Green Lifestyle

Published on July 19th, 2015 | by Glenn Meyers

Maintenance Tips: Foil Wrapping Behind Radiators & Other Methods

Old radiators in old houses — steam or hot water — seem to spur plenty of ‘how-to’ advice when it comes to becoming energy efficient and staying warm at the same time.

radiator frozen boy shutterstock_135768446

First, here is some basic information about radiators.

When either hot water or steam enters a radiator, heat is then supposed to be radiated into a room. The heat warms the air by both radiation and convection. Radiation accounts for only a small percentage of the heat given off by the radiator; a much higher percentage of the heat is distributed by means of convection – as the radiator warms the air next to it this heated air rises, drawing cool air into and through the radiator from underneath. This movement of air sets up vertical currents that will distribute heated air throughout the room.

Any radiator expert will tell you it is important for air to flow freely over, under and around any radiator. If radiators are inside an enclosure, there must be venting at top and bottom. Even baseboard radiators recessed into the wall will have plenty of openings along the floor, as well as along the top of the radiator’s baseboard housing.

radiator old shutterstock_288271046Could a roll of tin foil prove to be a better bet than the Green Deal to beat rising gas and electricity bills?

The answer is affirmative. You will find numerous options and products for accomplishing this task.

The Guardian, based in the UK where there are plenty of radiators, puts its this way: “Silver foil placed down the back of a radiator will reflect heat back into a room rather than letting it uselessly escape through the walls of a house. Do-it-yourself buffs suggest wrapping the foil round pieces of cardboard which have been cut to the right size to make it easier to fit.”

There are other materials which can be used to reflect radiator heat. Don’t make it look like it’s been codgered together with scotch tape and ends up looking wrinkled and junky.

Radiator reflector know-how

According to UK-based GreenAge,  radiator reflectors work on this principle:

Your radiator radiates heat both into the room, and into the wall behind it. That heat can simply be lost to the outside, especially if you have thin single skin walls. Reflectors are installed behind the radiator and help prevent that heat from being lost by reflecting the heat back into the room.

There are radiator reflector products are available which work more effectively than aluminum foil.

Radiator reflector products

  • Radflek is a specially treated aluminum foil that can be positioned between the back of the radiator_radflek-532x532radiator and the wall. It is designed to reflect as much as 95% of the heat wasted through the wall at the rear of the radiator, back into the home. Company literature states, “Without reducing the physical temperature of the room, you can reduce the TRV setting on the radiator. This will lead to large savings on your heating bills.”
  • Reflectix is double reflective insulation designed to address specific needs not possible with radiator dblrefl insul b9eac0aa-437b-4224-baf8-3cd0fcd6b157_400traditional insulations, such as: recreational vehicles, camping (tent liner, sleeping bag pad, cooler cover), household (water heater wrap, drop down stairs cover, hot water radiator reflector), wrapping water pipes and ductwork. This reflective insulation product is not only versatile, but very easy to work with and install. There are no itchy fibers and the only tools required are a utility knife, safety glasses and a tape measure. 

Materials needed by DIY purists

The UK’s Energy Saving Trust (an independent organization that works in partnership with the government and other bodies to provide energy efficiency

  • Cardboard cartons or other source of corrugated card
  • Reflective silver coated material
  • Electricians’ tape (preferably in a colour that matches the decor) or decorative silver sticky tape
  • Double sided tape or a stapler
  • File spines/binders of the slide-on type (optional)
  • Bamboo kebab skewers or wooden cocktail sticks (may not be required)
  • Craft knife and straight edge
  • Rule/measure
  • Big cutting mat or a pile of newspapers
  • Pencil
  • Pen that will write on your reflective material

Step-by step methods

This guide comes from Dover Projects.

  1. Measure as big or slightly bigger than the radiator.
  2. Measure and mark a piece of luaun (thin cheap wood found at HD) with a t-square and cut it with a jigsaw.
  3. Measure, mark and cut a piece of insulated foil about an inch larger than you need it on all sides.
  4. Add some glue to the Luaun in the middle and all around near the edges.
  5. Stick the reflective foil to the luaun. Smooth it out and flip it over. Cut off the overhanging foil with a utility knife.
  6. Put the panel in place behind the radiator and drill some holes through the panel and into the wall for the correct size for the wall screw anchors you are going to use (use a long drill bit if the radiator is in the way).
  7. Remove the panel, put in the screw anchors, and then replace the panel and screw in the screws with larger washers on them (so the don’t go through the reflective foil).

Images: Frozen young boy on warm old radiator via Shutterstock, old radiator via Shutterstock

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