Radiators are to boilers as vents are to furnaces. They are the heating delivery method for your boiler system. Basically, the boiler will heat up the water in the main system and then send it through piping to each of the radiators. When the hot water reaches the radiator, it is spread into the room through convection. As the boiler heats the air, the hot air rises and pushes the cold air down towards the radiator. This creates a kind of passive cycle of air in the room which effectively heats all of the air inside the room over a relatively short period of time.
The Heat Loss Problem
This is actually a pretty efficient way to heat your home, but there is a factor that diminishes the efficiency of these units. It involves the placement of the radiator in the room. Standing radiators and baseboard radiators both are placed along the wall to conserve space in the room. Furniture and other household furnishings have to be strategically placed so that the radiator is not covered or blocked from circulating air effectively through the room. Unless you have a radiator smack dab in the middle of the room, you have this problem. When a radiator is placed up against the wall, one side of the radiator is heating the room and the other side is heating the wall. If the radiator is located on an exterior wall, you could be losing half of your heat through the wall.
Most modern homes have forced air heating systems and adequate wall insulation to prevent heat loss problems like this. But, many homes that were built before or during the early 1980’s have boiler systems and inadequate insulation in the exterior walls. You could take the time to re-insulate all the walls in your home, but this can become very costly in a short amount of time. If you are looking for more of a quick fix that will give you a big bang for your buck, then you should consider installing reflective panels behind each of your radiators. The reflective panel will redirect the heat back into the room instead of allowing it to seep through the walls. This could save you about 10%, maybe more, on your heating bills, and it is a very low cost solution to this heat loss problem.
Types of Reflective Panels
There are many different reflective panel options out there. For the “do it yourselfer,” you could use anything from tin foil to foil faced insulating bubble wrap. The better materials have a high insulating value and a good reflective surface. For example, you could purchase rigid foam insulation that has a foil surface on one side and attach it to the wall with double sided tape. This can be cut down to size to fit perfectly behind your radiator. When done properly, the panels will look like they are a part of the radiator, or you won’t even notice that they are there at all. If this doesn’t sound like something you want to get your hands into, you could always purchase reflective panels. These are manufactured to fit behind your specific radiator and are often hidden completely from view behind the radiator.
Whichever method you choose, you will save energy, increase comfort, and save the planet. They more efficient you make your home, the less of a negative impact you have upon the earth. Do your part today and install reflective panels behind your radiators.