Coming in from a day of playing in the snow, many children who live in the north can recall laying out ice-crusted mittens on their home radiators, being careful not to touch them with their bare skin when they were in full operation. Typically painted white, these accordion shaped, twisted metal pipes were a staple in most homes in the north, providing room by room heating while still being connected-the world's first form of centralized heating.
History of the Radiator
Franz SanGalli, a German man born in Italy and living in Russia, invented the radiator in 1855. The first to produce a central heating system, he patented the device in Germany and in America, and soon after radiators became standard equipment in new home construction.
How Radiators Work
A radiator works by using hot water. A water heater raises the temperature and then pumps the hot water into the radiator system, where it flows to each device. Hot water enters the radiator and rises to the top.
As heat emanates from the water, it is transferred to the metal pipes, then to the air. The water cools and sinks to the bottom. Cool water then exits the system and is routed back to the water heater, where it can be heated up to be put back to work.
New Home Radiators
Most traditional radiators are left out of new home construction today. Instead, something called radiant flooring is used, which is the same old idea applied in a new way. The water, or in some cases electricity or hot air, is passed under an entire room's floor, heating the floor which will radiate heat up into the air of the room.
Radiant Floor Heating Options
Hydronic is the best all-around choice for radiant flooring. Most common flooring materials are compatible with all radiant flooring, although avoiding wood is a good idea as it can be damaged by the heat. Also, the more insulation on the floor, such as padding and thick carpets, the less effective the system will be.
Electric radiant flooring's value depends on whether or not your power company provides time-of-use rates, meaning you could run the system during off-peak hours when it costs less and build up enough heat for up to ten hours. If this type of rate structure is not offered, this type of system might not be for you.
Radiant air flooring is considered the least cost effective and most unpopular choice.
Why Are Radiators Noisy?
Any family familiar with home radiators have experienced the ghostly sounds of knocking and banging coming from radiators even when no one is in the room. While it sounds like a poltergeist banging away on the pipes, it is actually trapped air in the system, which rises to the top and reduces the efficiency of the radiator's heating ability.
To resolve the problem, a bleed valve is usually installed in the top of the radiator, allowing the excess air to be bled out of the system. Typically, a radiator needs to be bled twice a season, or more as needed. Those located on upper floors tend to need this treatment a bit more often, as they accumulate more air quicker.
The banging can also come from improperly set up radiators, whose pipes will bang on surrounding surfaces as they expand and contract from temperature changes. If you have an old fashioned radiator in your home, consider putting heat-reflective paneling between the radiator and the exterior wall of the house to improve the system's efficiency.
For more information on radiators see the following article from HomeDoctor.net: Radiators.