Radiant heat can be some of the best for a home: less dry than forced air heat, more efficient, and minus the use of outside air that can introduce a steady flow of allergens. But the clunky pipes of an old radiator aren’t the most attractive, plus old-fashioned radiators can take up a lot of space and limit the layout of a room. New options in radiant heating are taking these issues into account, bringing greater efficiency, comfort, and beauty into your home.
Distributing heat throughout a room, radiant floors quickly warm a room up as the heat rises. They also provide a luxurious warmth underfoot. There are two main types of radiant floors. One is a dry system, with tubes heated by electricity inserted under the floor. The other, most efficient system is hydronic, a series of looped tubes that pump heated water under a finished floor; the water can be heated by gas, wood, or oil boilers or solar water heaters.
Flooring materials could be concrete, wood, or tile. Before you write off concrete, there are a number of ways to make this less utilitarian and more artful, including stamped designs and various colors. It is estimated that you could save from 20-40% on heating bills with the efficiency of radiant floors.
Another option is to find a radiator that doubles as a work of art, a kind of steel sculpture for your wall. K8 Radiatori Nature collection has a series of nature-inspired radiators, shaped like leaves, vines, and trees, that would add a visually-appealing element to any room while also providing the benefits and comfort of radiant heat. Some of these models also double as towel racks, to add greater comfort to your bathroom experience.
Compact, contemporary radiators
New models, including those made out of aluminum, powder-coated or stainless steel, and traditional cast iron, can be very energy-efficient while also creating a greater aesthetic and utility. Aluminum radiators have low water usage, are often made from recycled materials, and are quick to heat and cool as needed. Options include sleek models that double as towel racks, brightly colored versions to match a bathroom style scheme, and classic-informed design with contemporary elements like new colors and smaller sizes. Hudson Reed and Runtal North America have compact models less than 3” deep and those doubling as towel warmers.
Radiators can also be hidden behind custom paneling or heating covers. New York designer Alexa Hampton makes custom covers with the goal of blending them right into the woodwork around them. Fichman makes ready-made covers that can be customized and shipped anywhere in the country. Other radiator cover options include those that double as banquet seating, screens, and window shutters.
Recessed baseboard radiators
Those with hydronic baseboard radiators could choose to recess them into the wall. The opening can be covered with a laser-cut wood grill. Baseboard radiators can also be recessed into the floor, though this poses a greater challenge for keeping clean.
Minimalist electric and hydronic baseboards
Perhaps the most exciting new technology out there in radiant heating are European models that look like traditional, molded baseboards. The Danish company Elpan-Wanpan and the Italian Thermodul by Hekos are two to check out. The latter does not have U.S. distribution but does ship direct.
Sources and Further Reading:
Houzz, Floors Warm Up to Radiant Heat
Trendhunter.com, K8 Radiatori Nature Collection
Bisque, Bathroom Styles and Radiators for the Future
Wall Street Journal, The Best Ways to Hide Radiators