What to Do with Old Radiators: Tips and Ideas

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Old radiators can be a hassle to deal with. Whether you are renovating your home or simply upgrading your heating system, you may find yourself with a few bulky, outdated radiators on your hands. However, before you toss them to the curb, it’s important to consider your options.

One option is to sell your old radiators. Vintage radiators, especially cast iron radiators, are highly sought after by homeowners looking to add a touch of charm and character to their homes. Homeowners with one-pipe steam radiators, in particular, may struggle to find replacements for their unique heating systems. By selling your old radiators, you not only make some extra cash, but you also help preserve a piece of history.

Another option is to repurpose your old radiators. With a little creativity, you can turn your old radiators into functional pieces of furniture or decor. For example, you could transform a cast-iron radiator into a bookshelf or use it as a decorative room divider. By repurposing your old radiators, you not only save them from the landfill, but you also add a unique touch to your home.

Understanding Old Radiators

Types of Old Radiators

Old radiators come in a variety of types, each with its own unique characteristics and heating properties. The most common types of old radiators include:

  • Steam Radiators: These radiators use steam to heat up the surrounding air, making them ideal for use in older homes with steam heating systems. Steam radiators are typically made from cast iron and can be quite heavy.
  • Hot Water Radiators: These radiators use hot water to heat up the surrounding air, making them ideal for use in newer homes with hot water heating systems. Hot water radiators are typically made from cast iron, but can also be made from aluminum or other materials.
  • Electric Radiators: These radiators use electricity to heat up the surrounding air, making them ideal for use in areas where a traditional heating system is not available. Electric radiators come in a variety of sizes and styles, including wall-mounted and portable models.

How Old Radiators Work

Old radiators work by using a combination of convection and radiation to heat up the surrounding air. When the radiator is turned on, hot water or steam flows through the pipes and into the radiator. The heat from the water or steam is then transferred to the surrounding air through a process known as convection.

As the air around the radiator heats up, it rises and is replaced by cooler air. This creates a natural circulation of air, which helps to evenly distribute heat throughout the room. In addition to convection, old radiators also use radiation to heat up the surrounding air. This occurs when the hot metal surface of the radiator emits heat in the form of infrared radiation.

Old radiators typically have a valve that controls the flow of water or steam into the radiator. This valve can be adjusted to regulate the temperature of the radiator and the amount of heat that is released into the room. The amount of heat that a radiator can produce is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units), which is a standard unit of measurement for heat.

Overall, understanding how old radiators work and the different types available can help homeowners make informed decisions about how to best use and maintain their heating systems.

Maintenance and Safety Measures

Maintaining old radiators is essential to ensure their longevity and optimal performance. However, it is crucial to take safety measures while doing so. Here are some tips to help you maintain your old radiators safely:

Handling and Stem

When handling old radiators, be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges or hot surfaces. If you need to turn off the radiator, use the stem to do so. Be gentle while turning the stem to avoid any damage.


Cleaning the fins and dusting the surface of the radiator is necessary to keep it functioning efficiently. Use a brush attachment or a vacuum with a crevice tool to remove dust and debris from the fins. For hard-to-reach areas, use a radiator brush or a toothbrush.

Safety Gear

Wear a dust mask and safety glasses while cleaning the radiator to protect yourself from dust and debris. Also, ensure that the area around the radiator is clear of any flammable materials.

Leak Detection

Check for any leaks in the radiator regularly. If you notice any leaks, turn off the radiator immediately and call a professional to fix it.

By following these maintenance and safety measures, you can keep your old radiators functioning optimally while ensuring your safety.

Repurposing and Recycling Old Radiators

Old radiators can be repurposed or recycled in a number of ways, making them a versatile item to have around. Here are a few ideas for what to do with old radiators:

  • Decor and Furniture: Old radiators can be used as a unique decorative element in a room, or even repurposed as furniture. For example, a radiator cover can be turned into a shelf or a bench. With a little creativity, the possibilities are endless.
  • Repurposing and Recycling: If you’re feeling crafty, old radiators can be repurposed into a variety of items. For example, the metal can be used to create garden art or a unique piece of wall art. Alternatively, you can recycle the metal at a scrap yard or through a radiator recycling program.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Repurposing or recycling old radiators is a great way to be environmentally friendly. By keeping them out of landfills, you’re reducing waste and helping to preserve the environment. Additionally, recycling old radiators can help to conserve natural resources, such as copper.
  • Lead Paint Concerns: It’s important to note that some older radiators may contain lead paint. If you’re planning to repurpose or recycle an old radiator, be sure to take the necessary precautions to avoid exposure to lead paint.

Overall, repurposing or recycling old radiators is a great way to reduce waste and give new life to an old item. Whether you’re looking for a unique piece of decor or want to do your part for the environment, there are plenty of options available.

Replacing Old Radiators

If you have old radiators that are outdated, inefficient, or simply not working properly, you may want to consider replacing them. Replacing old radiators can help you save money on your energy bills, improve the air quality in your home, and even increase the value of your property.

Before replacing your old radiators, you should consider a few things. First, you should decide whether you want to move or convert your radiators. Moving your radiators can be a major undertaking, as it involves rerouting the pipes that supply hot water to your radiators. Converting your radiators, on the other hand, involves replacing the old radiators with new ones that are more energy-efficient and better suited to your needs.

If you have vintage or antique radiators, you may want to consider donating them to a museum or historical society. These organizations may be interested in preserving your old radiators as part of their collections.

Once you have decided to replace your old radiators, you should give them a deep clean to remove any dirt or debris that may have accumulated over the years. Joseph Nason, a professional radiator cleaner, recommends using a primer to prepare the surface of your radiators for painting. You can then paint your radiators to match your decor or cover them with radiator covers made of stone or marble.

When replacing your old radiators, you should also consider the airflow in your home. Hot water radiators work by heating the air around them, so it is important to ensure that there is adequate airflow around your new radiators. You may also want to consider installing appliances that can help cool your home, such as air conditioning units or fans.

Replacing old radiators can be a great way to improve the energy efficiency of your home and increase its value. By following these tips, you can ensure that your new radiators are installed properly and work efficiently for years to come.

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