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Your guide to buying radiators

As the chilly winter evenings and frosty mornings creep in, it's important to have a cosy and comforting house to come home to.

You may have many different sources of heat, from wood burners and fires to fan heaters but it's more than likely central heating radiators that are responsible for keeping the whole house heated. Read up about the styles and sizes available and how to pick the right one.

What are the different types of radiators?

Vertical radiators

This less traditional shape of radiator is tall and thin. They are best to fit awkward spaces like the space beside a door. They are a common shape to be used in a bathroom as they fit smaller spaces without compromising on heat.

Horizontal radiators

The perfect way to heat horizontal spaces: these radiators tend to be wider than they are tall so are perfect to fit under windows or shelves and make the most of your space. They are available in endless heights and width combinations to provide flexible heating options.

What size radiator will I need?

Room and radiator sizes vary a great deal so it's important to weigh up which one is the most suitable for your room. Think about the space you have available and the aesthetics before buying.

What is the heat output of a radiator?

The heat output is measured in BTU/h (British Thermal Units per hour) or Watts. It is vital to consider this when choosing the most appropriate source of heat for your room as you need a powerful enough heater to heat the room effectively. To calculate this you need the ceiling height and room size in square feet and an estimation of the heat loss for the room.

Use a BTU calculator online to help or seek advice from a professional plumber.

What sizes do radiators come in?

The sizes of radiators vary from extremely thin and tall, to short and wide. The thinnest can be between 23cm and 50cm. These are mostly vertical radiators with heights of around 180cm. Horizontal radiators start at around 50cm wide and are almost square in shape. Horizontal radiators can be wider than a metre.

What is the best material for a radiator?

The material your radiator is made from can determine the speed in which it heats up and cools down. Aluminium heats up quickly but cools down just as fast, whereas cast iron will heat up slowly and retain its heat for much longer. The finish can also affect the heat output; chrome radiators are less efficient at radiating heat due to its insulating quality.

Do you need a valve for a radiator?

Radiators connected to the central heating system must have valves. These are positioned at the point where the radiator connects with the pipes. There are two options: standard or thermostatic valves. Standard radiator valves act like taps. They allow you to turn radiators on and off in specific rooms but cannot alter the heat. Whereas thermostatic valves also give the ability to change the heat output, saving you money on energy bills.

What is a designer radiator?

Aesthetically pleasing and intended to be a feature as much as functionality, designer radiators come in huge ranges of shapes, sizes and unique designs. It doesn't need to be the traditional white: choose from black, chrome, graphite or silver to give your room a sleek finish.

How energy efficient are central heating radiators?

Radiators are one of the most efficient ways of heating your home. There are a number of ways to ensure their energy efficiency that will in turn save you money. Radiator reflector panels are foil sheets that stick to the wall behind your radiator. These help to keep heat in your room rather than letting it escape from the external wall. Regular bleeding will also ensure energy efficiency; if they become blocked you will use more energy to try and produce more heat.

How do you maintain a radiator?

You will need to bleed your radiators from time to time to keep them working at their best. This is simple to do and fairly quick. Doing this releases the air bubbles that build up over time and become trapped in the pipes.

Check which radiators need bleeding by heating them and touching them near the tops. The ones that aren't heating up to full temperature will need attention. Allow them to cool down, and then use a radiator key on the valve to bleed it. Continue while you hear air escaping and then stop when water appears.

Corrosion can also occur when air is inside your radiator. Put anti-corrosion fluid in the system to prevent this.

Central Heating Radiator Safety Advice

When bleeding radiators make sure they are fully cool to avoid burns from scalding steam escaping from the valve.

When fitting, repairing or servicing your central heating system make sure you use a Gas Safe registered engineer if it is connected to a natural gas or LPG supply.

It is important to get your gas boiler serviced regularly to minimise your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Use carbon monoxide alarms around the home to alert you of any dangers.

Use radiator covers if you have hot radiators and children in the house. This is an easy way to child proof them.

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