01 Oct 2013

Heating: The heat is on


Few people are as interested in their heating systems as self-builders, who are determined to invest in the best and most energy-efficient products available. The market is full of surprisingly contemporary radiators available in a wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes, as well as impressive green credentials.


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One of the big questions – having decided whether to utilise a modern condensing boiler or renewable heating system – is how to share the heat efficiently around the property. The two most common options are underfloor heating and radiators.

Modern radiators are very different from those sold pre-2000. They may look similar in appearance, but on closer inspection are very different. Built to much higher standards and from better materials, the pressure for these products to meet a number of important modern standards have pushed manufacturers to create radiators that are as aesthetic as they are efficient.

The options are many, with the quality and value on the market becoming increasingly impressive. Many premium and designer products are barely recognisable as radiators. From vertical to horizontal, in all varieties of colours, shapes and sizes, there is something to suit the spectrum of design preference. As long as the radiator is sized properly, heating and cooling times are incredibly efficient.

A variety of energy-saving radiators are now available for the first time in the UK for self-build projects. For example, Radical radiators by Stelrad – a leading UK radiator manufactuer – have been independently shown to save 10.5% of the energy a standard radiator would use. The clever new technology circulates water in a very different way and heats the front panel first, saving energy. It is rare that the radiator needs to heat up to maximum temperature – less than 10% of the time in fact – so using intelligent Radical radiators makes a lot of sense, especially when it comes to your electricity bill! They provide up to 50% more radiant heat and warm up 23% more quickly than a standard radiator.

The towel rail sector is just one of the diverse and highly competitive segments within the UK radiator market, with towel warmers of all shapes and sizes available for every possible type of installation. The towel rail market is split between the basic products sold in huge numbers through DIY outlets – representing around 70% of the total market volume – and the more upmarket offerings, which is a segment that continues to grow.

However, despite the appeal and mass attraction in the UK of chrome plated towel warmers, all chrome plated towel rails are at a heat out-put disadvantage compared to those with painted finishes. This is because the plating process compromises the efficiency of the radiator. Plating is a difficult process to master and, as a result, plated rails can also be prone to corrosion from moisture ingress between the steel tube and the layer of plating.

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