Do you love the look of vertical radiators for your home?

A lot of people tend to invest in vertical radiators because they look nice and modern. Unfortunately, because of this, it’s not always obvious that they’re not the best choice to heat your home. Unless you get them sized correctly.

So, if you’re thinking about buying vertical radiators to replace your old, traditional radiators, you have to be quite careful when choosing the right ones.

As a heating engineer with over 25 years’ experience fitting radiators of all shapes and sizes in the Edinburgh area, I’m going to tell you why vertical radiators might not be the best idea – as well as some advice on making the best choice for your home.

Why aren’t vertical radiators the best choice?

Although vertical radiators may look very much the part, unfortunately most of these radiators simply don’t give out the same heat, so that your home just won’t be as warm as it would be otherwise.

One reason for this is that there are no fins behind them – which help to spread out the heat. This usually means drawing cold air from underneath, drawing up as heat rises; not just radiated heat, but convection heat. The area a vertical radiator takes up is much less, which is another reason why column radiators just don’t give the same heat.

So, to put this in very simple terms, on average the space a vertical radiator takes up means around 10% less heat, whilst the lack of fins also leads to another 10% of heat. These are the main things that affect the heat a radiator gives out – so, now you know what to look for!

The good news is if you get your engineer to measure the heat loss of the room, he can recommend the correct size to heat. It may be larger than anticipate but at least it will do the job.

What else affects the heat a radiator provides?

You may not have heard of this one, but it’s true. White towel rails tend to give out more heat than chrome ones. It’s odd, but it’s to do with the paintwork and the way it reflects the heat. Colours can really affect things. 

I’ve had a lot of people asking for cast iron radiators. but they just don’t give out the same heat. Oddly, there’s not a huge amount of difference for radiators that are graphite grey, but I installed one radiator that was black and it simply didn’t give out anywhere near the same amount of heat. Also remember cast iron radiators take longer to heat up, however they do stay hot longer when the heating has been turned off.

Roughly you’re looking at around a 5% heat loss – probably more if your radiator is black/darker in colour.

What are the best vertical radiators to get?

Not all vertical radiators are created equally. Some of them can still actually do quite a decent job of heating your home. I’d recommend looking at brands such as Stelrad Vertex and Concord, as well as Planar radiators. These give out great heat for vertical radiators, and are designed in white – similar to the style of standard horizontal pressed steel.

I find as soon as you move away from them, and start looking at low surface temperature radiators that are columns with fancy designs, you won’t get the same heat out of them.

I’m not saying you can’t heat your home with vertical radiators – you might just have to install double the amount, though. 

Advice from an experienced heating engineer

If looking at radiators online, you’ll find most websites have output calculators based on things like the width x depth x height of your room, along with your windows and insulation levels. This should tell you how many kW you need to heat the room. 

I’d actually cringe if I underheated someone’s house. I’d feel like I hadn’t done my job right, and there’s nothing worse than that. I once had a job in Edinburgh for a guy who wanted all column radiators – some with feet, that went floor-hung. So, I did my calculations. Because of the shutters, the radiators couldn’t be more than 500mm, which meant I got worried.

I said that it wasn’t enough to heat the rooms, and unless we got the radiators right, it wouldn’t be efficient. It took me a while to explain to the customer, but after listening, he took my advice, and we tested it the other week. We were able to get the rooms up to 21/22 degrees – and we were both happy. It was a lovely house, so would have broken my heart to underheat it.


I hope you’ve found this blog helpful. Not everyone realises that vertical radiators aren’t always the best choice, and are more concerned with the way they look (which is often very contemporary and sleek) rather than how much heat they’re going to give out. Unfortunately this means you usually need more radiators to heat the same room!

If looking online, use the calculators provided by most online companies. This will help you work out whether your vertical radiators are going to be up to the job of heating your home. Never buy under the recommended number of kW these calculators recommend.

Do you have any more specific questions about installing vertical radiators? Just comment below. I promise to get back to you!