Staying green during the winter months may seem more difficult than at any other time of the year. Heating is a major source of energy costs, but devising a plan to make your home as efficient as possible means that you’ll stay warm and avoid some huge energy bills while reducing your impact on the environment.
If you live in an older home that depends on a radiator system for heating, you’ve got a dependable source for staying warm, but one that can actually work too well if you turn it up too high (you may find yourself cracking a window open to alleviate the heat). Here we’ll target some ways to get the best use of your radiator to maximize your comfort as well as your energy use.
Let’s get efficient
The roots of the environmental movement go back decades, and a house built with radiators definitely goes back to a time even further. Although the cast-iron radiator may seem like an outdated system (which it is), it’s still able to be updated and used efficiently. It also produces fewer allergens than a furnace-based system and doesn’t dry out the air as thoroughly or stir up as much dust. You can invest in a radiator booster to spread the heat in your house more quickly, and it’s also wise to regulate your radiator usage and turn it down, or off, when you’re out of the house.
Simple physics on your side
You can add to the unit’s efficiency by placing a radiant screen or reflector behind it. These can be bought at the store or constructed at home using some cardboard or insulation board and some aluminum foil. The screen reflects heat behind the radiator back into the room. It’s a great way of getting physics to work for your benefit.
Maintenance and care
Like any other appliance around the house, some upkeep will be needed to ensure your radiant heating system is working correctly. One important task is what’s known as “bleeding” the radiator — in other words, releasing the trapped air within it. If it’s not producing heat very well, it’s likely time for a bleeding session. You’ll need a bleed key; if you don’t already have one, you can pick one up at almost any hardware store. You insert the key into the bleed valve to release the air inside. (Be sure to have a towel handy for any water leaks.)
The big decision: Repair or replace?
As you prepare for winter, you may find that your radiator requires some updates or possibly an outright replacement. If you’ve reached the stage where no heat is being produced, it’s a no-brainer, but if a unit is operating poorly, you may not need to incur the expense of a whole new system. All it may need is some repair work to have the device working like new. After picking up some radiator replacement parts and grabbing your trusty toolkit, you can spend some time renovating the heater and extend its longevity for years to come.
Radiators as part of a green future
With the efforts to innovate appliances and reduce energy costs, the new designs of home radiators are proving to be part of plans to reduce the United States’ carbon footprint. In 2012, a company specializing in maximizing radiator efficiency, known as Radiator Labs, won MIT’s Clean Tech award. Even if you have an old model from decades ago, it’s still considered a green source of winter warmth, and making any updates can help you get the most out of it, reducing both your carbon footprint as well as your home expenses.