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Central Heating Radiators

One of the best ways to save energy, improve the efficiency of your home, and reduce your carbon emissions is to install a central heating system. To have a full system fitted into your property is likely to cost a few thousand pounds, and involves a fair amount of upheaval during the installation process.

Depending on which type of fuel, and which type of system you use, you may need a storage tank to be fitted somewhere on the property; you might have to have a water tank put in the loft, and a new indirect hot water cylinder fitted. A boiler will need to be fitted, and the pipe work will need to be laid around the house to each of the radiators.

The right size radiator should be chosen for each room to ensure it can be adequately heated.

Consider where the radiators are going to be installed in each room

Selecting the radiators is an important part of designing a central heating system. The look and style of the radiator needs to be taken into account, and you may want to specify a certain type to fit the style of your home. The size of the radiator is also important; the right size radiator should be chosen for each room to ensure it can be adequately heated.


How radiators work

Central heating systems all operate in roughly the same manner, whether gas, oil, wood, LPG, or electricity is used as a fuel. The water is heated by a central boiler then pumped around a circuit of pipes through each radiator, and back to the boiler. Central heating radiators also all work to similar principles; as the hot water travels through the radiator its surface gets hot and heats the air around it.

The name radiator suggests that they emit radiant heat, but the majority of heat emitted from a radiator is by convection. The air close to the surface of the radiator is heated and, as it rises, colder air in the room falls. This creates a natural circulation of air to heat the room, which is why it is important for radiators to have plenty of clearance to avoid restricting airflow. Most radiators include fins at the back, or between panels if a double radiator; the increased surface area means the radiator is able to give off more heat.


Choosing the right central heating radiator

The main issue for you to consider when deciding on which radiators to use, is how they will look once they are installed. There are a variety of different colours, styles and material to choose from, and they should fit the style of your home.

Also consider where the radiators are going to be installed in each room, and how they will fit with the furniture in each room; a taller ladder-style radiator may be a good space saver in a smaller room, for example. If you are having a new system installed, you might also want to include heated towel rails into the design.

There are different coloursand styles to choose from,they should fit the style of your home

You might also want to include heated towel rails into the design.

The installer should make calculations as part of the design process, to specify a minimum size for each radiator in each room. It is sensible to liaise with your contractor about size and style to make sure that the most important criteria is met; that the radiators comfortably heat the house.


Positioning radiators

The positioning of each central heating radiator is another crucial part of installing a central heating system. The position can affect the efficiency of the radiator as well as the comfort factor within the house. Generally the best place to site a radiator is in the coldest part of the room, which is often underneath a window.

This creates excellent conduction for a radiator as the cold air coming in, forces the warm air out and into the room. A double glazed property may not be noticeably colder by the windows, in which case you can site the radiators in the best place to suit your furnishings.

As a rough guide it is best to have one radiator every four metres in larger rooms; and most rooms will benefit from two smaller radiators to give off a more even heat throughout the room.


Radiator valves

After choosing which type of radiator you want to use, you can then consider fitting thermostatic radiator valves to each of them. These valves allow you to control the release of heat in each room – depending on the room temperature; the valves open and close the water inlet to each radiator. 

Central heating systems without radiator valves rely on a single room thermostat, usually in a hallway or living room, which then emits the same amount of heat from each radiator throughout the house. By controlling which rooms release more and less heat, you can make the system more efficient and avoid unnecessary heat loss.


Temperature guides

The sizing of a radiator, or the decision on the amount of radiators to be fitted into a room, depends on the temperature you want to maintain in that particular room. The heat loss from the room will also have an effect on sizing, although those calculations are best left to your installer.

As a general guide to the ideal temperatures for each room, living and dining rooms should be maintained at approximately 21oC. Kitchens and bedrooms can be kept at a lower temperature of around 16oC, while bathrooms are usually warmer at roughly 23oC.



If you are upgrading your heating system and are opting for central heating, there are a multitude of decisions to make about which type of system to install. What type of fuel you use and which type of boiler you buy, whether the system heats your water as well, and what type of radiators you use are all important factors.

It is a substantial purchase, and one, which should last for many years, so it is essential to find the best and most efficient system possible.

The radiators are the main visual element of a central heating system, and there are several different materials, styles and designs you can choose from to suit the décor of your home. Whichever type you select, however, it is more important to ensure they are correctly sized and positioned to do their job, and provide adequate heat.

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