Differences between flat panel radiators
There are a wealth of minimalistic flat panel radiators on the market, available at a wide range of prices, but how can you tell which offer good value for money? This article provides a clear guide on what to look for when buying a flat panel central heating radiator.
Flat panel radiators in white are a popular option as they provide a simple inoffensive design that sits close to the wall. This type of radiator provides a discreet “designer” option as an alternative to a bolder “feature radiator”.
A customer asked me the other day, “What’s the difference between these flat panel radiators as one is much more expensive than the other?” So I answered the question, justifying the price difference and realised that this is a common enquiry and something worth addressing properly.
“Designer radiators” are becoming increasingly the norm in homes with a high quality finish and consumers often demand more than the “bog-standard” pressed steel, corrugated panel radiators that we are used to seeing in so many British homes. As a consequence, the market for more stylish heating products has grown rapidly to include a wealth of flat fronted radiators but with significant variations in quality and price. Architects, especially, are looking for radiators that optimise the space they are developing, so want high quality, slimline minimalist radiators, which take up as little living space as possible but provide a great heat output.
However, although price is often an issue, opting for the “cheapest” option in heating is rarely a worthwhile investment in the long term and customers find that they get what they pay for.
So how do flat panel radiators vary? What differences should you be looking out for?
Below we have detailed the various points to consider when purchasing flat-fronted or flat panel radiators.
· Guarantee period: A relatively short guarantee period may indicate lesser quality welding or thin steel. You should be looking for a radiator with a minimum guarantee period of 5 years.
· Independent testing: Are the radiators tested to EN442, the official European Standard? This certificate guarantees that a radiator meets the minimum standards on various aspects including heat output, product labelling and safety.
· Heat output confirmation: Has an independent laboratory tested the heat output of the radiator? A BSRIA (Building Services Research and Information Association) certificate or similar will confirm that the heat output stated has been confirmed by an independent expert.
· Awards and accreditations: Independent recognition helps to ensure that the radiator is of a good quality design. Look for signs that recognise the quality of the radiators and materials used such as the “RAL Steel Radiator Quality Mark”.
· Country of manufacture: The country of manufacture does not always dictate the quality of the product but you may want to consider it alongside other factors. Flat panel radiators are usually made in Europe, mostly in Denmark, Germany and Turkey but there are increasingly more models being manufactured in Asia. Some bespoke models are made in Great Britain.
· There are 2 types of flat panel radiators:
1. Specifically designed flat-fronted radiators: These have been designed for the architects market, offering clean lines and a high quality finish. They consist of a neat, simple design that sits close to the wall and often have a plain flat top rather than a grille top.
2. Standard-style corrugated steel radiators with flat panels fitted to the front: These have been designed to try and replicate the same look as those specially designed flat panel radiators, but these are usually the less expensive option as behind the flat panel is usually a mass produced, commodity product. The nature of this construction makes them often deeper in design, causing them to protrude more into a room, and the top of these radiators may be covered with a grille.
· Sizes available: Increasing popularity of this type of radiator has led to an increased range of sizes available. For instance, flat panel radiators are now available in both horizontal and vertical designs, with widths from 200mm to 3000mm and heights from 300mm to 2000mm.
· Heat output performance: A critical aspect when choosing any radiator, no matter what type, is the heat output. A well designed flat panel radiator will have fins or “convectors” hidden behind the front panel to maximise the heat output. Without these fins, heat output will be significantly less, so don’t be fooled by a cheap, ultra skinny flat panel radiator; it could give you the same amount of heat out as a couple of light bulbs!
· Finishing of the top and sides: Flat panel radiators can have open or closed sides; this does not affect the performance of the radiator and is purely cosmetic. They can also have an open or grille top; the effect on the heat output of the radiator is negligible when adding or removing a grille. A grille is usually added for practical reasons (mostly to stop small children putting toy cars down the back!).
· Valve connection positions: These types of radiators come with either “side connections”, like standard pressed steel radiators, where the valves are installed at the bottom of the radiator on either side, or “underside connections”, where the valves are situated underneath the radiator, either centrally or at either end. Underside connections are a popular choice especially on vertical radiators as they mean that the valves sit directly underneath the radiator meaning you don’t need to allow any more space to fit the valves in. There may also be other valve connection options available should you require them. Whichever valve positions you require, it is essential that you check with your radiator specialist that the radiator you are considering will be suitable.
· Design of brackets: To maximise space, look at radiators with cleverly designed brackets that keep the radiator as close to the wall as possible. Look for the “wall to front face measurement” to confirm how far into the room a radiator will protrude, not just the depth measurement, as this may not include space for the bracket.
· Grades of steel – Pressed steel radiators in white are a popular product but the quality of steel can vary between models. A thick grade of steel, such as 1.20mm or 1.25mm internal construction will help ensure a long life. Front panels should be a minimum 1.1mm thick steel; top quality flat panel radiators may even be 2mm thick steel.
· Pressure-testing – Flat panel radiators should be tested to a minimum of 10 bar.
· Paint quality: Flat-fronted radiators in white or coloured paint finishes are “powder coated” and should have a smooth, semi-gloss surface, similar to those seen on home appliances. Poorly finished radiators may have a “orange peel” effect due to little paint being used.
· Quality of brackets: Brackets can give an immediate indication of the quality of the manufacturing, as a poor quality bracket may well reflect a poor quality radiator.
· Packaging: Make sure the product you are purchasing is adequately packaged as transit damage could cause delays to your project. Ask your retailer how the radiator is packaged.
Always bear in mind the service provided when you purchase heating products. Follow the guide below to ensure you get the best service possible and minimise the chance of encountering problems.
· Choose a reputable supplier. Look for reviews or feedback online, or ask friends and family whom they used when buying a radiator.
· Look for awards and accreditations. Independent recognition of the supplier will help back-up their reputation, and will indicate that they have a brand they care about and wish to protect.
· Use a radiator specialist. Even kitchen, bathroom or bedroom retailers may have limited knowledge on heating. By using a true specialist, you can get any technical and installation questions answered quickly and accurately.
· Ask how long they have been selling radiators for. Although the “designer” radiator industry is relatively young, a reputable supplier should have a number of years of successful trading behind them.
· Avoid online only sellers and “Add to basket” shopping. If a radiator is chosen without expert advice, it can often lead to the wrong products being ordered, causing problems for all parties involved.
· Find out if they have a showroom. High quality premises can indicate a long-term outlook for the business.
· Ask about after-sales service. For instance, does the supplier have technical specialists and a helpline? Some retailers have been known to fob off customers with the phone number of the warehouse, when they report a faulty product.
It’s clear from the above that choosing a flat panel radiator may not be the most straightforward decision, but by following the guidance detailed above, your radiator won’t be a false economy.
For more information on buying good quality flat panel radiators with a reasonable price tag, then speak to a specialist such as Feature Radiators. Their expert team will help you to choose the best radiator for your specific circumstances, so contact them on 01274 567789, visit them at their showroom in Bingley, West Yorkshire or see http://www.featureradiators.co.uk