provide twice as much heat output as flat panel radiators and tend to stick from the wall.

Column radiators

Column radiators are a vintage type of radiator that can be traced back to the Victorian and Georgian eras. However, these sturdy fixtures are still capably of adding pomp and style to modern homes too. Column radiators are usually made of cast iron, meaning they are quite heavy and need to be mounted on solid walls.

Horizontal radiators

Horizontal radiators are the standard and most common radiator type in the market. They are usually wider than they are taller and are mainly located under windows. Horizontal radiators are popular since they are cheap and easy to install, especially if you replace your existing one with a similar-sized new one. Moreover, they are available in different styles that include exquisite modern designs.

Vertical radiators

Vertical radiators are not as popular as horizontal radiators but are gradually gaining recognition due to their space-saving abilities and decorative qualities. They usually have a greater height than the width and take less wall space compared to horizontal radiators. These radiators also come in different shapes and sizes and can add a touch of luxurious feel to your home.

Towel rails

Towel rails, also known as heated towel radiators, are unique radiators designed for heating bathrooms, ensuites, and cloakroom spaces. These rads get their name from their ability to accommodate towels. Heated towel rails come in different styles and designs, ranging from compact traditional ones to modern tall ladder ones.

Most towel rails are made from stainless steel and aluminium due to their corrosion resistance properties. Finishes for towel rails vary depending on your personal preferences and range from bronze to brushed gold.

Designer radiators

Designer radiators are decorative radiator types that have stylish and attractive features. They are designed to bring a wide range of benefits to your home, including space-saving technologies to multi-purpose products. Designer radiators are a great fit for you if you are after something bold and eye-catching for your contemporary home.

Radiator choices for the various rooms in your home

The styling and furnishing of the different rooms in your home differ, and as such, you need to find a radiator that complements each room perfectly. By installing radiators that suit the style and taste of the different rooms in your home, you ensure your home is efficiently heated and bring up the overall value of your property.

Living Room Radiators

The living room or sitting room is where you spend most of your leisure time while at home. It is the room where you will be most likely found watching TV or taking an afternoon nap, besides being the room where you will be welcoming your guests.

As such, there is a need to make your living room as comfortable and as stylish as possible. This means that you need to acquire an elegant radiator that is powerful enough to heat the room sufficiently.

The recommended radiator type for your home’s living room is the designer radiator, be it vertical or horizontal. You might also want to go for steel or aluminium radiators as they take a shorter time to heat your living room than a cast iron rad.

Kitchen Radiators

The kitchen might be the warmest room in your house, thanks to heat coming from the oven or cooker. However, during the winter season, this heat might not be sufficient, and you may end up shivering while cooking for your family. However, the small size of most kitchens, coupled with the several worktops, cupboards, and appliances, means finding the right radiator for your kitchen might be tricky.

Luckily, there are a few options that might fit your kitchen perfectly. For instance, you might want to keep things simple by settling for a white compact convector radiator.  This is a tried and tested kitchen rad solution that is economical, efficient, and space-saving.

If, however, you are leaning more towards the designer end, you can opt for a column radiator that you can mount on the space between the doorway and the work surface. Chrome vertical radiators might also add a touch of finesse to your kitchen and will match with the chrome and stainless steel fixtures in your kitchen. Alternatively, where vertical space is not limited, you can go for a white vertical radiator that will match your kitchen walls and other white appliances in the room.

Bedroom Radiators

Your bedroom is an exclusive space in your house that is off-limits to friends and visitors. As such, you have the freedom to decorate it to your exact personal style and taste. In other words, you have the free reign to select the shape, size, colour, and type of radiator you want.

Remember that the existing pipework in your house does not limit the position or type of your bedroom radiator. You can place it in any desired location, in the process, freeing up valuable space and ensuring efficient heating.

Some of the great bedroom radiator choices include the electric radiator, which is highly efficient and can work independently of the central heating. Moreover, electric radiators are easy to install and maintain. You can also settle for a cast iron radiator as it will continue heating your bedroom long after you switch it off.

Bathroom Radiators

Bathroom radiators were once considered a luxury but are now a standard fixture in most UK homes. A good bathroom radiator will not only give your bathroom a classy touch but also dry and keep your towels warm. Nothing beats stepping into a warm bathroom on a cold morning or the embrace of a warm towel after taking a shower.

There are several choices of bathroom radiators, depending on your preferences. If you live in classic style home, you should consider going for a traditional bathroom radiator as it will blend perfectly and enhance the vintage décor of your home.

If you have a small bathroom, you can opt for a mirror radiator to give your bathroom a greater depth. Moreover, it will also serve as a mirror, meaning you will be killing two birds with one stone.

Lastly, a heated towel rail will do the trick for those who like to keep things simple. The good thing about towel rails is that they have an electric element and can work independently of your central heating.

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