We rely on our radiators to warm our home, but did you know that despite these devices being called radiators, they don’t actually radiate that much heat. Instead, they use a process known as convection. Convection describes the way in which hot air rises because it is lighter than cold air, which sinks due to its increased density. This may help to explain why, during the summer months, your home feels cooler downstairs and warmer upstairs.

When a radiator is hot, it warms up the air around it, which rises up to the ceiling. This warm air circulates around the room, sinking as it begins to cool down again. This causes a circular motion where the hot and cold air is constantly moving.

If for any reason this movement of warm and cold air is disrupted, the efficiency of your heating system could be reduced and you may find that your home is colder than it should be. Radiator covers, long curtains and furniture can all prevent the heat from being pushed around a room effectively. 

Do radiator covers block heat?

Homeowners may choose to install radiator covers for a number of reasons. They may wish to hide unsightly radiators, reduce the gurgling noise that can occur or protect their children from accidentally touching the hot surface. However, there is a mixture of opinions online around whether these devices block the heat created by your heating system.

Whether a radiator cover blocks heat generally depends on the material it’s made from and its design. Poorly designed covers may trap the heat inside them, preventing it from infiltrating into the room at all. This can cause further problems with your heating system. A radiator’s thermostatic radiator valve (TRV) is located on the side of a radiator and reads the temperature of the room to adjust the heat output. If the TRV is reading the temperature inside the radiator cover, which could be very hot, it could reduce the heat output, leaving the room cold. However, as your home isn’t reaching the temperature set by your thermostat, the boiler will work harder, burning more gas and potentially increasing your energy bills.

But, not all radiator covers result in such a disaster. The ones that are designed properly could even increase the efficiency of your heating system. A sufficiently designed radiator cover will allow the heat to escape and travel around the room as it should. Some professionals even state that, so long as the airflow is correct, a radiator cover could boost natural convection and therefore improve efficiency. 

With this in mind, before purchasing a radiator cover, you should be sure to do your research and ensure that the design is sufficient to let the air circulate.

How much heat do radiator covers block?

It’s hard to say exactly how much heat a radiator cover could block. As explained above, it depends on the type of cover you have and some are better at radiating heat than others. It can also depend on the size of the cover. A cover that is fit too closely to a radiator will block the heat much more. It is recommended that the cover is 40mm larger in width, 30mm in height and 20mm in depth than your radiator to allow the heat to escape and circulate

Do long curtains block heat?

More often than not, radiators are placed under windows, however, if you have full-length curtains that reach the floor, this can cause a problem. When you close the curtains at nighttime, you’re preventing all of that heat from rising into the room and the majority of it will go directly out the window. This can be a huge waste of both energy and money.

So how can you get the privacy you need while still ensuring that the heat from the radiator can fill the room?

One option is to have blinds installed. This means that you can keep your floor-length curtains as a decorative feature that remain open, while the blinds can give you the privacy you need. There are tons of options available when it comes to choosing blinds, such as venetian, roller, wooden, Roman or even shutters. Alternatively, you could replace your long curtains with shorter ones that finish just above the radiator. You could even take your current curtains to a haberdasher, who can professionally take them up and hem them if you don’t want to buy new. 

How to make sure you’re not blocking heat from your radiators

As well as following our advice above, such as keeping long curtains open and using the right types of radiator covers, how else can you make sure you’re not blocking the heat from your radiators?

It’s really important the large furniture items aren’t placed too close to a radiator, as these can also affect the circular movement of air that radiators rely on so much. Large items, like beds, sofas and cabinets, should be at least 20 cm away from the radiator, leaving a sufficient gap for convection to occur. It would be even more beneficial if furniture items aren’t situated near a radiator at all.

If you’re worried that a radiator still isn’t pushing enough warm air into the room, you may want to consider having a reflective panel installed. These can be placed down the back of your radiator or inside the cover so they cannot be seen at all. However, the shiny surface encourages more heat to enter the room, instead of rising up through the ceiling or going out the window. 

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