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Benefits Of Radiator Cover

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The question, “are radiator covers a good idea?” is one that many homeowners find themselves asking. Radiator covers can be an impressive addition to your home decor, and can be a great way of hiding an ugly radiator, as well as adding valuable storage, but do they offer any practical benefits? 

Child-proofing your radiators

Just like with most things that cost money, it’s vitally important to protect radiators from your children – the last thing you need is an expensive repair bill after one of the kids has broken your new cast iron designer rad with its skull!

All joking aside, a radiator can present a serious risk of burns if a small child happens to touch it

This is a particularly big problem with steam radiators which tend to be hotter to the touch than other types (more about that later). Thankfully they don’t feature much in modern homes anymore – but still, for safety reasons, many homeowners look to childproof their radiators with gates and covers. Better to be safe than sorry.

Noise reduction

With all that water sloshing about and temperatures going up and down all the time, it’s only natural that your central heating will get a little noisy every now and then.

Whilst it’s far from the perfect solution, if you have a persistent noise coming from a radiator, covering it up will help to reduce the volume of those annoying sounds.

Having said that, sounds coming from your central heating are not a good sign and could mean that you need to bleed your radiator to let out trapped air, or may even signify a more serious problem with your heating system as a whole

Get Back Some Space

Radiators are (obviously) a good source of warmth that every room needs from time to time, but they do take up a bit of space, and for many people – particularly those in smaller urban houses and apartments – space can come at a premium.

By buying a radiator cover, or taking the time to make your own, you can reclaim some of that space and use the shelf on top of the cover to display books, pictures, a porcelain pig collection or perhaps even a mini herb garden.

Everyone has an opinion on radiator covers

The main reason that a lot of people think using a radiator cover is a bad idea is because they (quite obviously) do cover a radiator up and, by the nature of doing such a thing, you would expect that to have a negative effect on how efficient they are and can be.

As we’ve discussed here before – and are sure you know the ins-and-outs of already – radiators heat a room through natural convection. Just to jog your grey matter, that’s the process of cold air sinking and warm air rising via the radiator – thus circulating the heat around the room.

Now common sense and science would dictate that covering your radiator up will halt this flow of cold and warm air in its tracks – or at the very least have a negative affect on how free the air is to circulate and there is evidence to support this being the case too – but whether or not that reduces a radiator’s ‘efficiency’ is another question entirely.

We would suggest that covering your radiator does slow the speed in which it heats up the room because it slows down the convection currents and InspectAPedia – a free online encyclopaedia dedicated to all things building and inspection – appears to agree, commenting: “Because adding a radiator cover slows the movement of heat out of the radiator and into the room, the rate of heat loss out through the building’s exterior wall is likely to be increased — also increasing your heating bills.”

Despite the convection currents being halted, the ‘radiated’ heat created when a radiator is turned on will still manage to find its way out, so your radiator should still heat your room – just a little slower than without a cover.

InspectAPedia also suggest that you can avoid the problem of higher heating costs when covering a radiator by adding foil-faced, solid insulation to the wall behind it.

Around a half an inch of insulating board is perfect, but if you don’t have that much space between the wall and the radiator you could always install a foil reflector like Radflek instead – that reflects around 45% of the heat you would otherwise lose back into the room and allows the air to flow freely in that area.

Radiators need room to breathe

There are three main types of heating – radiation, convection and conduction – and they each affect us (and the space around us) in different ways.

Radiant heat

Just like the warmth from the sun, or holding your hands in front of a fire in winter, radiant heat provides a feeling of comfort. Radiant heat doesn’t directly heat the air, but instead travels in straight lines of energy; only turning to heat when these rays come into contact with and are then absorbed by your body (or your dog’s body if they’re sat nearer to the rad than you) or absorbed by the radiator cover.

Convected heat

As we’ve said before, convection heating happens because when air is heated it begins to expand and becomes less dense. This air rises and cooler air – with the aid of gravity – displaces it. As the warmer air rises, it diffuses its heat and warms the air that isn’t as close to the source of heat. The warmer your radiator or heat source is, the further away the convection current will carry the heat. So on that score at least, you would have to say that a radiator cover is going to have a negative effect on the temperature of a room.

Conducted heat

By far the slowest method of transmitting heat, conduction is heat travelling through solid objects. You’ve seen it before. Heat a piece of metal at one end and the other will gradually get hot; the kind of thing that happens if you leave a poker in a fire. It may take a bit of time, but eventually the heat is going to be transferred through the entire piece of metal – this is not the case with radiator covers made of wood (more on that soon).

According to most experts in the human condition, the optimum mixture of heating types needed to leave us feeling all nice, warm and happy is around 20% radiant heat and 80% convection.

The majority of radiators that we deal with on a daily basis work by convection – with an obvious bit of radiation thrown in (not the Chernobyl type though). This type of radiator NEEDS to be exposed to the air to operate properly.


But can radiator covers increase efficiency?

You would think after all I have written above, that it’s impossible for a radiator cover to improve the efficiency of a radiator, but I have news for you, according to a few different sources, if it’s done the right way a cover can actually add around 5-10 degrees F more heat to your output.

The argument is that a bare, uncovered radiator is an inefficient way to heat a room. The reason for this belief is that warm air going straight up to the top of the room doesn’t get projected out into the space like it would with a radiator cover installed.But heat is going to rise whether you have a radiator cover on or not. Unless there is a flow of air (convection current) helping it to be moved around the room, the heat is going to rise regardless – that’s just Year 6 science isn’t it?You’d perhaps assume so, though according to homeadvisor.com, under a radiator cover with ‘proper’ backing – something like Radfelk again – a radiator can and will distribute heat better than one that is uncovered.This happens, they say, because “the backing pushes heat away from the wall and the lid reflects heat away from the top”, meaning the “heat that would otherwise go directly to the ceiling is pushed towards the level of the living area.”

Home Advisor also state that “studies have shown the difference (in temperature) in the lower space of the room can be affected by as much as four and a half degrees”, though unfortunately, I can’t find any evidence anywhere to suggest that this is the case, nor do they list or link to any source for the claim on their website.U-switch the online comparison site also have an opinion on this point, stating that “a radiator shelf helps to throw heat forward from the radiator into the room“, but to be honest, the jury has to definitely be out on that one.I genuinely don’t see how heat can be ‘thrown’ out into the room by simply placing a shelf over a radiator, it doesn’t seem to make much sense.Yes, placing one over a radiator that is under a window may help to prevent heat from escaping between a curtain and a window, but “throwing” it out into the room would surely have to involve some sort of fan like a radiator booster.Without such a thing, surely the laws of physics have to change. Don’t they?


Altough the radiator covers do end up making your radiator a bit less efficent as stated above they do end up making that loss up with their added safety and also the benefits it comes with. It can also be used as a decor piece, gain some space ,it also helps reduce the noise from your hvac system. and most imporantly save you and your family from harm.