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How Radiators Work: Our Guide to Radiator Heaters

Central heating helps to keep our homes toasty throughout the cold UK winter months, with radiators being a firm favourite with homeowners. But with the advent of modern smart home heating technology and shifting preferences, underfloor heating (UFH) is also becoming increasingly sought-after.

Whether you’re contemplating a new installation or considering an upgrade, let’s dive into the world of radiators, their maintenance, and how you can take your home’s heating to new levels of comfort and efficiency with smart thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs).

What Are the Different Types of Radiators - And How Do They Work?

Radiators have evolved over the years, offering homeowners a range of choices and standard radiator alternatives:

  • Convection radiators: The modern mainstay of many homes, these radiators rely on convection. They function by drawing in cooler air, warming it, and then circulating the heated air back into the room.
  • Column radiators: Typically found in older homes, column radiators consist of vertical columns and can be sought after for their vintage aesthetic. Column radiators function in the same way as modern convection radiators, by drawing in cooler air, warming it with hot water in the columns, and circulating it into the room.
  • Flat panel radiators: These are the minimalist's dream. Their sleek, flat design can seamlessly integrate into various decor themes and can work either via convection using the central heating system, or radiation where an electrical heater panel emits infrared radiation.

While radiators have their place, more and more homeowners are opting for underfloor heating systems. Not only do they provide consistent, energy-efficient warmth, but the sensation of a gently heated floor after stepping out of the bath is pure luxury.

UFH can either be a wet or dry system:

  • Wet UFH systems are connected to the central heating and use hot water to heat the floor.
  • Dry UFH systems, on the other hand, use electric heating cables or mats to generate heat. These are placed directly beneath the floor surface and are powered by the home's electrical supply.

How To Maintain Radiators

While your radiators are fairly low-maintenance, these are a few regular tasks you can do to prevent issues arising and keep your radiators working as efficiently as possible:

  • Cleaning your radiators: Just like any surface of your home, dirt and dust will accumulate on your radiators. Simply giving them a dust or a quick wipe with a damp cloth will keep them heating your room as efficiently as possible.
  • Bleeding your radiators: Air can become trapped in radiators, causing cold patches that reduce its efficiency. Bleeding helps release air, restoring optimal performance. This should be done every year before winter, whenever you hear gurgling/banging noises or if you notice cold patches on your radiator.
  • Flushing your radiators: Over time, sludge can accumulate in your radiators, which will hurt heating performance. Flushing your central heating system every 8 to 10 years is a great idea to keep your radiators in tip-top condition.
  • Checking for leaks and rust: Being proactive with the care of your radiators will mean you spot potential issues early before they end up becoming costly repair bills.

Want to find out more? Read our in-depth Guide to Seasonal Radiator Maintenance.

Likewise, your underfloor heating control mechanisms deserve attention too. Although generally low-maintenance, your underfloor heating should be serviced by a professional each year to ensure maximum efficiency.

How Does Smart Heating Work with Radiators?

When you replace traditional thermostatic radiator valves with smart TRVs, you seamlessly integrate each radiator into your smart heating network. This upgrade transforms every radiator valve into a mini room thermostat, giving you granular control over the temperature settings of each room in your home.

For instance, with a smart TRV, you can maintain a consistently low temperature in the guest room that’s not in use. Meanwhile, in the home office, you can tailor the heating to be cosy during working hours and reduce the temperature for the nighttime to save energy.

Why Upgrade to Smart TRVs?

Upgrading your thermostatic radiator valves to smart TRVs can deliver a huge range of benefits to your home, including:

  • Intelligent scheduling: Program heating schedules tailored to your routine, ensuring specific rooms are warm when needed and conserving energy when they're not.
  • Remote access: smart TRVs can be controlled remotely through smartphone apps or web interfaces, so you can adjust your heating no matter where you are.
  • Energy savings: By only heating rooms that are in use and reducing or turning off heating in unoccupied rooms, you can save on energy costs and reduce your bills.
  • Insights and reporting: Smart TRVs from Wiser provide usage data straight to the app on your smartphone, helping you understand your heating habits and identify opportunities for further energy savings.

Can You Connect Underfloor Heating to a Smart Heating System?

It’s not just your radiators that can benefit from smart heating integration — your underfloor heating can also be added to your smart heating network via an underfloor heating controller.

This smart underfloor heating controller acts as the nerve centre of your UFH, allowing for:

  • Remote Management: Much like other smart heating devices, an underfloor heating control system can be monitored and adjusted via the Wiser Home app, no matter where you are.
  • Energy Efficiency: Smart UFH controllers can optimise heating schedules based on your routines and preferences, ensuring the system is active only when needed, conserving energy and reduce your monthly bills.
  • Zonal Heating: Just as different rooms might have varied temperatures with smart TRVs, underfloor heating control can provide different temperatures in designated zones of your home. This ensures that each space is heated to your specific usage and comfort level.

Radiator FAQs

What Temperature Should You Set a Radiator to?

Finding the ideal radiator temperature isn't a straightforward answer, as it can change depending on room size, external weather conditions, and personal comfort preferences. Typically, a room temperature between 18°C (64F) and 21°C (70F) provides a comfortable environment for most people.

If your radiators have manual TRVs, pinpointing that comfort sweet spot requires manually tweaking the valve and monitoring the temperature with a thermometer. This ensures a balanced temperature, promoting both comfort and energy efficiency.

Meanwhile, for those who have embraced the convenience of smart TRVs, adjustments become even simpler. With tools like the Wiser Home app, you can effortlessly refine your radiator's temperature setting — all without ever leaving the sofa.

To learn more about the best temperature to set your radiator to, take a look at our full post here.

Do Wiser Smart TRVs Fit on All Radiators?

Wiser Smart TRVs are compatible with 95% of radiator valves, so if your radiator has a standard valve, it will likely fit perfectly. However, there are a few less common valves, such as Oventrop, Herz, TA, Giacomini, Markaryd, Ondal, and Vaillant, which may require additional adaptors.

For more advice and to see if you need an adaptor for your radiator valve, take a look at our guide here.

How Many Zones Can Be Controlled by the Wiser Underfloor Heating Controller?

The Wiser Underfloor Heating Controller is designed with versatility and adaptability in mind, effectively managing up to six distinct underfloor heating zones. This allows homeowners to customise and regulate the temperature in various areas of their home, ensuring each space is heated to its individual optimal comfort level.

Elevate Your Home’s Heating with Smart TRVs and UFH Controllers

Whether you're aiming for optimal comfort during chilly winter nights, looking to cut down on energy bills, or simply want more responsive and intuitive control over each room's temperature, upgrading your radiators with smart TRVs and controllers is the answer.

Transition to an intelligent, efficient, and user-friendly heating experience by integrating your radiators into a smart heating network with Wiser — find the right kit for your home here.