Energy efficient radiators – the sensible option…

Chris Harvey, product manager at Stelrad Radiators, discusses the extensive range of radiators available today

Specifiers for new homes spend a serious amount of time investigating the options available to them, determined to recommend the best and most energy efficient heating systems to make their homes attractive to prospective buyers. Plus, those very buyers are becoming ever more aware of the options available to them and expect housebuilders and developers to be a step ahead of the game.

One of the big questions that specifiers will come up against, having decided whether to utilise a modern condensing boiler or renewable heating system to provide heat for their homes, is how to share that heat – however generated – efficiently around the homes they are building. The two most common options today are underfloor heating and radiators.

It’s no coincidence that radiators get the vote from so many developers and housebuilders. Modern radiators are very different to those sold pre-2000. They may look similar to the untrained eye, but on closer inspection they are very different, built to much higher standards from better materials, having to meet a number of new standards and importantly, having to look good as well. Increasingly housebuilders are looking for the heating source they choose to add to the aesthetic appeal of the homes they build, rather than selecting purely functional radiators that share heat around the home.

The radiator options today are many and the quality is impressive. You’ll find premium and designer radiators that may look very unlike the radiators you remember. There are vertical radiators as well as horizontal ones, taking up less wall space and making décor simpler. So long as the radiators are sized properly, they will provide ample heat for any room and they heat up and cool down very quickly, so homeowners won’t find themselves waiting for an age for the home to get warm. The smaller radiator footprints of today are the result of double and triple panel radiators and convection fins which generate more heat from a smaller radiator profile.

Most importantly you can now select energy saving radiators in the UK for the first time. Serial feed radiators are now available and have been independently shown to save 10.5 per cent of the energy a standard radiator would use. The heated water circulates in a very different way and heats the front panel first. Often that’s all you need – you rarely want the radiator to heat up to maximum temperature, so using intelligent radiators makes a lot of sense. They provide up to 50 per cent more radiant heat – so you feel warmer quicker – and they heat up 23 per cent more quickly than a standard radiator. Serial feed radiators – as opposed to traditional parallel feed radiators are being selected by more and more developers and individuals as the secret is getting out.

While radiators can offer real energy savings options these days, one of the major trends in heating in new homes is the addition of a towel rail in most bathrooms. 20 years ago they were the exception – today they are the norm.

But not all towel rails are the same. It’s important that specifiers decide before selecting the towel warmer what they want it to do. The clue is in the name. Do they want the towel warmer simply to warm towels or do they want a decorative radiator that heats the bathroom or shower room as well as the towels?

More upmarket products, often manufactured in Italy, offer much more innovative designs and on the whole, far higher quality finishes. Sadly the towel rail marketplace is a bit like real life – you get what you pay for.

Despite the appeal and mass attraction in the UK of chrome plated towel warmers, all chrome plated towel rails are disadvantaged compared to products with painted finishes when considering their heat output. The plating process compromises the efficiency of the radiator and also has quite a negative environmental impact. Plated rails can be prone to corrosion from moisture ingress between the steel tube and its supposedly protective layer of plating.

But whether chrome plated or painted, when fitting a towel warmer, it is important to ensure it is correctly sized. This will inevitably mean specifying and fitting a much larger radiator than you would for a conventional steel panel type radiator. Taller, vertical models can help deliver satisfactory levels of heat and ensure that your end customers are not hurling themselves at the warm towels as they exit the shower to keep the cold air in the bathroom at bay.