Choosing the Best Radiator, Guide to Choosing A Radiator for Your Home in 2020

Whether you’re installing a radiator in a brand new location or you’re replacing a radiator, there are multiple options to consider in terms of radiator size, radiator types and styles, whether to install valves, which is the most efficient and more. Choosing a new radiator can actually be quite overwhelming if it’s something you’ve not done before, that’s why in this guide we explain the main types and styles of radiator as well as examining some of the best electric and efficient radiators for your home.

So, what are the main factors you will need to consider when choosing the perfect radiator for your home?

Our List of Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Radiators

Where Should You Install Your Radiator?

Before you do anything else you need to establish the best place to install the radiator. You will either have a pre-determined place (i.e. radiator replacement) or you’re looking to place an additional radiator for it’s heat benefits. If it’s a radiator replacement then the radiator you choose will be limited by the wall space you have, the type of wall you’re installing the radiator onto and the location within the room. However, if it’s an additional radiator then the things you should consider are:

  • The physical space you have – this will determine the size of the radiator you can have and will therefore dictate whether you have a vertical or horizontal radiator.
  • The location of any big furniture – this will usually include things such as large cabinets or sofas, try not to install a radiator behind these as you will loose the convection power of the radiator and the room will feel colder.
  • Floor to ceiling curtains – commonly radiators will be installed underneath windows, however be mindful that the presence of floor to ceiling curtains will block radiation of heat when they’re closed. Therefore if you have floor to ceiling curtains, either consider that you’ll need to change these or find a different place for the radiator.
  • The type of wall – keep in mind the type of wall you intend to install the radiator onto, is it plasterboard or is it brick construction? Plasterboard walls will radiators to have more secure fixings to prevent them falling off.
  • Do you need a heat reflector? – heat reflectors are used where the radiator is installed onto an outside wall to reduce the amount of heat lost directly through that wall to the outside.

Plumbed or Electric Radiators?

This decision is usually pre-determined by the system you already have installed. For example, if you already have a gas boiler heated central heating system then you’ll probably want a plumbed radiator, however if you’re installing a radiator into a new extension or loft conversion where plumbing doesn’t currently run then an electrical radiator can be a good solution.

  • A Plumbed Radiator – A plumbed radiator is one which connects to your existing central heating system and uses hot water to radiate heat around the room. These are usually controlled using a centrally installed thermostat, which may or may not be adjusted by an installed thermostatic radiator valve (TRV).
  • Electric Radiator – An electric radiator are controlled on the installed unit and not by a central control unit. This type of radiator will require an electrical supply, in the form of a connected supply or in some cases may be as simple as a 3 pin plug. Electrical radiators can be more costly to run, but as mentioned above they are good for areas where extension of the existing water central heating system may be costly or difficult, such as garden extensions, loft conversions or garage conversions.

What Size of Radiator Do You Need?

It’s important to get the right size of radiator, failing to do so will result in a radiator which doesn’t put out enough heat and is therefore ineffective in it’s job, leaving you with an under-heated room. There are two things you need to think about when determining the size of radiator you need:

  1. What size boiler do you currently have? And is it large enough to deal with an additional or bigger radiator? Or do you need a new boiler?
  2. What type of room will the radiator be installed in and how big is that room?

The first question, is your boiler big enough? You can either ask a professional gas fitter to determine if the boiler is big enough or you can try and figure it out yourself. The most accurate way is to check with a professional, but where this isn’t possible then you can estimate it yourself by findings out what the kilowatt (kW) size your current boiler is. This value will be listed under the technical specifications online if you “Google” the make and model of your current boiler (or new boiler if you’re having a boiler replacement). Then refer to the table below which gives an overview of common boiler sizes and the number of radiators they will usually take.

Boiler Size & Number of Radiators
Boiler Size (kW) Bedrooms Number of Radiators
25 kW 2 10
28 – 30 kW 3 – 4 15
32 – 35 kW 3 – 4 18
40 kW + 4 – 5 20

The second question is how big is the room the radiator will be installed in? This is really important as a radiator that is too small will leave the room feeling cold, whereas a radiator which is too large will cause you to spend more money on buying and installing the radiator than you need. So how do you know the size of radiator you need? The simple answer is to use a BTU calculator! A BTU calculator will usually take into account 3 things; 1) The type of room (e.g. bathroom, kitchen, hallway etc), 2) The height, width and length of your room, 3) Any windows, patio or french doors which may cause excessive heat loss. You will then have a BTU requirement, you can then search online for a radiator with a BTU value close to your requirements.

What Type of Radiator Should You Buy, Type 21, 22, 11 or 33?

Next, now that you’ve decided on the site of the radiator for your requirements you will need to decide which type of radiator you should buy as there are a number of different types on the market and it can be confusing if you’ve never chosen a radiator before. The table below gives an overview of the main “types” of radiator along with positives and negatives.

Radiator Types Compared
Radiator Type No. Panels / No. Convectors Visual Max Heat Output (BTU) Size
Type 21 Double Panel / Single Convector Type 21 Radiator 5,000 BTU’s Average
Type 22 Double Panel / Double Convector type 22 radiator 7,000 BTU’s Average / Bulky
Type 11 Single Panel / Single Convector type 11 radiator 2,500 BTU’s Compact
Type 33 Triple Panel / Triple Convector type 33 radiator 15,000 BTU’s Very Bulky

Single Panel Radiators – Convector (Type 11) and Non-Convector

Single panel radiators are radiators which have a single face to them, these can either be convector, also known as a type 11, or non-convector radiators. Convector radiators have the radiator panel and a set of fins behind them which help to disperse the heat more readily from the radiator. The two types of single panel radiator are shown in the image below. In general, non-convector radiators aren’t really used any more as they’re not energy efficient and are give less heat output to cost ratio.

