Radiator Covers - The Green Alternative?

Published: 12th November 2011
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How on earth do radiator covers work? It seems a ludicrous idea at first, how covering something up can make it more efficient. But actually despite the initial confusion there's not only good sound sense behind it, but there are other examples we come across every day where this same principle is at work.

Normally you think of your radiator as radiating heat, with warm air radiating out to fill the whole room. Except that's not really how it works. Despite their large surface area sitting like a giant slab on your wall, radiators actually do very little radiating. Warm or hot air rises, with colder air sinking. So as the air next to the radiator warms up to become a higher temperature than the air around it, it naturally starts to rise. This means that almost all of your warm air is shooting straight upwards, making your ceiling lovely and cosy. For most people though, clinging to the picture rail, huddled up in the corner with the cobwebs isn't an ideal way to relax.

Of course, eventually the warm air cools, and sinks, and is then warmed up again by the radiator, creating a convection current which circulates the air in the room. Over time this gradually means that the average temperature rises, until eventually you start to feel comfortable. The problem is that radiators don't radiate heat, they are convector heaters instead. To have any real effect they need to be switched on to a high temperature for some time before they're even noticed. So how do radiator covers work in helping to change this?

The simple answer is that fitting a radiator cabinet or a radiator cover in front of a radiator actually turns it into a radiator. The air is radiated out, rather than allowed to escape up. A small gap at the base of the cover allows cool air to be drawn in. The space between the radiator cover and the radiator is fairly small, meaning that the air inside is kept closer to the radiator for longer, significantly increasing the temperature it reaches before escaping out to the room.

A grille at the front of the radiator cabinet allows the hot air to then be pushed out, directly into the room. A shelf along the top prevents the hot air above the radiator simply shooting straight up to the ceiling where it's wasted. This means that the air is heated more quickly and to a higher temperature, and then pushed out directly into the room where it's felt very quickly.

Trapping air in a confined space in order to heat it to a higher temperature is hardly a new concept though. After all, many barbecues have a cover which allows the overall temperature to reach a much higher level than it would if left open, and of course every oven has a door to keep the air inside to a high temperature. If you left the oven door open then you'd be wasting a huge amount of heat and energy, and the oven would never reach the sort of temperature you need.

You can think of radiator covers as being a little like the oven door, except that the hot air is then allowed to enter the room directly. This is a significantly more efficient way of heating a room, meaning that many people find they can turn the heating down to a lower setting, and even switch it off sooner. Of course, this saves money and fuel, meaning that as well as looking great, radiator covers are a real green alternative.

For more information about radiator covers visit Kingston Cabinets Ltd, specialist makers of bespoke radiator covers and cabinets.

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