Choosing the Right Radiator
for Your Home

Choosing a Radiator - Image Source: Design Storey Architects

We live at a time where the choice of how to keep your home warm has never been bigger. No longer just a means to an end, we have a huge choice of the size, colour and design of our radiators. However, with this choice can come confusion at the vast array to pick from. To help you with the decision-making process we’ve put together a buying guide to answer the common questions and issues homeowners face when selecting the best radiator for their home.

Design vs. Functionality

When selecting a new energy efficient radiator for your home there are some key decisions that need to be made. The first thing to decide is whether the new radiator is being purchased just for practical reasons, or would you like to make it an aesthetic feature too.

Whilst it is possible to buy cost effective designer radiators that meet both design and functional considerations, some just prefer a more practical installation to meet their needs. Money can be saved by choosing a radiator design that has a simpler and plainer design but will still be effective in heating a space.

Alternatively, for those individuals who are more concerned about how the radiator looks and fits into the room, then performance may need to be compromised. For example - a smaller radiator will generally provide less heat than a larger radiator, but the smaller design may improve the ‘look’ of the room in question.

For those who are willing to occasionally don a woolly jumper in the depths of the winter cold, then this might be a sacrifice worth making. We generally recommend getting the right performance radiator for you home though, since a smaller design might seem like a good idea in the summer, but you might change your mind in the depths of winter when the temperature plummets!

choosing a radiator for your home

Of course, with the advent of modern design principles even the humble radiator can perform well and have a great looking design. For those who do want their radiator to perform well and heat up a room adequately, the first step is to work out how much heat will be required and what high efficiency radiator will be needed to accommodate this. Radiator heat output is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). The number of BTU’s required needs to be calculated. The good news is that this can be quite a simple process if you use an online calculator to carry out this task for you. Luckily our very own BTU calculator is available to help you out.

It's important to pick the right sized radiator for your room so that you heat effectively, but also don’t waste energy. For those individuals who would like to minimise the size of the radiator in the room there are some great space saving designs available, such as vertical designer radiators that can fit in non-traditional locations. These are great for kitchens or bathrooms where wall space might be at a premium.

The material that the radiator is made from can vary too. Stainless steel, cast-iron, and even aluminium radiators all offer positives and negatives. No matter what your preference you’ll be able to find the heating solution to fit in with your own personal requirements.

replacing a radiator at home

Buying an old or a new radiator

In terms of design, a more classic or period style is very popular at the moment, which has led to the increase in second hand radiator purchases. This may be to save money, or because of the retro look. In certain circumstances, like when a renovation is taking place, a second hand radiator may be necessary. However, in most cases, modern, new radiators are a much better choice. When it comes to saving money, there are a lot of deals to be had on new radiators and the costs may not be as high as you think. Especially with Column Rads.

Remember second-hand radiators can be a false economy since the radiator may not be working as well as it should be. There are a couple of main issues when it comes to second-hand radiators. The first is corrosion. Unfortunately, whilst the outside of the radiator may look to be in good condition it is hard to ascertain what the inside may look like. If the inside of a radiator is corroded, then the performance will be compromised. Secondarily a used radiator can be filled with ‘sludge’, which may not necessarily be apparent until the radiator is connected to your heating system. Sludge in the radiator may then get distributed throughout the rest of your heating system causing damage everywhere.

There are other good reasons to avoid second-hand radiators. The performance and energy efficiency of older radiators will be compromised due to the previous usage. This can result in issues of heat loss and an impact on your heating bills. Fitting can be difficult, if the brackets and fittings do not come with the radiators, and some second-hand radiators may need to be painted, which adds both expense and time to the installation. With this in mind, purchasing a second-hand radiator such as a cast-iron radiator or an old Victorian radiator can be a bit of a gamble and any cost saving may be offset in the long run.

Are You Buying a Replacement Radiator?

Often, people focus on the radiators they aesthetically want rather than the ones that work well in their home. If you want to replace a radiator, there may be some constraints to this. Firstly, one of the questions that you may need to ask is whether the radiator will fit directly into the existing space? If it is not a straight switch, then remember you may need to hire a plumber to make some adjustments to your existing pipe locations to connect the radiator to your system. Secondly, it’s worth double checking that the radiator fits in the existing space that you have. Ensuring all the measurements line up could save you time and money and only take a few seconds with a tape measure.

For those looking to add a radiator to a room that hasn’t previously had a radiator, then there is a lot more flexibility. However, the plumbing will still need to be installed so the design needs to be considered. For instance, for people who would prefer to have more discrete radiators, or for those who would like to put a radiator in a more unconventional space in a room, then a vertical radiator, which is thinner and taller than conventional radiators, may be a good option.

Image Source: Design Storey Architects.

Many vertical radiators can be installed with flow to the right or the left and this will allow for cleaner pipework and less alterations needed to be made to the system, which again may save money and improve the look of the radiator.

Radiator Placement and Location

Generally, the placement of the radiator in your room is flexible - however in older homes that do not feature double glazing then it is common to place the radiator underneath the windows, since this is typically the coldest area of the room.

Other placement considerations may need to be made depending on the types of walls that you have in your home. If your wall is made from masonry or brickwork, then you have a lot more flexibility as to placement and what can be hung from the walls since these materials are quite sturdy. Issues tend to arise if you are attempting to hang a radiator on stud-wall as this is a weaker material and the size and weight of the radiator needs to be considered. Ultimately in these cases the radiator shouldn’t be hung on the plasterboard directly but on the studs that run behind the plasterboard, and you would need to get a professional installer in to ensure the job is done safely and correctly. If you're also thinking about swapping to a new boiler at the same time, then you will need to use a qualified heating engineer.

Some new radiators are designed with a specific purpose in mind and are designed for certain rooms in the home. Towel radiators, also known as towel rails, are designed to provide heat in the bathroom. These bathroom radiators typically are designed to take up a minimal amount of wall space and tend to come in a stainless-steel design but can be available in a whole host of colours. Heated towel rails are also able to heat up small bathrooms too and are a great choice if you do not already have one installed.

Other forms of radiators include electric radiators, underfloor heating, storage heaters and panel radiators, that are designed to heat homes where traditional central heating systems are not either installed, or where a room may require occasional heat. Typically, it is better to use a standard radiator that is connected to a central heating system since these operate a little more cost effectively than a panel radiator might. In the UK electricity is currently the most expensive form of energy to use for heating, so they’re not always the best option to add to your home heating system but can be a great addition to a draughty room that is used less frequently.

Don’t Forget to Budget for Radiator Valves

One thing that is often overlooked when upgrading to new radiators is the valves. The valves are used to control the heat on the radiator and for each radiator you install, you’ll need a pair of valves. If you are buying several radiators, then costs will soon add up if this extra expense isn’t budgeted in. As with radiators, radiator valves now come in a range of styles to suit most tastes from the understated to the bold.

When it comes to valves, we suggest going with Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) since these give the user a lot of flexibility in terms of controlling the heat in the room. We currently have a huge range of valves, including traditional, modern, and custom colours, along with heating controls and smart thermostats.

Find out more about radiators at ColumnRads and get a custom radiator colour quote from us today.