Choosing the Right Radiator
for Your Home

Choosing a Radiator - Image Source: Design Storey Architects

No longer is the humble radiator simply a means to heat a room, today there is an almost endless supply of choices available for your central heating system. However, with this flexibility in the types of different designer radiators that are available, there can be some added confusion in selecting the right radiator for your home. To help you with the decision making process we’ve put together a buying guide to the common questions and issues home owners face when selecting the best radiator.

Design vs. Functionality

Whether a Column Radiator, Raw Metal Radiator or a Vertical Radiator when selecting a new radiator for your home there are a few key decisions that you need to make early on. The first thing to decide is whether the new radiator is being purchased for aesthetic reasons, or is the decision purely a functional one.

Whilst it is possible to buy designer radiators that meet both design and functional considerations, most individuals are looking for function over form and just require a heat source for a room, in which case money can be saved by choosing a radiator design that has a simpler and plainer design.

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 people 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 then the first step is to work out how much heat will be required to heat up the room and what radiator will be needed to accommodate this. Radiator heat output is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs) and you will need to calculate the number of BTUs that will be required to heat your room. 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 with this calculation. 

It's important to pick the right sized radiator for your room, and the perfect radiator offers a combination of design, the amount of surface area it takes up on the wall, and the ability it has to heat effectively (BTU output). 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. 

The material that the radiator is made out of can vary too. You can get stainless steel, cast-iron, and even aluminium radiators that all offer positives and negatives. No matter what you're preference you're likely to 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 many people currently look to buy second hand, period styling radiators for their home. This may be to save money, or because of the retro look. In certain circumstances where restoration and keeping features as closely matched to the original design is a must then a second hand radiator may be necessary. However, in the majority of 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.

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 few key issues to be concerned about 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 insides 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 to the whole system.

There are other good reasons to avoid second hand radiators. The performance of older radiators will not likely be as good as brand new radiators. 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 problems that might arise may end up meaning that the savings made on a second hand radiator could be a false economy.

Are You Buying a Replacement Radiator?

This question may not seem to be an obvious consideration when choosing a radiator, but if you’re looking to replace a radiator then you may be constrained in the choice to some degree. Firstly, one of the questions that you may need to ask is whether the radiator will fit directly into the existing space? If it isn’t 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. Remember to budget for this if you are looking for a radiator that has a different configuration to your existing rad. Secondly, its 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.

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, but if you’re still at the planning stage for the heating system then there are a lot of different choices available. 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 up to you - 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 out of 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 then the size and weight of the radiator may well be a deciding factor as to what can be installed. Ultimately in these cases the radiator shouldn’t be hung on the plasterboard directly but on the studs that run behind the plasterboard and these will need to be found, if their location is not known.

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. Heated towel rails are also able to heat up small bathrooms too and are a great choice if you don't already have one installed. 

Other forms of radiators include electric radiators 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.

Don’t Forget to Budget for Radiator Valves

One thing that is often overlooked when purchasing new radiators is that generally you will also have to budget for valves for the radiator. 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 a number of 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.

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