Can radiator reflectors actually help save energy?
Energy bills are skyrocketing and media commentary is full of hints and tips to save money on soaring household costs as a result of a panicked society and the very real possibility that such fees could push families into poverty. Realistically, many people will simply work through autumn and winter without putting their heating on at all because of the financial implications involved. But if a way could been found to have it on for the minimal time possible but have maximum impact this would be ideal… and the answer may well lie in radiator reflectors.
Radiator reflectors are sheets of material that are placed around the back of radiators, stuck to the wall behind. The material is reflective – usually aluminium or a slimline board that is foil-wrapped – and ‘reflect’ the heat otherwise lost into the wall outwards in the room. They can be purchased as either a roll of material or solid panels. The idea of radiator reflectors is not new; they’ve been around for many years but have not ever hit full mainstream usage amongst homeowners until now, due to the fairly stable nature of energy prices previously.
When radiators heat up, they exude heat in all directions from the unit; which means that some heat is lost into the wall behind it. While this may be acceptable for thinner internal walls as some of the heat may penetrate through into another room you’re using, it’s otherwise wasted energy. In the case of external walls (particularly uninsulated ones), the heat loss will be vast and will likely see the radiator use more energy in order to keep an ambient temperature.
The reflective material placed behind the radiator with the use of specific radiator reflectors reflects back this heat that would otherwise be lost outward into the room. This increases the efficiency of the radiators and allows for the room to heat faster. As a result, homeowners are able to have the central heating on for less time, at a lower heat level, and find its power is optimised when it is on.
Radiator reflectors are now more commonly available than ever and so can now be purchased fairly inexpensively. Rolls of reflective material tends to be cheaper than solid panels, but both can be purchased easily. It’s worth researching first into any performance guarantee given on the products, as you are likely to find that the cheapest products will have the lowest impact.
The exact amount of money saved by radiator reflectors is dependent on many variables, including:
- The size of the house and the rooms being heated
- The amount of radiators
- How often the radiators are used
- The thickness of the walls with radiators on
- The current insulation used in the home
- The fuel type used to heat the home
- The tariff the energy provider is charging to heat the home.
There are radiator reflector products that guarantee heat transfer rates and from these, an estimation of cost savings can be made. For example, manufacturer Radflek guarantee a heat transfer reduction of up to 45%. This means that a house built pre-1976 with cavity walls and a standard energy tariff could save £2.75 per radiator, per year; but this will increase vastly as energy prices rise.
It’s entirely down to the homeowner as to where they install radiator reflectors, but they will have the most impact on external walls and so these should be prioritised over internal walls.
Of course, if there are any radiators going unused or those in rooms that are unlikely to have people in often, these may not require reflectors at all.
Radiator reflectors should ideally be used alongside other energy-saving measures in order to optimise their performance.
It’s important that radiators are bled at least annually to ensure that they’re working the most efficiently they can, and when used in combination with a thermostatic radiator valve, can be maximised in performance even more so. Radiator reflectors work at their best when the radiator is really hot and the wall behind it cold, as this maximises the heat reflected. As a result, insulation should be properly installed throughout the home also.
Tinfoil is not dissimilar to the rolls of radiator reflector products available but will not give comparable results. If homeowners are unable to afford the purchase of radiator reflectors then it can work minimally short-term, but it is not suitable for long-term installation.
Kitchen tinfoil will, over time, crinkle up and tear behind a radiator and its thinness means that its reflective properties are, unfortunately, minimal.
Radiator reflectors will come with specific manufacturer’s instructions for installation and they can usually be fitted as a DIY job. In most circumstances, homeowners will need to measure the radiator, cut down the reflector to fit (if it’s bigger than the radiator unit) and then use an adhesive to stick it between the radiator and wall.
Some products are self-adhesive, while others come with clips to fix to wall brackets. If you have particularly delicate walls it may be worth researching into the easiest and least heavy options – but if the wall can sustain a radiator, it’s unlikely that a radiator reflector would add much more bearing.
While nothing new to those already ‘in the know’, radiator reflectors can really benefit those facing a difficult few months ahead with rising energy bills. A small investment could have a worthwhile return and so these are definitely worth considering for most.
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