Selecting radiators, whether they’re for your new build or renovation project, can often be an afterthought that’s only considered, once the majority of the interior is complete. But how will you know if your belatedly chosen design will fit within the remaining available space, if it will suit the design scheme and – even more crucially – produce enough heat for the room?

Planning ahead is key here, and clueing up on what to look for could save you money in the long run.

Sizing Up and Heat Output

With a large number of manufacturers, it’s possible to specify radiators in a wide range of sizes to suit your needs.

“There are many different sizes and shapes,” says Simon Hall, Director of Agadon“Then there is also the common size for horizontal radiators, which is typically 600×1,200mm, and 1,800x450mm for a vertical radiator.”

However, it’s important to remember that the size of your radiator will directly impact on its ability to heat the room.

“It’s not quite as simple as saying what size you want,” say the experts at Stelrad. “You need to work backwards from the amount of heat you need to heat a room and then match available radiators to achieve that level of heat.”

Heat output is typically measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units) or watts.

How to calculate the average BTU required for a room:

“Using the right dimensions of a room is vital for establishing the required heat output. Things to consider are the number of windows, doors and radiator’s placement to maximise heat. For example, a room with 3 windows will require 3 radiators (under each window) for the heating to be effective.” – Explains Adam Swarbrick, Director Designer Radiators Direct.

  1. Multiply the width x length x height (in feet) of the room.
  2. Multiply this figure by four.

Do bear in mind that factors such as the level of insulation, the number of window openings, etc. can impact on this calculation. Otherwise find a free heat output calculator by searching online.

“If you need more output, most radiators can be purchased in different dimensions to help you get what you want but still fit the space you have, e.g. selecting designs with greater depths will allow you to achieve higher heat outputs without increasing the height/width of your radiators,” explains Grant Dixon, Project Manager at The Radiator Company.

“Traditional multi-column radiators offer the option to increase the number of columns within each section, while more contemporary designs offer single, double and triple variants.”

Note that if you’re looking to heat a large space, then one radiator won’t be effective enough to evenly spread heat, and so specifying multiple radiators will be key here if there is no other form of heat source present (i.e. underfloor heating, woodburning stoves, etc).

Material Options

While there are a number of materials on the market, radiators were traditionally manufactured from steel due to its strength, efficiency and flexibility.

Stainless steel offers beautiful brushed and polished finishes that are extremely durable — able to withstand a high degree of wear and tear,” says Marcus Orchard, Managing Director at Iconic. “It also has an advantage of being impervious to water, enabling it to be used in any domestic heating system.”

Brass is another material used for high-end designer towel warmer radiators, offering exceptional quality and tending to suit traditional schemes — as does cast iron.

“Other advances in material technology have included radiators incorporating graphite,” say the experts at Zehnder. “Graphite is lightweight with high thermal conductivity, and these radiators give an extremely even heat distribution, which again is easily and quickly controlled to give both comfort and lower running costs.”

Aluminium is also becoming a popular choice for those looking for light and more efficient radiators. “They are usually the most effective in terms of efficiency and they are the ‘greenest’ in terms of their manufacture,” explains Dave Thornback, UK Sales Manager at Vasco. “Added to the fact that they can be completely recycled at the end of their life.”


“Radiators usually fall into groups with regard to design,” explains Dave Thornback of Vasco.

• Ladder designs have space for hanging towels, so they are a great choice for bathrooms and kitchens.

• Contemporary wall-hung radiators look good in a bedroom or living area and can often be placed both horizontally and vertically.

“Try and decide early on if you want to make a feature of your radiator,” says Grant Dixon. “They’re permanent fixtures in homes and can be an inconvenience to change after a scheme is complete. You can also opt for radiators to be powder coated. In more traditional interiors, check to see if you can have your chosen design colour matched to blend in and complement its surroundings. Today, most designs can be tailored to your preferences with hundreds of colours and finishes available.”

When it comes to purchasing radiators for a bathroom, functionality is a key question to be addressed, particularly if they are to be used for drying towels too. Another type to consider is the dual-energy towel radiator which can be used when the central heating is turned off.

The Alternatives

While radiators that run off your heating system are considered the norm, electric designs have a place in the home, too. Electric radiators were previously seen to be bulky and too expensive and inefficient to run, but the new slimline models from the likes of Intelli Heat address many of these concerns.

