3/2/09

Missing in Action - Radiators?!

In my previous life I was an HR Manager for a large European radiator manufacturer, a radiator being a water filled heating device affixed to a wall, which is controlled by thermostats and a gas boiler. I add this as I suspect many of you are wondering what the heck I am on about. As you see, I have yet to spot a single wall radiator in over 3 years and that is just downright bizarre for a Brit'! 99% of buildings in the UK have these spread throughout them to supply heat.

I used to study the import/export tables for radiators in my job and after trawling through the hundreds of thousands going around the world, I would hit the figures for the United States and rarely saw a figure over 100! I didn't give it much thought as to why there were literally none going into, or coming out of the USA at the time.

They come in all shapes and sizes, the one above is a cast iron Victorian radiator and a highly desirable item to many Brit's with older homes. These even come with intricate scrollwork and can be painted any colour you wish, to match your decor. Below is a towel warming radiator, again very popular and fashionable across Europe.

But I have to give you credit, home heating is one thing you do so much better than us. Over here you don't need to consider the position of your wall radiators, when arranging your furniture. This can be a right royal pain in the butt, as they are rarely somewhere that you don't want to put something. You can place things in front of them, but they get hot which you need to consider with plastics and babies, and the fact you're blocking the heat flow!

But over here you have the heat delivered by airflow through floor, wall or ceiling vents. As a Brit' I have to say I think it's genius and so much more efficient. You have the ability to turn your heat down or off instantly with immediate results, not waiting for something to cool down.

But then there is the really brilliant part. You can switch from heat to air-conditioning in a matter of seconds - wow!!

Very few homes in the UK have air-con installed, it was never considered a necessity in years past. You would also be amazed at how few stores and businesses have it too, although the new builds have the past few years. But the British climate is changing and the summers are now hotter and of course we always have humidity. So the demand for air-con is growing all the time and there we are stuck with our wall radiators!

Even after being here a few years, I still love the fact I can switch between heat and air-con in seconds. I also love not having to give consideration to radiators in my rooms!

32 comments:

Kay said...

I remember our old apartment that we used to rent in Chicago had those old radiators. I seem to recall it making a bit of noise. You're right though. I haven't seen them in a long time.

A Brit in Tennessee said...

It's funny Sarah, I was just thinking about radiators the other day...
My mum has them in her home, and we will drape the washing over them to "air" out, especially if they have been hung outside on the clothes line to dry. (Mum, doesn't like dryers ).
I was trying to explain that process to someone, who thought it a bit odd, she didn't use a clothes dryer.
I've seen a couple of sets of radiators in the time I've lived over here, but mostly in older buildings, and hardly ever replaced if they "die"...

notfromaroundhere said...

The radiators in my flat absolutely terrify me. Not only are they filled with water and a little leaky, but they are located directly above the conduit with the electrical wiring. It makes no sense to me to ban electrical outlets and light switches in bathrooms and then to allow this! I say a Hail Mary every few days that the radiator closest to my computer won't go psycho on me...

Brad Neese said...

Don't tell our "beloved" Senator Inhofe that the climate's changing in the U.K. It's all a big hoax, he says. You're just imagining it.

I've lived in houses with radiators, but not here in Oklahoma. You can still find them in older buildings here, but they certainly are a rare site in this state.

Silverback said...

Warmer summers in the UK ??!!!! Not sure that we who you left behind would agree with you, Sarah.

Funny you should pick today to post about rads as right now the 3 of us are clutching our coffees and sitting as close to the one oil fuelled portable radiator as we can as we're having a cold one this morning - 46F outside right now.

Still glad that we're not in the NE though today.

Karen (KayKay) said...

When we were in Europe a year or so ago we had people tell us that Americans were pretty much a bunch of babies when it came to air conditioning! I'll admit to it! I enjoy my air conditioning - I mean, I "could" live without it - but I sure don't want to.

I live in a state where summer temps are regularly above 100 and winter temps are often in the 20's. Where it can be 80 one day and 30 the next.

Being able to flip that switch from heat to air and back as needed is a very good thing!

A Woman Of No Importance said...

I have an award for you today - You may already have it, but it's so good, you've got it twice! Fhina x

pamokc said...

I love those radiators too. Great for drying towels. Some older homes here have them and also panel heaters. I guess it is just what you get used to!

Daryl said...

I havent seen one of those old stand alones in forever .. now if you have a radiated heat its usually 'central air' which goes hot/cold depending on season .. but in our brownstone we have radiators hidden in behind removeable thingies with vents in them ... out of sight, out of mind .. unless the heat isnt working with really never happens

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Our old school buildings (elementary, Jr. High and High School) had those old HUGE radiators... These were very old buildings--and have now been torn down (Boo Hiss)... BUT--you could hear those radiators pop and crack all day long. It's a sound I'll never forget.

Those old buildings also had wood floors and someone would put some kind of oil on the floors, especially the stairs. That's a smell I'll never forget either. Awe--such great memories!!! I loved our old schools in Big Stone Gap, VA.

