Radiant Barriers & Cast Iron Radiators: Another Simple Energy Saving Project

On our last post we discussed pipe wrap insulation as an easy energy saving project. Well, here's another one. For those of you we consider lucky enough to still heat your homes with cast iron hot water radiant heat, we have another fun, low cost project to share.

Radiant Heat with Cast Iron RadiatorsLet's remember. The entire purpose of reflective foil insulation and radiant barriers are to block the transfer of radiant heat.

The Science: As your radiators warm up to heat your home, conductive heat generated by your boiler radiates out of the cast iron into the cooler surrounding air. As the air warms and rises, cooler air replaces it and the cycle continues until the thermostat setting is reached.

The Problem: The only portion of this heating system that decreases the efficiency is the back side of the radiator. For the most part, it just heats up the wall. As heat will always go to cold, a significant portion of the radiant heat emitted will be absorbed and lost into the wall.

The Solution: Put some radiant barrier insulation behind your radiators. As the radiant heat travels towards the wall, 97% of this heat will be reflected back into the living space where it is desired. You can accomplish this in a very low tech way. Simply cut a piece of foil insulation a little smaller than the size of the radiator, by approximately 1" or 2".  This ensures the insulation will not be noticed and your room will look the same.

Radiant Barrier Insulation - Cast Iron RadiatorThis project is even easier for those who still have the metal radiator covers. Lift off the cover and cut a piece of insulation to fit inside the radiator cover on the back or wall side. Attach the insulation with foil tape. The installation will never be noticed. For those who want to be more creative, you can create a radiant barrier panel and attach the insulation with thin strips of wood. This wood can be painted or stained to give a permanent professional look. This also allows you to make your panels larger than the radiators with no adverse effects on appearance.

Energy savings projects like these are simple and can be fun. Best of all, they are not expensive, time consuming, or complex and they will save you energy and make you more comfortable.

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