“The aluminium body of our radiators is designed to ensure a thermo-efficient performance, which is assisted by a thermodynamic-fluid filling and fitted with an intelligent ambient thermostat that ensures a perfect regulation of energy consumption,” explains Salvatore Cirasuolo from Intelli Heat. “The thermostat senses the room temperature with one-tenth of a degree accuracy, meaning the temperature you set is the temperature you get!”

Companies such as The Economy Radiator Company are also offering slimline models made of Italian aluminium, which are fully programmable and promote lower running costs.

It’s not just electric radiators that are growing in popularity either. Low-surface-temperature radiators (LSTs) – commonly found in schools and hospitals thanks to their safety casing – are now being specified by homeowners to be used in conjunction with heat pumps.

While a number of leading brands, including Stelrad, Zehnder, Myson and Jaga, offer LSTs in different sizes according to available space, they are commonly more expensive than traditional radiators, but have the benefit of safety as well as efficiency.

For example, products such as Jaga’s Tempo LST radiator features a low-H2O heating element which is able to react to temperature changes quickly and efficiently, meaning that only the nominal amount of energy is used to heat the space.

Choosing Valves

The valves will not only impact on the overall look of your radiator, but choosing the right one will also impact on its functionality and the heat output — ultimately affecting your energy bills.

“The available options include thermostatic and manual, straight and angled, and there are also solutions which have been designed for traditional (crosshead valves) and contemporary properties,” says Steve Birch, Sales Director of Vogue (UK). “Some sleek towel warmer radiators have integral valves built into the design so you have the control without seeing the valve, and there’s even the option for valves that are remote from the towel warmer, yet you still have control.”

So what is considered most efficient?
Manual valves are adjusted by hand and allow a constant flow of water into the radiator, whereas a thermostatic radiator valve (TRV) has a built-in thermostat, allowing the exact temperature required to be set. In this respect, TRVs are more energy-efficient because they switch off once the room reaches the desired temperature.

Where to Install

Just as you would plan space for kitchen units, sockets and switches, knowing where your radiators are best placed is just as important.“Most of us inherit radiators in the place they were installed originally when the house was built or when central heating was first installed,” say experts at Stelrad. “If you have the luxury, plan the installation along with the décor and the furniture you intend to place in the room. If you are replacing old radiators, you have more flexibility. Most new radiators will take up less wall space than the old ones, giving you more wall space to play with.”In the past, radiators were commonly found under windows to balance out the cold air entering the room, but with modern-day double glazing and insulation levels, this is no longer necessary. Place your radiators where they will best serve to provide heat and make the most out of underutilised spaces (such as alcoves and near the door).Grant Dixon of The Radiator Company adds these top tips for radiator placement:

  • Underutilised areas such as chimney breasts and tight corners are ideal for tall, thin radiators
  • Avoid placing radiators behind sofas as they will reduce the radiator’s ability to heat the room.
  • Larger rooms will benefit from more than one radiator to evenly distribute heat.
  • Radiators that are located under windows should be of a similar width to the window itself to deliver a more visually appealing result, while tall, thin models can be used to create a column effect.
  • Many designs are also available in horizontal and vertical options to maximise ceiling heights and long, low spaces.

Radiators Gallery

The Radiator Company's 25 wall-hung radiator with optional mirror

The Radiator Company’s 25 wall-hung radiator with optional mirror, costs £358.80 or £402 with mirror

Athena horizontal radiator from Iconic

The Athena Horizontal radiator from Iconic, from £605

Iconics Lattic Steel vertical radiator by Jacek Ryn in Nickel Gloss

Iconic’s Lattice steel vertical radiator by Jacek Ryn (shown in Nickel Gloss), from £4,663

Vita Eco radiator from Stelrad

Vita Eco radiator from Stelrad is energy-efficient and affordable, from £68 excl VAT

Zehnder Roda Mirror radiator vertical

Zehnder Roda Mirror radiator, £673 excl VAT

Halo radiator under window from the Radiator Company

Halo Radiator from The Radiator Company, £902

Iconic's Serie T Range bath shelf and double horizontal radiators

Iconic‘s Serie T range includes the Bath, Shelf and Double Horizontal radiators which warm towels and provide warm seating, POA

Horse painting radiator from Glass Designer M10 Horse Triple Image from Agadon

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Line R Horizontal from Intelli Heat's Needo Range slim electric radiator

The Line R Horizontal from Intelli Heat‘s Needo range of slim electric radiators comes in 10 colours, from £525

The steel Coco Plus radiator from Vasco

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