How To Save Energy When Using Radiators

A white electric radiator in a living room.

Any chance you get to save energy (and money!) at home is always a good idea. One area people tend to either go all out on or skimp as much as possible, is with heating. 

Whether you live in the type of house where the heating is on all year round, or you grew up in a home where even the suggestion of touching the thermostat was a big no-no, saving energy can be easier than you think. It all comes down to knowing as much as can about your radiators as possible.

The fear

Many people would be embarrassed to say that they don’t know precisely how their radiators work, or how they can control them. Truth be told, it’s something you shouldn’t need to fear or feel you need a degree in engineering to decipher. To show how easy it is, I’m going to break down the areas you need to know about in order to save energy. It all starts with knowing your valves.

Understand your valves

All radiators come with a valve entry on one side (if it doesn’t, then you have a problem). This valve is essentially the control for the radiator and how you use it dictates what your radiator can do. You’ll tend to find two types of valves; manual and thermostatic (which we’ll go more in-depth with in a moment).

Manual valves will look like a plastic cap with no markings. You turn them to control the level of water the radiator takes in, and that controls how hot the radiator gets. Think of it like turning your kitchen taps on. You can either turn them on fully, to let as much water through as possible, or you can turn and adjust them to get the right level of water without wasting energy. 

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It is a case of trial and error, but if you master your manual valves, you’ll soon be able to save energy.

Get a thermostatic valve

Thermostatic valves are a little different. They will usually be much larger and have a slide or number indicator on the bottom. When using one, you’re asking that the valve’s inbuilt temperature sensor (in the encased top) matches the level/number you want it on.

So, while you’d have to play around with a manual valve to adjust the flow of water regularly, a thermostatic valve is your way of saying “I want it to be this warm and only this warm”.

You can save energy with a thermostatic valve by starting at the lowest setting and working up, i.e. put it at 1 or 2 and see if the radiator gets the room warm enough. Most people make the mistake of thinking having the valve turned up fully is the only way to get a room warm, but it can be a massive waste if you only need a room to be toasty. The maximum temperature a valve usually is set to will be 40°C, while rooms usually only need to be 20°C at most.

Calculate how much heat you need

Unless you have perfectly identical rooms, no radiator can heat the same rooms in the same way. Every room will have its own heating threshold, known as a BTU rating, which it needs to meet to be warm. When shopping for radiators online, look for a heating calculator to help you understand what size and type of radiator will work best. I’ve found a hand calculator at Trade Radiators (visit here) which will calculate everything for you.

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If your radiator has a much lower or higher BTU output than what your room needs, you’ll soon find yourself wasting energy.

Don’t buy the biggest radiator you can get

Bigger is always better, right? If you’re keen on wasting energy anytime you turn on a radiator, then yes it is.

Don’t rush into thinking the biggest radiator you can buy is the best for the space. Larger radiators need more hot water pumped in to get (and stay) warm. Going back to what I just said about BTU, find yourself an adequately sized radiator. A big radiator may seem suitable, but it’s only going to cost you more to use in the long-term.

Looking for more radiator tips and tricks?

Read all the radiator articles on the site right here, including previous tips on everything from ways to update your radiator to tricks on keeping your home warmer in winter without having to crank up the heating.

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