Many homeowners like to put covers over their radiators, a practice I found curious until I began looking into it and realized that not all covers inhibit heat flow. Covers range from utilitarian, powder-coated metal enclosures with clover leaf-style grilles to fancy wood enclosures that double as bookshelves.
Improves Appearance: Maybe. Cleaner: Definitely.
Not exactly my view, but each to his or her own. What is certain is that radiator covers do help you keep your radiators cleaner. Radiators' narrow spaces and floor-hugging profile are dust magnets. While diligent cleaning with vacuum nozzle attachments can mitigate the dust, wouldn't you rather cut down on the frequency of cleaning?
Covers keep radiators cleaner in two areas:
- Top: Dust and dirt settle on the flat, closed wipeable top surface of the radiator cover, rather than settle into the baffles. When the cover has cooled down, you can easily wipe it down with a wet cloth.
- Sides: Dust can work its way through the open side grills. But because access is limited, you only get about half of the amount of dust. Dust that clings to the grille itself can be vacuumed off. Or, in the spring, remove the cover entirely and hose off outside.
Do Covers Impede Heat Flow?
One benefit is that some covers are fitted with pans that can be filled with distilled water to provide humidified air to the room. Putting water pans atop radiators is an age-old practice. But covers allow you to better hide the pans.
Because wood is a good insulator, wood radiator enclosures will not transmit heat to the degree that metal covers will. So, if your house is so cold that it needs to take advantage of every BTU that your radiators can offer, you may not want to choose wood covers.
Wood Covers: Costly Beauty
My only concern about the functionality of wood covers is that wood and water do not mix. Whether yours are steam or hot-water radiators, chances are good that at least one of them leaks--or will leak in the future. Even without water hitting the wood, the constant on/off heat cycles will eventually cause the wood to expand and contract, leading to warping and cracking.
Sources For Radiator Covers
- Beautiful Radiators: Utilitarian metal radiator covers--unspectacular but attractive enough. Be sure to check out their website, one of the most informative I've seen on the subject of radiator enclosures. Custom sizing available.
- Fichman: Fichman is a furniture supplier based in Rochester, NY. They have a number of radiator covers, starting at $175, constructed of MDF that come flat-packed and which you assemble yourself.
- Custom Radiator Enclosures: Many of Custom's covers are of the bare-bones, powder-coated metal variety. But they have a number of "bookcase-style" covers that are quite handsome, one even with a deco flair.
- Shutter Shack: A selection of 6 solid wood radiator covers, starting at $385.