I for one have fond memories of these ornate and functional radiators in the elementary school I attended, listening to them softly pop and hiss, and holding my hands up to them to chase away the chill of a brisk autumn day.
Until World War II, hot water heating using cast iron radiators was the most popular form of heating in homes and other buildings. But then, after the war, forced air furnace systems began to replace hot water as the preferred form of home heating.
But recently hot water heating has started to make a comeback, especially with the new radiant in-floor hydronic heating systems being installed in new homes, and retro-fitted into existing homes as well.
This return to hot water heating has also brought with it the return of the classic cast-iron radiators of the early 20th Century. People are re-discovering these sturdy, reliable, and classically styled iron masterpieces and are combining them with their new hot water heating systems.
What most people don’t know is how energy efficient these iron radiators really are. They assume since this is “old” technology that radiators must be inefficient at transferring heat into a room, but that’s not the case. In fact studies have shown that cast iron “rads” as they referred to are quite efficient and delivering heat with properly installed and maintained.
These antique cast iron units work especially well with wood burning or natural gas boilers, and can even be used in solar heating systems as well to give your energy efficiency an added boost.
While many people who decide to choose this method of home heating buy new, reproduction iron radiators, there is another option. Original, refurbished cast iron radiators are available in most areas of the country. After all, there’s nothing like the original, and many times radiators a hundred years old are still in very serviceable condition.
During the refurbishing process, the old paint is removed, revealing the original textures and patina of the metal. Then the interior flushed out and any corrosion removed, and the radiators are repainted and returned to like-new condition.
If you’re considering converting your home to hot water heat in the near future, or you’re buying a new home, you should take a look at antique cast iron radiators as a way to add character and functional elegance to every room.