Pop Quiz: If I were to ask you right now if you knew what material the radiators in your home are made from, could you confidently answer and be 100% confident of the answer? In the off-chance you’re now staring at your radiators and have broken into a sweat because you don’t know (and the room is too warm) it is most likely that you have a steel radiator.
Or do you?
There are generally four materials a radiator can be made from, and in this blog post, I want to point out what they are, why you would choose one over another, and which is best. Let’s start by looking at the most common; mild steel.
Most radiators in homes around the country are made from mild steel. It is the cheapest material to use and provides the ideal balance for manufacturers between cost and performance. Mild steel can heat up quickly and get a room warm in no time at all. It is also easy to shape and form quickly.
With the majority of radiators mild steel, it must be the best right? Well, there are some disadvantages. Compared to the other materials I’m about to mention, heat retention isn’t as good. There’s also a higher chance of internal corrosion over time, as mild steel is more susceptible to rusting if water and oxygen unluckily meet inside your radiator.
But with it being so cheap, it’s hard to beat when you’re looking for an inexpensive radiator.
Something of a big brother to mild steel, you’ll want to go stainless steel when you’re looking for a high-performance radiator that packs a punch, after all, if all our cutlery is made from stainless steel, it must be the best material?
Well, while it is more rust resistant on the outside and inside, it is a more expensive material to work with, meaning you’d be spending more on a radiator. It does tend to have a better lifespan than the other materials, and most manufacturers will have a better guarantee. You should be on the lookout for stainless steel radiators that come with at least ten years on the guarantee; otherwise, it isn’t worth the investment.
The dark horse of the radiator world. It was the case back in the day that all radiators were made from cast iron, but as times changed, so too did how radiators are mass-produced. In part due to how good they are at retaining heat and the simple fact that they look beautiful, cast iron radiators are still highly regarded by many as the best material to make radiators from.
If you are after a classic look in a room, they’re hard to beat. If you want something that looks remotely modern, they may not be the best fit. And if you’re looking for a stylish radiator, look up “custom colour cast iron”, and you’ll see everything from flamingo pink to neon green cast iron radiators, as they take spray paint very well.
The newcomer to the scene, aluminium is becoming a popular choice mostly due to just how good they take and hold on to heat. If you were to have two identical radiators where one is steel and the other aluminium, the latter is going to heat a room quicker with the same amount of hot water pumping through.
And if you’re wondering why every radiator isn’t simply made from aluminium, there are a few good reasons why. While aluminium is the most abundant metal on earth and is easy to form (why they use it in soda cans), it is more expensive to source and takes more effort to form into a radiator shape.
Think of how easy it is crushing a can of cola. Now think of how much treatment is needed to get aluminium in a position where it is sturdy and durable. The work needed to make aluminium radiators is more intensive/expensive, and that’s why they only tend to be used in designer radiators which have unique shapes.
So which radiator is best?
Sorry to give you a bit of a dull ending, but it honestly comes down to what you want from a radiator. For some people, power and performance are all that matters (aluminium), others want a classic looking radiator that stands the test of time (cast iron). At the same time, most of us don’t give a second notice and don’t care what the radiator is like as long as it works without a problem (steel).
If you’d like to see examples of all these radiators, be sure to check out the Trade Radiators website here. As an online-only radiator store, they have one of the most extensive selections of radiators you’ll ever see, with thousands of radiators made from all the materials mentioned here.
You’ll be surprised just how many different styles and sizes there are out there.
Want to find the best products for your home?
Make sure you read the latest articles from the Home Improv section of the site here. Recent articles have covered topics including bathroom remodelling and why it is worth having a backup generator.