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How to Choose the Right Radiators for your Home

Fitting new radiators provides a great way to give your home’s interior an update, and they help to improve the efficiency of your central heating system. Radiators are available in a wide range of styles and sizes so you can make the best use of the available space and enhance the existing décor. With so many designs available, radiators provide more than just a way heat your home, they can also be used to create an eye-catching focal point.

Today’s radiators are easy to fit and maintain, and there’s a style to suit any taste, whether that’s contemporary or traditional. Radiators can blend into a room, or you can choose a stand-out style that will make a statement. There’s a lot more to radiators than meets the eye, so to help you make the right decision, we have created this handy buying guide. Read on to discover more…

Choosing the right BTU heat output

Before going ahead and purchasing new radiators, it’s essential to work out the heat that’s needed to warm your room first.

The heat output of a radiator is measured in British Thermal Units per hour, otherwise known as BTUs. There are many BTU calculators available on the web to help you work out the required heat output you need to effectively heat your room.

Every radiator has a BTU rating, which tells you how many BTUs are produced per hour. When choosing a new radiator you can select one that delivers the right heat output that’s needed to warm your room, or you can fit several radiators that deliver the required amount of BTUs when combined together.

To work out the required BTUs to heat a room you will need to multiply the height, width and length of the room in feet, and then multiply this figure by 4.

Radiator materials

Radiators are available in a choice of materials including steel, aluminium and cast iron. The majority of radiators are constructed from steel, which is usually the most affordable option. Most homeowners assume that radiators are limited to a standard steel panel design, but there’s actually a surprising variety of shapes, sizes and colours to take your pick from, so it pays to do your research first and see what will work with your home’s interior.

Aluminium is another radiator material, which can be formed into different shapes such as sleek flat panels or more sculptural designs. Requiring a low water volume, aluminium radiators are lightweight so they can be mounted on the majority of walls. It’s also fast to heat up, but once the heating has been switched off, aluminium will quickly lose heat.

Cast iron radiators are ideal for those who love traditional style. Cast iron is the choice of material for column radiators, and even though it takes longer to warm up, it does retain the heat for longer once the heating has been turned off. If you’re considering choosing cast iron radiators you will need to ensure your wall or floor is strong enough to bear the weight. Alternatively, if you like the look of cast iron radiators but don’t have the budget, you can opt for column style radiators made from steel instead.

You will also need to think about the finish too – radiators with a glossy finish are a popular choice, but they don’t emit heat as well as a matt finish, so just bear that in mind when choosing a new radiator.

Plumbed or electric radiators?

To heat the rooms in your home, your house will either have a central heating system or you will use electric radiators. When replacing old radiators it’s a good idea to use the existing system, but there may be an instance when you want to switch, for example fitting an electric towel radiator in the bathroom so you can benefit from warm, dry towels when your central heating isn’t on. You may also find it easier to fit an electric radiator in a position where there’s no access to the central heating, such as in a loft conversion or an extension.

A hot water system uses a boiler to heat the water, which is then circulated around your home through a pipe system. Plumbed radiators make use of this system and provide a very effective way to heat the rooms in your home.

Electric radiators are not centrally controlled, and instead are operated in each separate room. Modern electric radiators feature slimline designs and only need mains electricity to work. Some can simply be plugged into wall, but other electric radiators need to be hardwired by qualified electrician. They come in many sizes and finishes to suit your available space.

Where to position your radiators

You will need to carefully consider the best place to position your new radiators. A radiator should be fitted in the coldest area of the room, which is usually below or next to the window or an outside wall – the cold air will push the warmth that’s produced by the radiator around the room.

In addition to the position of the radiator, you will need to take the type of wall into consideration. Walls made from bricks, blocks or masonry are strong enough to support radiators made from heavier materials. When used with the right fixings, large radiators can be mounted on solid walls. You will also be less limited when it comes to size and design of a radiator, as you can install on any part of the wall.

If your walls are made from plasterboard with a hollow space behind (a drywall or studwork wall), it’s important to identify where the studs are located. Studs are the vertical and horizontal timber pieces that the plasterboard is fitted to. It’s a good idea to use a stud finder to easily locate these. Your radiator should be fitted to the studs as it’s the strongest part of the wall.

It’s important to check the condition of the wall too, so repair any cracks before fitting your new radiators. When decorating a room you should paint or wallpaper behind the radiator before installing it.

