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A Guide To Buying Radiators: Radiator Types Explained

Choosing radiators for your home is never an easy task, not to mention the fact that the decisions don’t just stop at picking a design. There are many different types of radiator and radiator valves to consider too. If you’re not in the industry, it can be extremely difficult to get your head around things. In this radiator guide, we’ll explain the different kinds of radiator and which you should go for depending on your home and plumbing set up.  

Radiator types.

Central, electric or dual?

There are two main types of radiator. In your home you should have one of the following:

  • Central heating - The central heating radiator is the most common. It fills with water heated up by the boiler, which then releases heat into your living space. Depending on its size and design, you’ll get different rates of heat.
  • Electric – This radiator type is a container filled with a thermo fluid. This fluid is heated up using electrical energy from your main electricity supply using a plug socket.

There is also the dual fuel; not very common today but a type that is worth knowing about. The dual fuel is a mixture of the above types. It is your standard central heating radiator but also has the option of heating through electricity. This is useful if you don’t want to fire up your entire central heating system.

Radiator or convector radiator?

Normal radiators and convector radiators will heat up your home differently, so it’s important to know the difference first.

  • In your standard radiator, your hot water runs through all the different components. When these are heated, the heat travels through the air, heating your home. These do take longer to heat up than a convector radiator but they are also cheaper and have a longer life.
  • With a convector radiator, your hot water circulates through a tube surrounded by either a single or double layer of convector fins. Convector radiators also heat up rooms more quickly and boast a 10% reduction in energy consumption.

It’s important to remember that both radiator types will keep a house warm. The main difference is how they do it.

Single or double panel?

Radiators have panels for storing the hot water which travels around your home. Some have a single panel which will fit closer to a wall and others will have two panels, which will stick out a bit further. The different types of radiator may also have a single or double layer of convector fins to help increase the surface area.

The single panel radiator, also known as the ‘flat’ or Type 11 radiator, ensures you have much more space to move around, which is perfect for smaller rooms and hallways where you could do with the space. They’re also ideal for heating up smaller spaces quickly. Single panel radiators will also have a single layer of convector fins.

Double panel radiators, or the Type 22 radiator, consists of two panels fixed next to each other, with a double layer of convector fins. This type of radiator is better for bigger rooms, where you may need double the heating power. They are bigger which means they take up more space, but if you have the room for one, then they may be the best option for you.

Some radiators aren’t convector radiators, such as those which run from electric alone or some vertical radiators you find in bathrooms.

Horizontal or vertical?

Horizontal radiators are the kinds you’ll most likely see in a home. They’re commonly placed underneath windows or next to doorways, as a means to get rid of cold draughts, but can also be placed anywhere in a room. As this shape is the most common, they are less expensive to purchase and there is more choice when shopping around.

Column or vertical radiators are taller and thinner than your usual horizontal shape. They are made from vertical tubes connected at the top and bottom rather than at each side. Because of their size, they can free up a lot of space in a room and fit into smaller spaces.  

As well as a standard vertical and horizontal radiator to choose from, there’s also the option of heated towel rails for bathrooms. These have the added ability to heat your towels as well as the whole bathroom they are in.

How many radiators do I need?

Of course, the amount of radiators you’ll need in your home will depend of the number of rooms you have and their size, and even how much heat you need. Knowing the ideal radiator size and temperature for each room is a good place to start.

Radiator sizing guide.

The are many factors you need to consider when thinking about heating up your rooms. This radiator size guide should give you a better idea of what you can fit in your space as well as the heat output you’ll get from it.

First of all, you need to work out what your ideal temperature will be for each room in your home. Here’s an example:

Room In Your House


Living Room




Dining Room








Once you know your ideal temperatures, you can work out the size of radiator that would give out the desired heat. For example, smaller rooms that won’t take much time to heat up would benefit from a smaller standard radiator, whereas bigger rooms with a demand for more heat would benefit from a double panel radiator, perhaps.

How to calculate the ideal radiator size

For a more in-depth guide on radiator sizing, you can use the following table. You’ll need to measure each room in cubic feet and enter your measurements into a British Thermal Units (BTU) calculator, which can be easily found online. You can also use this table as a guide:



Living and Dining Room

Cubic feet x5


Cubic feet x3


Cubic feet x4


Cubic feet x3

Double Glazed Windows


For more information about the right radiator sizes for your home and which size is best for each room, contact your chosen radiator manufacturer.

Choose from a range of different radiator types.

Radiators come in all shapes and sizes to ensure you always find something to fit your exact requirements. Your boiler works incredibly hard to send heat to your radiators, so knowing your radiator types will most definitely come in useful. Follow our radiator buying guide!

If you need more help and guidance where your boiler is concerned, use our web chat to speak with an expert. If you’re in need of a new boiler, our ‘Find A Boiler’ tool will pick out the best one for you.

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