The column radiator (opens in new tab) is truly worthy of being dubbed a design classic. It has been part of the heating aesthetic since the 1800s as engineers and inventors searched for ways to heat rooms that didn’t rely on fireplaces or stoves.
With the ability to move hot water and steam in pipes about the house, central heating became more affordable to middle class Victorian householders. Those early radiators were often made from heavy cast iron or cast steel, and ornately decorated so that visitors could admire the new source of warmth as well as being impressed that the homeowner had such an advanced form of heating.
Victorian radiators can still be found today, if not still in situ in period homes, then in specialist salvage stores – though some restoration may be needed to restore them to their former glory.
The columns in the radiator are hollow tubes which hot water flows through, heating the air around it. More columns mean a greater surface area and the faster the room warms up. The radiators start with two columns but can have up to six. A multiple column radiator will have a boxier shape, so they should only be put in a space where there is room for it – under stairs or windowsills, for example, rather than in narrow hallways. The length of the radiator is measured in sections – the more there are, the longer it is. A radiator of a metre and half could have around 30 sections. Column radiators are an efficient way of heating a room. The air around and between the columns is warmed by the radiator; it rises and is replaced by cool air. This convection current then spreads the heat around the space.
A timeless classic
In the mid to late 20th century, the old column style design was being replaced by the sleeker steel panel radiators which lay flatter to the wall. These narrower radiators literally radiate heat and fit well in smaller, more low-ceilinged homes. For bigger rooms, a double radiator with two identical panels and a gap in between sufficed.
Another, very familiar style of contemporary radiator is the convector, which has a set – or two in a double – of folded fins behind or between the panels. The convectors work by circulating warm air around a room as the hot air rises and the denser cold air sinks. The folded fins, which are usually concealed by a grill on top of the radiator, help to increase its size and create more surface area for the air to come into contact with.
Though panel radiators can look fine in a modern scheme, they can appear jarring in a period home – their late 20th century functional style at odds with the elegance of Victorian, Edwardian or even Art Deco rooms. Modern column radiators, however, can appear entirely at home in a house built a century or more ago, as they recreate original features that might have been lost over the years. Yet they also suit contemporary open-plan homes and loft-like apartments.
Column radiators dimensions
When measuring for your radiator, you need to consider the depth, height and width.
The depth is decided by the number of columns.
At Radiator Outlet (opens in new tab), they stock two and three column radiators. They come in a choice of four heights. For horizontal radiators the shortest is the 300mm, which will fit neatly under windowsills, while the 600mm is the standard height. There are two heights of vertical radiator – the 1500mm and 1800mm – which are both a good solution when you need a large radiator but only want to use a narrow amount of wall space and leave more room for units or furniture.
The horizontal column radiators come in five widths, from 608mm up to 1508mm. The vertical column radiators also come in five widths, from 203mm to 560mm.
When buying a radiator, consider the size of the room and the size and type of windows it has to calculate the heat output you will need. Then pick a big enough combination of columns, sections and radiator height to keep it comfortably warm.
The modern column offers the same style as the Victorian originals but works with the efficiency of new parts and the reassurance of being made to modern safety standards. The columns include the classic white colourway or the popular anthracite, chosen as a softer alternative to black. But for a fashionably retro finish, try lacquered raw metal. The thick lacquer protects the surface while allowing the lustre of the metal to show through. The natural imperfections of the metal add to the character. Pair with matching traditional-style valves and thermostats for radiators that defy time.
About Radiator Outlet
Radiator Outlet (opens in new tab) was established in 2015 and specialises only in radiators and their accessories – from contemporary designer radiators to classic column radiators or comforting towel radiators – offering high quality pieces at affordable prices. Based in Lancashire and Yorkshire, it promise free rapid delivery, and all items sold come with a 10-year hassle-free warranty. For more details, go to radiatoroutlet.co.uk/traditional-radiators (opens in new tab)