Does the existing plumbing run along the wall or up from the floor? Pipework that runs along the wall means you’ll have more options when choosing a new radiator, but if it runs up from the floor, you may be presented with a few challenges if you want to choose a different size or style of radiator, as you may need to lift up the floorboards to move the pipes. Spend a few minutes measuring the wall where you want to install your radiator. Measure the distance between the pipes and the distance between the studs.

Creating a contemporary look with designer radiators

Love contemporary style? Then you’ll love the huge range of designer radiators that are on offer! Available in many shapes, sizes and finishes, designer radiators are great for making a statement in your home, and offer more than just a source of warmth. Some vertical designer radiators even incorporate full length mirrors, which are perfect for use in your bedroom.

Replacing those boring panel radiators with a designer style provides a simple yet effective way to update any room in your home. With so many sizes to select from, you shouldn’t have any problem finding one that perfectly fits the required space. For small rooms, opt for a designer radiator which features a slimline design and flat panels to help maximise space.

A popular option for interior designers and homeowners, vertical radiators are fantastic for where there’s limited wall space; they heat a larger area without taking up too much room on the wall.

Designer radiators are also available in a variety of profiles. Radiators with flat panels save space and are easy to keep clean. Chrome or mirrored radiators are perfect for use in bathrooms, hallways and compact spaces as they reflect the light. There’s also designer radiators with tubular columns and even diamond shaped columns if you’re after something a bit different.

As well as shapes and sizes, there’s an array of colours to take your pick from, so you can really create an exciting interior. Anthracite and black allow you to make a statement but without overpowering the room. Stainless steel and chrome finishes provide a smart, modern look. For a pop of colour why not choose a vibrant shade that enhance the room’s décor?

Creating a traditional look with column radiators

Traditional column radiators are ideal if you’re looking to add vintage charm to your home. Old school house style column radiators feature a framework of vertical tubes and are usually two, three or four columns deep. The more columns the greater the heat output, but this also means more space is required.

Column radiators are available in an array of sizes, as well as horizontal and vertical designs. There’s also a choice of finishes including black, anthracite and white to complement your décor. A column radiator can be fitted to the wall or to the floor with a floor mounting bracket.

Heated towel radiators

Heated towel radiators are fast becoming an essential accessory for those updating their bathroom or en-suite. Available in a wide range of sizes and styles, heated towel rails provide a very stylish and practical way to keep your towels warm and dry, and reaching for a warm towel after your shower or bath makes you feel comforted. They can be plumbed into your central heating system, or you can opt for an electric model so you can enjoy toasty towels all year round.

A heated towel radiator may not be the best solution for heating a large bathroom, so you may also need to install underfloor heating to ensure your space feels warm and inviting.

Heated towel rails come in a variety of finishes such as chrome, white and anthracite. Chrome is a popular option as it blends in easily with existing bathroom décor such as the taps and accessories. An anthracite finish is ideal if you want to create a contemporary look. There’s also a choice of designs available; some heated towel radiators feature flat panels, while others feature a series of tubes.

When choosing a heated towel rail you will need to take into consideration the available wall space and the size of the bathroom. Choose a heated towel rail with a high BTU output so that it creates a comfortable background heat.

Choosing radiator valves

Once you’ve chosen your new radiator, the next important step is to choose the correct radiator valves. You will need to choose between angled or straight radiator valves.

Angled radiator valves connect the radiator to the central heating pipework at a 90 degree angle; they are used when the pipework comes out of the wall or from underneath the floorboards. Angled valves look neater as there is less pipework on show.

Straight radiator valves connect the radiator to the central heating pipework straight up from the floor, so if your pipework runs along the wall and straight into the radiator you would need to choose this style.

One other decision to make is to choose either manual or thermostatic radiator valves. Thermostatic radiator valves allow you to adjust the temperature in each room. They regulate the flow of hot water into the radiator, and as the room warms up the flow will reduce, which saves you money on energy bills.

Manual radiator valves work in a very similar way to a tap – as you turn them on, the central heating passes into your radiator.

An important thing to remember is that all homes are required to have at least one non-thermostatic valve so there’s always one radiator that has the central heating flowing through, which reduces the risk of damaging the boiler.

Radiator covers

So you may not have the budget to replace your panel radiators with designer styles, but what you can do instead to update the look of your room is to fit a radiator cover.

Available in many designs and sizes, radiator covers provide a great way to disguise your radiators in a safe and stylish way, but without impacting the heat output. A radiator cover is designed to box in a radiator, which means you can create a new feature or even decorate so it’s in keeping with the style of the room. Made from MDF, radiator covers usually have a white or wood effect finish making them easy to customise.

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Categories: Heating
Liz: Liz has a passion for home decor, interior design and renovation projects.