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Metal Paints and Radiators

HeatingHelp Administrator Posts: 654
edited May 16 in THE MAIN WALL
imageMetal Paints and Radiators

Ever wonder why the Dead Men painted so many of those old, free-standing, steam- and hot-water radiators silver? Yeah, so did I. I did some digging and came up with a delicious story for you. It goes like this.

Read the full story here


  • Adk1guy
    Adk1guy Member Posts: 68

    Dan, No one can tell a heating story as well as you or make it so interesting.

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,176
    edited May 16

    @Erin Holohan Haskell

    the link to the The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Bureau of Standards published their report on July 19, 1935. You can read it here. does not work. But I know you can fix that.

    Good story, Thanks for the repost!

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

  • Erin Holohan Haskell
    Erin Holohan Haskell Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 2,346

    Thanks @EdTheHeaterMan. And sorry about that! I've repaired the link within the article. And you can find the report here.


  • tbaron1993
    tbaron1993 Member Posts: 1

    If you're going to explain radiator heating by means of WWI references, you've got my attention! Awesome read.

  • Fredheim
    Fredheim Member Posts: 1

    A coat of metallic paint is certainly cheaper and faster than putting in smaller radiators (not to mention that it is reversible). Also interesting that baseboard radiators have copper tubes and shiny aluminum fins. I suppose one could increase output by painting the fins black (a PITA).

  • twbrkfd1
    twbrkfd1 Member Posts: 2

    This is ridiculous. Painting the radiator with NOT silver paint over one painted with aluminum paint will NOT increase infrared transfer. The aluminum flakes are STILL on the radiator reflecting infrared energy back into the radiator. This can be verified with an infrared temperature gun. To INCREASE the infrared output, the original aluminum paint must be REMOVED. To demonstrate, put a 2 sq ft piece of aluminum foil over a radiator with 1/2 painted any color you choose. They will BOTH emit the SAME amount of infrared energy; basic physics.

  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,408

    @twbrkfd1 said: The aluminum flakes are STILL on the radiator reflecting infrared energy back into the radiator.

    The difference is the location of the flakes. Under the surface, or on the surface?

    Conduction takes place throughout the material. Emissivity only happens on the surface.

    Aluminum is highly conductive of heat, but poorly emissive of heat.


  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,568


    Retired and loving it.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,661

    Allow me to second @WMno57 's reply to @twbrkfd1 comment. And some basic physics for @twbrkfd1 . From the standpoint of emissivity and radiative heat transfer, it is, in fact, the immediate surface layer of the emitting object which determines the emissivity. The material beneath that surface layer has no effect on the emissivity whatsoever. This should be obvious, upon consideration…

    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • zooba
    zooba Member Posts: 8

    As the Rolling Stones said, "paint it black"

  • CLamb
    CLamb Member Posts: 300

    It's a pity that shiny radiators are inefficient. A silver or gold plated radiator would be very impressive looking.