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Building a Radiator Enclosure; Seeking Advice

LeifT Member Posts: 4
I stumbled upon this site just the other day and what a Godsend it has been.  It has answered a lot of questions regarding the steam heating system I have in my housr built in 1914.  Long story short, I recently remodeled my 3rd floor attic which is about 600 square feet.  I was researching about radiator efficiency and came to the conclusion that I would like to put a radiator enclosure to help heat the air in my attic.

Now, according to the article from your site: <a href="http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/158/Radiators/1537/Radiator-Enclosures">http://www.heatinghelp.com/article/158/Radiators/1537/Radiator-Enclosures</a> (I have included the picture from the article below), the most efficient way to bump heat output from a radiator is the chimney method (the top left example).  However, my radiator sits in a very pecular position.  It is in a small addition to the main room, just below some rather drafty old windows.  I have also included a crude diagram below to help explain what I am talking about.

What I am worried about is the chimney method that sends the heat straight up in the air would cause two problems.  One, it would channel it up into the drafty windows and cause heat loss.  Two, the cove where the radiator resides has a pyramidal ceiling (was not fun to drywall, tape and mud- believe me.)  This would cause the heat to trap up there and not travel out into the main room.  What I had in mind was the bottom left method of pulling cool air in from the floor and channeling it outward away from the windows and hopefully pushing it far enough to make it into the main room without getting too trapped in the cove.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated here.  I know the windows need to be replaced with more modern and efficient models, but right now I do not have the resources for such a project.  What would you do in this situation barring window replacement?

Thanks in advance,



  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,997
    In that situation

    you wouldn't get good results from any cover. Try it this winter with no cover and see how it does. If it's not warm enough, tighten up the window before enlarging the radiator.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • LeifT
    LeifT Member Posts: 4
    Follow up...

    For every person I hear that says something negative about radiator enclosures, I hear someone say something positive.  I am really confused.  I assumed that the previously linked article was reputable.  From my research on the matter, which is admittedly limited, it seems as long as the cover has an access point at the floor to vaccum in cooler air and uses the rising force of the heat to direct it upwards and out, radiator enclosures can and do seem to work.

    The reason why I asked originally is because this is an exterior wall (hence the window) and I do not want to place a heat reflective material behind the radiator unless it is contained in an enclosure.  Secondly, I was hoping to somewhat direct the heated airflow away from my windows for this season.

    Did you read the article I linked in my previous post?  What specifically do you not agree with?  The article actually provides hard numbers to different variations of enclosures, which is what finally convinced me that an enclosure- if built properly, can be functional and actually increase efficiency.  If there is something you do not believe about the article, I would be happy to hear about it.  I am just a beginner at this and I do not count my word above others on the matter.  However, I have read a lot of anecdotal evidence and this is the first piece I read that actually shows facts regarding enclosures.  Additionally, many of the premade enclosures I have seen on the market for sale, actually are of the designs the article states will greatly decrease efficiency.  Maybe this is where you are drawing your conclusions from?

    Looking forwards to hearing from you and others,

  • Charlie from wmass
    Charlie from wmass Member Posts: 4,253
    Try the shrink plastic sheeting

    It is a cheap and temporary solution to drafty windows. I had a friend who broke a window trying to close it last winter and they ended up using the shrink sheeting to cover the window as they ( read I ) did not want to be replacing a window in January on the second floor of their home. Be patient and neat and it will hold up and not be too bad to look at. It is kind of fun when it starts to move on those real windy nights but nice as you know the wind is not getting through.

    My thing against enclosures has more to due with the fact once a radiator gets covered it is forgotten. This includes dusting and checking for signs of small leaks before they become big leaks.
    Cost is what you spend , value is what you get.

    cell # 413-841-6726
  • JStar
    JStar Member Posts: 2,752
    I would...

    ...leave it uncovered. Sure, an enclosure would increase it's convective potential, but for your specific room, you want to take advantage of the radiator's full radiation. The air circulation from an enclosure won't be strong enough to notice, so I wouldn't bet on it "blowing" across the room. Steam radiator's are designed to be placed under old drafty windows. If it's the original radiator, it's probably even sized to heat the room with the window open. By sourcing more heat directly at the window location, the window will take away a little heat...from the radiator...but not the room. I bet if you didn't heat the window, you'd always feel a chill when you stood near it. I would go one heating season without a cover. You can always add one later.
  • Rod
    Rod Posts: 2,067
    edited August 2010
    Radiator Enclosures

    Hi Leif-

      I've attached some more information on radiator enclosures which might be of interest to you.

    "Steamhead" is a very experienced steam pro and I would put a great deal of weight on his advice.  If he says it isn't practical, it most probably isn't.    However, if you want to experiment, you could cheaply/quickly fabricate something temporary out of dry wall and test different configurations out before committing to something expensive and possibly non beneficial.

    Since you new to this board, I might suggest that you take a look in the "Shop" section at the top of this page as it has a lot of good books on residential steam heating.

    I would read "We Got Steam Heat" first as it is a good introduction to steam heating.


    You then might want to read "The Lost Art of Steam Heating" and "Greening Steam"

    These books pay for themselves very quickly with the tips they give to make your steam system more comfortable and fuel efficient.

    - Rod.
  • LeifT
    LeifT Member Posts: 4
    Thank you, Rod

    Thanks for the advice.  I actually just purchased the 3 pack of those books 2 days ago.  I will look into "We've Got Steam Heat" first per your advice.

    I have actually gone to the trouble to strip down the paint on my radiators (one of them was pink *shudders*), so I will probably prime and paint them and leave them as is for this winter to see how I feel about the whole situation.  I did wire a 20A 240v circuit up there for AC in the summer.  If push comes to shove, I will go the the ReUse center by my house and pick up an appropriate baseboard heater for cheap.

    Still welcoming comments/suggestions,

  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 15,997
    If you cover that particular rad

    it will no longer be able to radiate heat into the room. Even if you use an intelligently-designed cover, you will still enhance the chimney effect and most of the heat will rise to the ceiling.

    An uncovered rad will "shine" some of its heat into the room, much as the sun does. So you'll be more comfortable this way.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
  • Ex Maine Doug
    Ex Maine Doug Member Posts: 162
    edited August 2010
    Covered or not

    I have lived in houses with covered radiators- my parents houses.  My Mother always wanted those fancy cabinets with book shelves. Such an abomination. Used to freeze my a-s off till I took apart the box over my radiator.  Fortunately I moved out at a very young age and have had my own houses with radiators. Left them bare and loved them.

    Frank and Gordon from All Steamed Up Inc.came to work on a steam system in a house my DIL bought to house my son's law firm.  I lived in it for a year while doing some reno work. The heating system is totally quiet, heats evenly, all the rads get hot at about the same time. The house has had little work since 1923- we torn down the original chicken coop. The house, a Craftsman style 4 square, has old windows and no insulation whatsoever. I added foil insulation in back of the rads until we insulate the walls.

    I removed all the rad boxes the original owners had installed. They were preventing radiant heat from reaching us. The cats love them. Try the no box approach for half the winter but make it removable as radiant is better than convection and a bare rad does both. The dead men knew what they were doing.
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