Radiator covers are back on trend in UK homes, but do they limit the heat output from the radiator? This article explores whether it’s worth investing in a radiator cover, along with some of our favourite designs.
What are Radiator Covers?
To put it simply, radiator covers are the covering of a heating unit. Covers can come in a variety of materials and are primarily used for aesthetic design purposes, to protect children and animals from heat and to provide extra storage space. Radiator covers are great for those who don’t have the time or money for a full refitting, and offer an alternative to splashing out on a brand new radiator.
How Does Radiator Heat Work?
Radiators generate heat in 3 ways: through radiation, convection and conduction.
Radiation turns into heat when it comes into contact with a surface, causing convection to occur where the air is heated and begins to expand. Conduction then happens, where the heat travels through solid objects, (e.g. your radiator), thus heating it up. Radiators get warm as the heat travels through the conducting metal of the radiator, then through the convection process, the area around the radiator is heated. The more powerful your radiator, the more warmth will be spread around the room.
Do Radiator Covers Block Heat?
Of course, putting a solid object around your heat source will have an effect on the heat output as it acts as a barrier. However, a radiator cover will not block too much heat as long as your cover has gaps and slots for heat to escape, and warm the air up through convection. If your radiator cover is completely solid, you’ll be losing heat and energy, which will be more expensive to run as your boiler will work harder to reach the temperature set by your thermostat.
The reality of the story is, an uncovered radiator will have a higher heat output and work more efficiently if it doesn't have the barrier of a radiator cover. But there are still countless benefits to installing a radiator cover.
Are They Safer For Children?
One of the main selling points of radiator covers is to protect children and pets from burns. Radiators can cause severe burns, especially on children with sensitive skin, therefore a radiator cover will prevent any scalding and give you peace of mind for your children's safety. The valves and piping on radiators can be susceptible to damage, so a cover will also protect these parts. It’s also not a great idea to warm your feet up directly on a radiator after coming out of the cold, as the movement from intense cold to warm can cause chilblains.
Installing a Radiator Cover
It’s a good idea to have enough space between your radiator and your cover so the heat can be distributed more evenly. The gap between the radiator and the cover should be at least 5cm in width, 3cm in height and 3cm in depth to ensure it won’t affect the BTU output. Take a look at our guide on how to measure a radiator to ensure you get the correct measurements for a radiator cover. It’s also a good idea to keep furniture at least 20cm away from a radiator as a larger gap is beneficial for the convection of heat.
If you’re worried about blocking heat with the use of a radiator cover, install a reflective panel on the wall behind the unit which will reflect any heat to the back of the radiator and reflect it around the room.
What Materials Are Best?
Wood is the most common material for a radiator cover, even though it isn't a very good conductor of heat. However, it is the best material to childproof your radiators. This will mean that it won't get as warm as other materials like metal, and will absorb some of the heat. Having lines and gaps in your radiator cover will help to improve the heat output, so this is a good idea to keep your rooms warm.
Galvanised metal is a great material for heat conduction and will ensure no heat is lost, but this isn't one for protecting your kids from burns!
The Design Aspect
On top of their practicality, making radiator covers are a fun DIY project and are easy to customise to your home decor. Wooden radiator covers can be painted to match your room, and there are varying different types of covers from diamond patterns, to panels. White matte is a common finish for radiator covers and is great to add a sleek, fresh look to your space. However, radiator covers aren't for everyone! If you have modern designer radiators, a cover may not be necessary as you’ll want to show off your radiators!
Some of Our Favourites
The best radiator covers are those that add another dimension to your space and blend into your home design. They are also handy to provide more storage and can act as a handy piece of furniture. Check out some of our top picks below: