Although radiators are vital to keeping a warm home in the UK, one of the greatest issues with them is that they don’t actually do a very good job of it. There are several suggested solutions to this; fitting radiator reflector foils, replacing radiators with fan-assisted radiators and perhaps the most low-tech suggestion and common myth, putting a plank of wood above the radiator, otherwise known as a radiator shelf.
Radiator shelves are just that – shelves that sit above a radiator. They may be attached to the wall or fit on brackets that slot behind the radiator. They supposedly help improve the efficiency of a radiator by passively deflecting heat from the radiator out into the room. As 80% of heat emitted from a radiator is convected up towards the ceiling, it does seem sensible to block this from happening and shift this heat in your direction. But can a simple piece of timber really have this power?
Some reports have found radiator shelves can save a minimal £5-10 a year on heating bills. However, radiator manufactures claim that radiator shelves actually reduce the heat output of the radiator by around 5%, making them even less efficient. This drop in heat output may even account for the £5-10 a year that could be knocked off your heating bill. So you may save money, but you would also have a colder home, if you don’t mind the cold, you could save even more money (and effort) by not buying the radiator shelves in the first place and just turning your thermostat down.
Alternatively, if like me, you would rather be warm and save money, you could invest in a Radfan. Radfans are low power fan units that sit on top of your radiator and actively redirect warmth where you want it. Unlike radiator shelves, Radfans do require electricity to run, but use only £2 a year and this small amount is greatly offset by the amount you could save. Tests by the University of Salford and field trials with housing associations found the Radfan can save up to £106 a year on heating bills. Radfans are also far easier to install, there are no tools involved, you just put it on the radiator, plug it in and sit back and let the automated switch turn it on and off with the radiator.
If you’re considering fitting radiator shelves to save money on your heating bills and make your living room feel warmer, you will most likely be far more satisfied with a Radfan. If you want a radiator shelf to place photo frames and vases on, you may struggle to balance these on a Radfan, then again, you could always place a shelf above your Radfan…