Have a great day. Hope you are feeling better.
Hugs,
Betsy

Sarah said...

Me and myhubby were talkiong about radiators the other day and how much we hate them! He hated them being in England and not having Ac and the heat the flows evening through the house. I love the fact to that you can switch from hot to cold. The only good thing the radiators were good for was using radiator hangers to dry washing! LOve this blog!

gigihawaii said...

My apartments in New York City had radiators -- the stand alone kind, not wall radiators.

I remember the boiler breaking down and going without heat and hot water for a WEEK during winter. Ewww.

Rob Inukshuk said...

I hated the radiators in the UK, except for drying the washing of course. Always in the wrong place and deadly for wooden furniture - dried them out!

I love the forced air heating/cooling we have here. So much better.

In South Africa there was neither and it does get cold, very cold, in the winter and all you have is little electric heaters that don't do much in homes built for summer heat.

Polish Punk Chick said...

Sadly, these are vanishing. I've lived in older buildings my whole life, and have grown to love even, temperate radiator heat.

Now I live in Las Vegas with heat vents that seem to have a personal vendetta against leaving any skin on my body. They make a combined effort to burn it off!

I miss the radiator life I used to have. *sigh*

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Where I went to college, back when the earth's crust was justing starting to solidify, we had radiators in some of the classrooms and I hated sitting near them, they would get so hot I would have to hold a book up up to the side of head to get a little relief.

ExpatKat said...

Yup, don't miss these.
Award for you at my place.

Winifred said...

I have mixed feelings about them. I used to have ducted air heating and no radiators but I didn't like it. Didn't heat the house as well as the radiatirs I have now.

I don't like having to paint them but I love sitting next to them so do the cats! Yes they're great for doing your bit for reducing power consumption and saving on the electric bill by drying/airing the clothes.

Have to say they're not at all noisy even after 20 years. Think it's because it's small bore. Oooh I sound like I know what I'm talking about.

Agree with Silverback, no signs of global warming here. Have never needed air conditioning at home and I hate it in shops here, on planes and in restaurants.

It was a gorgeous morning here today in the NE of England. I even put the washing out to dry on the line. Spring is coming, I hope.

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Ian & Winifred, I think you guys need to move to S.England, as family & friends there think they need air-con in the summer!

Silverback said...

....only when hell freezes over, Sarah, and even then I'd just get more radiators ;-)

Mog said...

I just thought that forced air heating was used here in Canada as it was one less source of water to freeze up. I never really thought about what happens in less cold places.

Lover of Life said...

Here in the mountains we don't have air conditioning. This is the only home I have ever had without it, though. The sun goes down, and most nights everything cools off. Maybe one or two weeks are too warm at night. Then you just stay longer at the Lake.

Iota said...

I agree that heating is much more efficient over here. The only thing I don't like is that it is also rather wasteful. You have to heat the whole house. With good old radiators, you can put the heating on, then turn off all the radiators except one or two, in the rooms you are in. Of course it's less convenient, but it feels more efficient. (But US houses are better insulated than UK, so perhaps that makes up for it.)

Gaelyn said...

I lived with one of those in my college years. Very noisy and inefficient. Plus a friend once sat on a hot radiator and hand red stripes on his a..
However, I did see some ornate radiator parts at the salvage yard.
Some modern convienences are delightful, like heat, and AC if needed.

Heather said...

Oh I don't miss radiators one bit.

Anonymous said...

Just to say its not only the UK that have radiators as such they are generally all over Europe.

Snippety Gibbet said...

I grew up in a big old Victorian house with radiators. My favorite one was in my bedroom. It was right by my windown and had a wall behind it. I would sit on that radiator and write or draw. It felt rather bumpy and not comfy on my fanny, but in the winter, the warmth that came up from it was quite lovely.

Silverback said...

No comment....but it's killing me !!!

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

LMAO Ian!! Now you and I both know that's not what Jan mean't. You reckon this needs to be a BWOTD.

BTW I am biting my tongue on the ANON, I hate it when people don't read every word!

Thud said...

As renovator of period houses in England these bloody things are the bane of my life

The Antiques Diva™ said...

Since moving to Europe I've been anti-radiator, thinking longing of the heating systems in the USA - however, now whenever I return home to Oklahoma I ALWAYS get sick from either the airco or heating. I'm convinced those passage ways/heating and cooling ducts are rife with bacteria and dust that woosh from the ceiling clogging my lungs and setting my throat to infection. It's taken me a decade but I finally prefer radiators! Coincidentally, the new apartment in Berlin has new radiators in each room plus towel warming units in the bathrooms and I'm in heaven...the puppies heat up the room within minutes of turning up the nozzle!

DeeBee said...

I love your blog because of things I learn about life where you lived previously. It's so interesting!

Janet said...

Hey Sarah, you need to stop calling them boilers and call them furnesses. The first time we had a problem with our heating system, the plumber hadn't a clue what we were talking about. So what's new? :-) Great post though.