The vast majority of British homes have hot water-based heating systems. These systems first emerged in the late 19th Century when the Victorians used hot water and cast-iron radiators to heat their homes. Since then our heating systems have become more refined with the use of thermostatic controls to regulate room temperature. But it is only in recent years that the radiator industry has provided us with contemporary styled radiators that look good.
When it comes to choosing the right radiator there are several key considerations. Firstly, the radiator(s) must be the right size to heat the space. Your plumber, heating engineer or radiator specialist will be able to work out what heat output you require, based on room dimensions, what the space is used for, wall insulation etc. This can be quite complicated so its well worth calling upon an expert to help.
Once you know what heat output you need from your radiator(s) you need to consider the wall space available, the overall look you are trying to create, as well as lead time and budget.
Style and space
Whilst there is not doubt that cast iron radiators bring authenticity to period properties, they may not always be a viable option. In many period properties such as cottages, terraces, farmhouses and period conversions, space can be an issue. Narrow corridors and smaller rooms often cannot accommodate the depth of cast iron. In such cases, the solution could lie in one of the huge and impressive range of contemporary radiators now available.
Sleek minimalist, flat panel radiators fit close to the walls and easily disappear into white walls. These are favourites amongst many cutting edge architects and renovators, who favour clean, simple lines and discreet radiators.
On the other hand, those radiators with the wow-factor make a unique and stunning statement. A feature radiator can be used as a contrast with a traditional setting.
Tall vertical radiators provide a neat space saving solution, taking up minimal wall space aluminium radiators. Some tall models have underside valve connections minimizing their overall width, and the plain classic styling ensures they look equally at home in contemporary and traditional settings.
Dual-purpose radiators are worth considering where space is limited. Bench style radiators offer the warmest seat in the house whilst mirror radiators are ideal for hallways, or for bathrooms (this is one mirror that will not steam up when your bath is running!).
Other options include trench heating, where a radiator is sited in a trench in the floor and covered with a grille. This is a simple and effective solution for certain situations (such as spaces with large expanses of glass) and is usually incorporated at the design stage.
Radiators can be made from a range of different materials, each with their own qualities.
Cast iron radiators benefit from cast iron’s great mass. Whilst they take longer to warm up, the upside is that they will stay warm long after the central heating has been switched off. The gentle undulating heat provided by cast iron, is ideal for older properties, as it tends to retain the warmth in the fabric of the building, which in turn counteracts damp and condensation. Cast iron radiators are rarely found in heights greater than 1 metre, due to the characteristics of cast iron. So if horizontal wall space is limited, cast iron may not be the best option.
Aluminium radiators are gaining in popularity in the UK, due to their eco- properties (discussed further below). There are now stylish versions available for the domestic setting.
Developments in the production of stainless steel have meant that radiators can now be made of this highly durable material. It has the look of chrome when polished but costs less and gives out more heat. Even in older properties, renovators may choose to “go modern” in the kitchens, often opting for brushed stainless steel radiators which ties in well with modern appliances and provides a clean industrial look.
Steel offers architectural and design flexibility due to its inherent strength. This means radiators made of steel can be made in a huge range of sizes and configurations. Traditional column styled radiators, made of steel and available in a wide range of colours, are a popular option for a traditional or bold modern look. There are also tall options exceeding 2 metres.
Radiators are now available made of marble or granite, which has excellent heat storage characteristics and produces a soft radiant heat. These stone radiators are the perfect solution to provide both warmth and a luxury feel to any home.
Sustainability is the latest ‘it’ word in construction. It is something many homeowners now taken into consideration and radiator manufacturers are responding. Aluminium radiators are increasing in popularity, as they have very low water content and rapid heat up times which in turn can help to reduce fuel use. Some radiators are produced using recycled aluminium.