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How to Choose the Right Material for Your Radiator

Updated: 7 days ago


A collection of different radiators in different materials

Understanding the different materials used to manufacture designer radiators can help ensure the right product is installed to get the best performance from the system and the best look.


When choosing a designer radiator, there are a number of factors that come into play, the design and style, price, installation factors (wall materials, weight of products etc) the material used in manufacture is also a key consideration that should not be overlooked. Designer radiators are manufactured from a range of materials, that each offer varying performance characteristics and benefits. To ensure that the correct specification is made, it is important that we consider each option and know when to specify one over the other.


Cast Iron.

Traditional cast iron radiators have been the staple material in period homes and schools since the Victorian age. Their dense heavy structure takes time to reach optimal temperature but remains hot long after the central heating is turned off - perfect for cold, drafty, period homes. If you are looking to achieve a more traditional aesthetic, or statement piece, cast iron radiators are ideal – as many ranges are available in a selection of RAL colours and special finishes and offer colour palettes typical of Georgian or Edwardian properties. There are few cast iron foundries producing radiators in Europe and as such they are more expensive than most radiator types, checking they are going to be easy to fit and that the whole system is designed to get the best performance out of them.


If you are considering cast iron in your home, then it is important to take into account all the types of radiators in your home and how the heating system has been designed. Cast Iron radiators normally require much more water to operate and as a material is slow to heat up and will retain and release heat slowly, so if you have just one or two in your house and the rest are steel or aluminium then you may find the cast iron radiators will not have enough time to heat up properly before the thermostat turns the boiler off as the rest of the radiators are heating up a lot faster.


Cast iron radiators work particularly well with high ceilings or older buildings which commonly have less insulation. As cast iron takes a long time to warm up and cool down, the radiators will retain heat well and provide a continual source of heat - therefore keeping the space warm, long after the radiators have been turned off.


This material is heavy, so installation needs to be considered, especially as there may be the need to join radiators on site, working with an installer with a good level of experience in cast iron will make the process and final installation a lot easier.



Steel

For a range of traditional and modern designs, sizes and colours steel radiators may be the choice for you. Comprised of a lighter less dense material than cast iron, steel radiators will heat up and cool down relatively quickly providing manageable control. Steel is the most popular material used to manufacture designer radiators in the UK– in part, because it is easy to shape and therefore create the distinctive and contemporary designs and sizes we are increasingly looking for. If you’re looking for a statement piece, steel radiators are a good place to start.


The main purpose of a radiator is to heat your room so how a material transfers heat from the hot water into the room is very important. Steel is a good conductor of heat, but not at the top of the list, it is however a more cost-effective material and has more varied designs to choose from and is therefore a less expensive option.


There are two different types of steel commonly used: mild steel and stainless steel. For the more cost-conscious customer looking to replace multiple radiators at the same time, mild steel can offer a more cost-effective solution, than Stainless steel.


If you’re looking for a longer-term investment and minimal maintenance, consider stainless steel models. Although the initial cost is slightly higher, stainless steel is incredibly durable and rust resistant which means that it is virtually maintenance-free and the lifetime costs are therefore minimal, this property makes it particularly suited to bathrooms and kitchens.



Aluminium

Aluminium is a highly efficient, conductive material that will heat up very quickly after the central heating is turned on, giving you total control over your central heating system.


Aluminium radiators can tick a lot of boxes for homeowners. The main benefit of aluminium designer radiators is that they will heat up faster than other materials as well as cool down quickly. This is because aluminium is a superconductor and so responds quickly to thermostatic changes. Radiators made from this material are therefore highly efficient and make it easy to control the temperature of the space. Aluminium is less flexible to work with than steel so there tend to be fewer variations in designs to choose from,


Another benefit of aluminium designer radiators is their light weight. Not only does this make the installation process much easier, but it also makes them suitable for a wide range of projects, as they can be hung on most walls.


A further benefit is energy efficiency: less water is required for aluminium radiators to operate compared to others, meaning less demand on the heating system. These radiators also work well with renewable energy sources and systems running on a lower Delta T.


Aluminium is also fully recyclable at the end of its useful life (most aluminium radiators are also made from a large percentage of recycled material!) and although it is slightly more expensive in comparison to other materials such as mild steel, the initial cost is more than covered by the lifetime efficiency savings. This makes aluminium radiators appealing to cost-conscious customers, as well as those looking to reduce their environmental impact.



Whilst the material is a key factor in the specification process of a radiator, you should always ensure that you have carefully calculated the British Thermal Units (BTUs) to gauge whether the radiator can sufficiently heat the space. To assist in determining the required BTU you can use our online heat output calculator. This useful tool can be used to provide an estimate of the heat output required for the room, simply by inputting a few details including the type of room, window type, how exposed the space is and the room dimensions. This will then provide a guide to the BTU/hr and Watt requirements based on the EN442 standard of Delta T50.

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Jargon Buster

BTU

British Thermal Units (BTU) is a measure of the output of heat needed to raise the temperature of a room. Determining the correct BTU will help you get the right radiator for your home.

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