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Metal strips back of steam radiator?

franzsf Member Posts: 3
edited November 21 in Strictly Steam
Long time listener, first time caller. Really appreciate all the advice on this site; we moved into a house with one-pipe steam last year and I've spent that time tweaking the system. Almost runs like butter now.

Has a question about (a) the function of these metal "strips" attached between the backs of the columns on most of our radiators and (b) if its a bad idea to remove them if we're intending to repaint and then rotate a radiator 90 degrees during a bathroom remodel.

I suspect the answer has something to do with trying to keep heat away from the wall? Or maybe something to do with convection.

Pictures of the rad in question. The rad will be rotated 90 degrees towards the bottom left of the frame of the first picture, so the metal strips will be on the new front.

Thank in advance for any insight.


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 17,049
    That's a new one for me... but that's a pretty ordinary radiator otherwise, and I expect you can remove those...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 2,373
    edited November 21
    Another inventor has left his mark on the world. If we only knew what the dead man had in mind when this was done. Perhaps the wall paper around the radiator was being discolored by the heat currents passing by the wall at a different rate than the rest of the wall.

    I think a dead wallpaper hanger asked a dead sheetmetal worker to make them for the dead steamfitter so the dead homeowner would stop complaining about the need to replace wallpaper every 3 years. Is there any wallpaper behind that blue paint?

    OR NOT?

    i agree with @Jamie Hall ... rip 'em out

    Edward Young
    Retired HVAC Contractor from So. Jersey Shore.
    Cleaned & services first oil heating system at age 16
  • franzsf
    franzsf Member Posts: 3
    Nope. Paint is on plaster which is directly applied to the structural clay tile of the exterior wall (with brick veneer on the outside). I'll try prying one off and go from there. Thanks!
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,941
    Do they extend down the back of the rad?
    They may have been used as a rear reflector to push more radiant heat out the front.

    It seems like they would cut down on the convection thru that back part, maybe to save the wall above?

    It looks like they just snap in place.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 3,957
    Maybe the radiator is oversized for the room and someone was trying to reduce the output. Do they go all the way down the back?
  • franzsf
    franzsf Member Posts: 3
    edited November 22
    Yep, they go all the way down the back, in these grooves on either side of each column. After attempting to remove one from the top, I think it'll be easier to tap them out from the bottom, with the rad on its side.

    Edit: I should note these seem to be on all our rads, so its not a one-off.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,425
    They’re meant to block the radiant heat toward what is probably an uninsured wall. You can remove them. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • motoguy128
    motoguy128 Member Posts: 378
    Radiators are in reality primarily convectors. I would be negligible I suspect, the reduction in the amount of radiant heat going to the wall by radiation as those metal strips are also metal themselves and there’s no air gap between it an the radiator. It encloses the radiator partially mike some recessed wall convector radiators. They mainly would reduce vertical air flow out of the radiator and therefore reduce its capacity. I’d guess about 25% or so.