The continued rise of aluminium radiatorsNovember 27, 2018
Today, radiators are manufactured from a wide range of materials, such as steel, cast iron, stainless steel and aluminium – with demand for the latter growing significantly. Alex Bradley, Operations Manager at MHS Radiators, explains how the design and efficiency credentials of aluminium radiators have contributed to their increased popularity.
With manufacturers constantly striving to create more energy efficient products, we have seen central heating systems being developed to operate at lower water temperatures, with the introduction of technologies such as heat pumps, not to mention condensing boilers. As a result, a system’s heat emitters – including radiators – need to be capable of running equally as efficiently from these low water temperatures. After all, today’s economically and environmentally savvy homeowners are always on the lookout for heating products that will help lower their fuel bills!
While steel panel radiators are advancing so that some models are able to operate at low water temperatures, there is actually another option available. Boasting significantly lower water content than their steel panel counterparts, aluminium radiators are already established as the products of choice for heating engineers all over Southern Europe – and now they are readily available in the UK market.
Aluminium is the most abundant metal on the planet, so it comes as no surprise it has been embraced by radiator manufacturers across the globe. But what are the reasons behind this material’s evolution from being used for the humble drinks cans to becoming an essential heating system component?
First of all, there are the material’s lightweight properties, which make aluminium radiators easier to lift and install when compared to traditional steel models. Aluminium radiators, such as the Italian-designed Decoral from MHS, can be lifted by just one person, as opposed to the two required for a steel panel variant. Plus, aluminium radiators are suitable for fitting to stud walls or walls which aren’t thick enough for deep anchoring, without any cause for concern regarding fixing weight loads.
But why exactly are aluminium radiators overall so lightweight? Well, one of the key reasons is their low water content. Indeed, using a 600mm x 800mm single steel panel, single fin radiator with the same output as a comparison, our research shows an aluminium radiator contains 2.16 litres of water compared to the steel model’s 4.1 litres – that’s nearly a 50% difference! This ensures the aluminium radiator is over 10kg lighter in weight, at 8.9kg compared to the 19.7kg aforementioned steel equivalent.
Low water content coupled with the low thermal inertia of an aluminium radiator also sees it heat up approximately three times faster than an ordinary steel model. These excellent thermal capabilities also enable aluminium radiators to cool down quickly, ensuring rapid response times no matter what the user requires. This means aluminium radiators don’t have to be switched on for long before having an effect on a room’s temperature, plus the quick cool down time reduces the amount of latent heat left behind, thereby offering greater levels of flexibility and comfort.
From a longevity perspective, aluminium is also inherently resistant to corrosion, meaning the radiators retain their quality for many years and can even be fitted in damp environments (such as bathrooms) without succumbing to the elements. The emitters can even be chemically treated and painted in such a way to further prevent deterioration and fading, ensuring improved durability and resistance to damage.
Aluminium radiators also offer flexibility in sizing and an array of space saving benefits. For instance, taking a standard steel panel, single fin radiator measuring 600mm x 800mm as an example once again, we have found an aluminium Decoral measuring 428mm x 640mm is able to produce the same output at 50 degrees. This is a 30% size difference, highlighting that aluminium radiators can be utilised in rooms and areas where space is at a premium.
Of course, in addition to all of the scientific and technical points highlighted here, aluminium radiators still possess excellent aesthetic and artistic merits. Relatively soft, yet extremely durable with high ductile strength, aluminium’s versatility allows it to be die-cast or extruded into distinctive shapes, which exude style while providing exceptional levels of quality heat. This provides homeowners with a choice of functional radiators still capable of making an impressive design statement.
Plus, aluminium radiators have added environmental kudos thanks to their capacity to be infinitely recycled (as reprocessing doesn’t damage the material’s structure).
For properties where condensing boilers or heat pumps have been fitted, emitting heat efficiently is going to be paramount. Some may argue that underfloor heating (UFH) is sometimes viewed as the heat emitter best combined with renewables or low water temperatures, yet aluminium’s low thermal inertia still ensures it heats up and cools down faster than UFH. Plus, bear in mind the process of retrofitting UFH can prove prohibitive, due to the amount of disruption and costs involved, which usually restricts such a system solely to new build projects.
When it comes to refurbishments using heat pumps, installers should turn to aluminium radiators as the emitters of choice. As most properties will already be heated by radiators, ensuring that correctly sized and highly efficient versions are fitted is the most sensible, as well as the most cost effective and least disruptive approach.
Off-gas properties can also benefit from aluminium radiators, as electric-only models are available, boasting an array of programmes and functions designed to maximise energy efficiency. Electronic temperature regulation, coupled with daily and weekly programming options ensure these radiators only come on when required, then switch off and cool down quickly when the desired room temperature has been achieved.
So, we have seen why aluminium has become the material of choice for radiator manufacturers across the globe, thanks to a comprehensive blend of functionality, practicality and elegant styling. They are energy efficient and cost effective too, making them great for specifiers, installers and end users alike. All these factors combined will play a key role in ensuring aluminium radiators continue to grow in popularity and strong demand for the foreseeable future.
First published in PHAM News