Deciding on what type of radiator to buy can be a decision that will live with you for a long number of years as we tend to keep our radiators for a long time! Choosing the right radiator will depend on factors such as the type of room it is for, what heat source you are using (hot water central heating or electricity), how much space you have and what style you want to go for. Are you renovating and replacing your entire set-up or simply adding heating to an extension or an area of your home that needs additional heating?

Starting with what your heat source is a good place to start because all radiators are not created equally.  How is your current heating set-up being fuelled? Do you have gas, electricity, or both? Establishing how your radiator will run is the first thing you need to do before looking into different radiator types.

What’s your source of heat?

Central Heating Radiators

This is the most common type of heating used in the UK at the moment, so types of radiators are extensive and there is a wide variety to choose from. An electric or gas boiler heats up water that transfers the heat, that is then fed through pipes around your home and into radiators in every room. This system does a good job of heating your entire home on colder days but if you just want to heat up a small part of your house then its costly to run the entire central heating system for just one or two rooms.  

Electric Radiators

Electric radiators are easy to install and cost effective, using electricity to produce heat instead of hot water. Electric radiators are usually used if there is no central heating in the home or if there is a room that has a cold spot where the central heating doesn’t reach. They are basically plugged into the mains electricity and don’t need plumbing fixtures or hot water supply from a boiler. Electric radiators can also be used as back up if the central heating isn’t on and just a small space needs heating. Electric radiators can also be more efficient as they are used in isolation on a room-by-room basis, saving on costs as they operate independently and most work with digital thermostats that allow you to control their heat output efficiently. Electric radiators also pose no risks of carbon monoxide leakage and need almost zero maintenance once installed.

Dual Fuel

Some radiators come with both options, can be run on the central heating system when this is turned on, or can run off electricity using an electrical element that can be switched on and off as needed. This type is most used in bathrooms as towel drying radiators, working with the central heating on or in isolation, but can be used elsewhere around the home also.

Radiator Types Explained

The radiator type will be decided mainly by the type of space you have and what kind of look you prefer. The following are types of radiators mostly used with traditional central heating.

Common Horizontal Radiators. The typical radiator found in UK homes are the horizontal type, fixed to the wall and placed up to around hip height, mostly under windows where other pieces of furniture don’t fit. Usually one per room, two for larger rooms- these are connected to the central heating system by plumbed pipework and can be shut off individually to isolate them from the main hot water supply if they are not in use.

Horizontal radiators don’t have to be old fashioned box- type that we are used to seeing in our homes, instead these can now come in many different styles and finishes to really look less like a boring radiator you want to try and hide and more like a stylish part of your home décor. Replacing older radiators with new horizontal ones should be a simple exchange as they generally share the similar size and shape.

Flat Panel Radiators. These are classic non-obtrusive metal radiators, fed hot water from one side and drains from the other, that are simple and efficient at creating large outputs of radiant heat. Want to keep your heating as discrete as possible? Then flat panel radiators come in so many styles that they can easily compliment or blend in with your interior design. They can be vertically or horizontally oriented.

Standard convector radiators are simple and functional radiators that are tried and tested to do the job without worrying about appearance or other functionality. They circulate hot water through front and back panels that then heat the many folded layers called fins between the panels. These fins increase the surface area with the air and heat your room using convection (air is heated when it hits the hot surfaces and is channelled upwards and around the room), they can be single, double or triple panel and are an affordable option. If you’re replacing your old radiators with newer models, then a convector radiator will be an easy switch to make as they are likely to be similar in size and shape to the radiators you are replacing.

Vertical Radiators. Vertical radiators offer the exact same heat output as horizontal ones but as the name implies, they are placed vertically on the wall from floor to ceiling taking up much less room as they are tall and designed with a narrow profile. They are not as common to see but are ideal for houses with less available horizontal wall space and starting to become more and more popular in modern homes because their design are so very practical and save on space when this is at a premium.

Column Radiators- designed to emulate the old cast-iron Victorian radiators that once graced period homes of the wealthy, these can bring a traditional beauty to your home heating while still complimenting a contemporary home style. These can even look like their original cast iron predecessors but be made from more modern materials and provide greater heat efficiency.

Heated Towel Rails are a great idea for every bathroom, drying your towels as well as keeping your bathroom nice and warm. They come in a variety of sizes and finishes in keeping with your bathroom décor and are cleverly often dual fuel so can work off your central heating or just in isolation during warmer months where they can run off just electricity. Once you have had heated towel radiators you’ll wonder how you lived without them. Infrared towel dryers such as the Redwell towel dryer 2.0 can be run off a thermostat or be switched on for a set operating time.

Electric Radiators

Electric radiators are an efficient heating alternative that are low maintenance, easy to install and generally more cost effective due to the fact they operate individually, and you just use them around your home as needed. Most modern electric radiators come with in-built energy saving features such as thermostats, digital programming, and smart controls unlike their central heating counterparts.  

