Most radiators sold in the UK are made of mild steel but over the last few years there has been an increase in designs made from stainless steel and aluminium.
The latter material is particularly interesting because it offers the potential for energy savings. The reason for this is that aluminium is more efficient at conducting heat, which is why is often used as a heat sink in everything from computers to large industry (the thermal conductivity of aluminium is 4-5 times that of mild steel).
Aluminium radiators transfer the heat from the water to the air in the room faster than steel radiators. This means that they require less heated water from the boiler and will be faster to respond to changes in the room heat requirement, hence reducing any wasted heat. As aluminium radiators are fairly new to the UK it is difficult to find quantifiable data about potential energy savings, especially as it will vary depending on location. However, some clever engineers we know estimate that using them could save 5-10% off your annual heating bill.
Bisque Blok radiator in Pure White 9010
Aluminium radiators also offer other environmentally friendly benefits. For one thing they are made of recycled material, so next time you recycle your drinks can, consider that it could end up as part of a new radiator. Also, because they have a lower water content, they can often be smaller than more traditional radiators. This can be useful when using them with low temperature heating systems, such as ground source heat pumps, because you do not need a large radiator to compensate for the lower water temperatures.
So why aren't all radiators made from aluminium? Well, aluminium is less strong and flexible than steel and is therefore manufactured in straight profiles. This means that there are limitations when it comes to radiator design - loops and bends are not possible.
One final and important point to note - when installing aluminium radiators on a heating system, it is always best to use a mixed system inhibitor, so make sure your plumber knows that you are using aluminium radiators.
Bisque Lissett radiator in white sable
Steel is a very durable and high quality metal that is often used for radiators. One of the biggest benefits of using steel is that it does not rust over time. This is assuming that a high quality grade of steel is being used as poor quality steels may rust or wear over time. There are actually 150 different grades of steel so it is important to question what type of product you are getting when having a product installed.
Steel very easily conducts heat which makes a radiator made out of steel a very efficient option. Even when you turn off your central heating system, steel will retain its heat for a much longer amount of time than other materials so you will be reaping the benefits for some time after. This saves on energy costs.
The finish of steel is very attractive and it is also very simple to maintain by way of a quick wipe down every few months.
Steel is not cheap at this point in time so expect to pay more for a steel radiator.
Aluminium has the ability to be a fantastic conductor. Aluminium has the ability to respond very quickly to a change in setting which gives you optimal control over the comfort level of your home or office.
Aluminium is able to emit heat very easily and efficiently. When you turn on a central heating system that has an aluminium radiator you can expect your home or office to warm up in a very short amount of time. Aluminum radiators require very little water content in order to heat a room which equates to lower monthly bills as well. Because of the lightweight quality of aluminum it is easier for a company to install. Installation fees may actually be lower because of this.
Aluminum is non-corrosive so you will find the quality is retained for many years.
Aluminium can be manipulated in a number of different ways in order to create all kinds of styles, finished and colours. It is really a very versatile material that works great for radiator construction.
There are both advantages of disadvantages to different radiator material options and there is a lot to think about when it comes to steel vs. aluminium radiators. Really the winner comes down to what a person wants from their radiator. Cost is usually a primary factor when it comes to having a radiator installed but depending on the location many people also pay close attention to the style of a unit. Not only will their installed radiators keep your home or office warm and cozy all year round but they are also aesthetically pleasing and will look great.