Types of Single Panel Radiator

Double Panel Radiators – Convector (Type 21) and Non-Convector

Double panel radiators, just like single panel radiators, have a single panel on the front which faces outwards and another panel behind it, spaced with either a gap (non-convector) or a set of fins (convector type 21 radiators). The double panel radiator allows almost double the heat output in the same space as a single panel alternative, so are a great alternative for rooms such as hallways which require a lot of heat to warm up but may also have limited wall space. Again, non-convector radiators aren’t really available in DIY stores any more due to their lacking in energy efficiency.

Types of Double Panel Radiators

Double Panel Double Convector (Type 22) Radiators

A double panel double convector radiator, also known as a type 22 radiator, like a double panel radiator, has two heating panels as well as two sets of fins in between. These radiators offer the highest output in BTU’s whilst saving the most amount of horizontal space.

Types of Double Panel-Double Convector Radiators

Triple Panel Triple Convector (Type 33) Radiators

Triple panel triple convector radiators, otherwise known as a type 33 radiator, put out a massive amount of heat but they are not that commonly used. The reason for this is that their depth makes them heavy and impractical for most spaces. The visual appearance of this type of radiator is less appealing than a type 22 and the heat gained in comparison to a type 22 (double panel double convector) is often not significant enough to justify the loss of space, extra cost and the visual ugliness of this type of radiator.

triple panel triple convector radiator type 33

What Styles of Radiator Are There?

20 years ago the styles of radiator were very limited to horizontal and occasionally vertical, however in today’s modern world there are several types of radiator available which will suit most homes and most space, design and style requirements. The following are the main styles:

  • Column (Horizontal) Radiators
  • Vertical Radiators
  • Towel Radiators
  • Flat Panel Radiators
  • Cast Iron Radiators
  • Mirror Radiators
  • Stainless Steel Radiators
  • Designer Radiators

Column (Horizontal) Radiators

Column, also more commonly known as horizontal radiators, are those radiators which we see most commonly in the average home. These are usually white but can also be painted other colours with specially designed radiator paint. Horizontal radiators are also available in their own different styles including traditional (Victorian style), standard and ultra-modern. The modern take on the Victorian classic are now energy efficient and designed with the modern world in mind, but with a traditional look to suit a Victorian home.

Vertical Radiators

Vertical radiators can provide as much heat as their horizontal counterparts, but they are designed to fit seamlessly into smaller spaces. They are available in an array of colours, styles and materials, and are perfect for areas limited on space like kitchens and bathrooms.

Towel Radiators

Towel radiators are a version of the vertical radiator but are designed specifically to be able to hang your towel up in the bathroom to try. There are a couple of types of towel rail; the first is a traditional radiator style with a hanging rail built in, and the second is a tall modern type towel rail which gives out less heat than a traditional radiator but allows more towel hanging space.

Flat Panel Radiators

Flat panel radiators are very modern and compact, they are designed for areas which are limited for wall space and also require a modern feel. Be aware, they often don’t give out as much heat as the traditional convector radiator and are not good for large spaces which require good amounts of heat to warm up.

Cast Iron Radiators

Cast iron radiators are great for traditional homes where there is a need for a traditional look (i.e. Victorian) with the benefits of energy efficiency, low running costs and good heat output.

Mirror Radiators

Mirror radiators are a version of a vertical flat panel radiator which will usually be installed into bedrooms to provide heat whilst at the same time being able to provide a reflective mirror. These are great where wall space is an issue but they also make an otherwise inanimate object a useful piece of functional furniture.

Designer Radiators

Designer radiators are good in modern and contemporary spaces, where a traditional radiator may spoil the clean and contemporary lines of the room. Designer radiators are available in many types including vertical, horizontal, mirror, towel rail and more.

Do You Need Thermostatic Radiator Valves?

Thermostatic radiator valves aren’t essential but they do offer a cost effective way of improving the energy efficiency of your home. Radiator valves can be installed on almost any centrally heated radiator, allowing you to control the temperature of that radiator and even turn it off to prevent you un-necessarily heating a room you are not using. There are various types of these valves available on the market, including manually operated and smart phone operated ones. From a price perspective they start as low as £4.99 and can increase to anything around £75 – £100 each for designer or smart valves.

There are usually 3 options:

  1. Angled thermostatic valves
  2. Straight thermostatic valves
  3. Corner thermostatic valves

The most common and usually most standard of these three are the angled valves which can usually be used regardless of whether the pipework comes out of the wall or the floor.

There are several sizes to consider:

  1. 8mm
  2. 10mm
  3. 15mm

Sizing them up is easily figured out by measuring the existing radiator pipework.

A full guide on how to choose your thermostatic radiator valves, as well as a comprehensive comparison of those available is shown at the heating hub.

How Much Will Your New Radiator Cost?

As outlined above there are many types, sizes and styles of radiator so prices will vary widely depending on your choice. The radiator replacement cost is mainly dictated by the type, size, quality, material and labour cost. For example a simple small single panel radiator may cost you around £150 installed, however the same size designer radiator may cost you 3 times that at between £400 – £500. Furthermore, a self employed plumber may charge £70 for installation, whereas British Gas may charge anything up to £250, depending on the ease or complexity of the job.

In Conclusion

Choosing the best radiator for your home can be tricky, but as long as you consider all of the main points which we’ve discussed in this buying guide then you can’t go too far wrong. It’s important to set out with a list of requirements in terms of style, type, heat output, location of installation and budget before you start searching. With this list you will be able to filter down your choices significantly.

We hope that you’ve found this guide useful, don’t forget to leave any questions below, and please check out our other buying guides.


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