As well as the standard traditional radiator types, electric radiators now also come in a variety of modern and stylish designs allowing them to become an integral part of your home style. These can be wall mounted or free-standing, more contemporary shapes such as curved, or serve dual purposes such as mirror radiators, lighting fixture heaters or even have a functional blackboard finish.

Some of the most versatile radiator types of this nature are Infrared heaters that come in a number of stylish finishes and can serve different purposes as well as being heaters. From picture heating panels, free-standing, ceiling mounted, blackboard or mirror finish, or incorporated into lighting fixture- infrared heating offers much more than just a radiator to heat your home.

Infrared heaters don’t use air to transport heat, instead heat is transferred through infrared waves that transfer heat directly to objects in front of it, heating furnishings as well as solid objects including the people in the room. The heat produced is not affected by drafts, so an open window or door won’t lead to any heat loss. Infrared heaters placed in each room can be controlled individually to allow you to heat your home by zoning, meaning that you only use them when and where they are needed which is a cost saving.

Infrared heating provides a very efficient conversion of electricity to heat so they are one of the cheapest heaters to run, thus making it very cost-effective. For this reason, Infrared is one of the most efficient and modern heating solutions on the market.

How to choose a radiator

Choosing the right radiator for your home will come down to several factors such as your budget and the size of the room you are looking to heat. But at the same time, other factors such as their cost efficiency and heat output should be high up on your list of things to consider. If you are making an investment into replacing a radiator in one room or replacing your entire system, in the long run the efficacy of that radiator is a big thing to consider, will it heat the room comfortably and what are the running costs if it’s electrical or dual fuel.

After that, other features can be important such as the finish (chrome, white, black, steel etc), material (steel, aluminium, cast iron), shape (horizontal, vertical, curved, hanging etc), size and if it serves another purpose too.     

If you’re short on space, some radiators are designed to be mounted on a wall at picture height or on the ceiling, like the Redwell infrared panel heaters, which means you don’t have to worry about blocking the radiator with your furniture and heat can travel around the room uninterrupted.

What are radiators made out of? What material is best?

Once you have decided what type of radiator you want based on the heat source (central heating or electricity), and then what size and shape actually fit your space, then you might be left with deciding what material to go for. It’s not something you might have worried about in the past but knowing the different materials available and what the benefits of each are, might help you decide.   

Most radiators used in the UK are made out of steel, often referred to as mild steel, but aluminium, cast iron, stainless steel, copper and even plastic are also options. The important thing is that the material you chose is a good conductor of heat, is affordable and durable over a long period of time and don’t corrode easily. Additionally, you need to know if your new radiator is going to be wall mounted or floor mounted and if your wall-type can hold the weight as some radiators can weigh significantly more than others.

More modern designer radiators offer even more choice in the material they are made out of and this is reflected in their greater efficiency. Redwell Infrared panels are made out of stainless steel with either a powdercoated stainless steel finish or a toughened safety glass, chromised mirror or ceramic coated finish.

How to choose a radiator size- how big does a radiator need to be?

Aside from knowing what size the space you have to fit a radiator, it’s also important to correlate between that size and the amount of output you need to heat your space. You don’t want to go for a radiator that is unnecessarily big that will cost you more but nor do you want to underestimate the size of the radiator you need. You should also take into consideration things like your current levels of insulation, and where the windows and doors are located relative to the radiators. A reputable heating supplier should be able to advise you on exactly what size radiators best suit your needs based on wattage and the required BTU’s (British Thermal Units) relative to the size of the room.


Where should my radiator be installed?

Installing your radiator will be dictated by whether it’s a plumbed hot water centrally heated radiator or an electric one. Is it replacing your current heating set-up and will have to go where an existing radiator is or is it a new build or an extension and you have freedom to choose where to place it?

Your wall type is also important, solid masonry, brick or blockwork walls can hold most types of radiators with the right fixings. Plasterboard or drywall with hollow space behind will mean the radiator needs to be hung from the studs. 


Electric radiators vs Central heating

Sometimes you need to add additional heating to your home, maybe due to an extension or simply your current set up isn’t enough, but your boiler has a limited capacity and might not be adequate for additional central heating radiators to be added. So, this is where electric radiators can come in handy, and you won’t have to replace your current boiler with a bigger one or call in a plumber to make way for more pipework. Simply install using an existing mains electricity supply with none of the retrofitting disruption or added costs paying for additional plumbers and electricians. Remember also that electric radiators can be controlled individually in each room, so can be much more economical than central heating that heats up the entire home every time.

Keep in mind that the right electric radiator can actually save you money if you choose a quality product that is used in the most efficient way as it has been designed. Make sure the radiator you are considering will heat your space, be efficient and economical, modern and using the best technology to date and finally fit your style, your home and be an additional piece of furnishing that you are proud of and want to live with.