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HPM September 2017

42 S P E C I A L R E P O R T Aluminium radiators vs steel: the truth Ian Bradley, managing director of MHS Radiators, discusses the differences between aluminium and steel, looking at the true advantages of each material “A niche market”, “the occasional one off” and “capacity for production is low”. These are all comments used to describe aluminium radiators in a recent article HPM. Unsurprisingly, all of these remarks derive from – yes, you guessed it – a leading steel radiator manufacturer! Are the opinions unbiased? I don’t think so. Are they accurate? Certainly not. Let me explain why – from a company that offers both types of radiator. As a nation, we embraced the steel radiator decades ago, mainly due to our burgeoning steel industry that offered a ready supply at a relatively low cost. Now, once that steel industry all but disappeared and we started sourcing our much needed raw materials from further afield, the market for steel panel radiators was “Good quality aluminium radiators do not use any “manual” processes in the manufacturing process, so the quality well and truly embedded in the heating industry psyche. And there has never been a reason to change, even though much of the manufacturing capability is carried out overseas. Now, I want to be clear, I’m not here to kick any steel radiator manufacturers. Indeed, We supply an impressive range of steel models as they provide effective, functional and reliable heat to many homes and premises throughout the country. Capable alternatives But that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives capable of competing just as well – or that may be more suited to certain applications. Firstly, let’s assess the “niche market” reference to aluminium radiators. If you base this premise on volume alone, fair enough; steel is the market leader by far in the UK. But the aluminium radiator shouldn’t be categorised as a product solely suited to ‘bespoke’ buildings, just because their benefits haven’t been recognised in the past. If anything, aluminium radiators should be – and increasingly are – considered for any new or refurbished domestic or commercial building. It’s also true that architects like them too, and not just for their “one off” projects. They have an appreciation for the many attributes of aluminium; emitting heat quickly in a lightweight, compact and attractive form. So, to insinuate these radiators are only specified out of some misguided desire to be different is, quite frankly, insulting to the industry. Discerning architects, building designers and the industry savvy installer for that matter, do their homework and on the basis of aesthetics and performance, very often identify aluminium as the best choice for many of their applications. Indeed, when you consider heat up times, the low water content required – coupled with the low thermal inertia of an aluminium radiator – sees it heat up approximately three times faster than a comparably sized steel model. These excellent thermal capabilities also enable aluminium radiators to cool down quickly, ensuring rapid response times no matter what a user’s requirements may be. As a consequence of this swift response, radiators don’t have to be on for long before having an effect on a room’s temperature, while the quick cool down time reduces the amount of latent heat left behind – thereby offering greater levels of flexibility and comfort. When it comes to an aluminium radiator’s overall weight, or lack of it, a key reason is its low water content. Indeed, using a 600mm x 800mm single steel panel, single fin radiator with a similar output aluminium radiator as a comparison, our research shows the aluminium radiator contains 2.16 litres of water compared to the steel model’s 4.1 litres – that’s nearly a 50% difference. This example illustrates the aluminium radiator to be over 10kg lighter in weight, at only 8.9kg compared to that of the aforementioned steel equivalent weighing in at 19.7kg. Plus, in many instances, aluminium radiators are far more compact than steel versions, often up to 30% smaller. Now, to assert that the production of aluminium units is “low” is a deceiving use of statistics. Sure, if you look at the UK, production of these radiators is undoubtedly lower than their steel counterparts. But in Western Europe – the very same place where many steel models are manufactured – aluminium radiators account for over 60% of the market share. Huge untapped capacity So, there is a huge untapped capacity, more than capable of fulfilling an increase in demand from the UK. Finally, I think it’s only fair to clear up a couple of other inaccuracies regarding aluminium radiators: 1. Aluminium radiators are not prone to corrosion. MHS models have a patented ‘Aleternum’ treatment that prevents corrosion for water pH levels between five and ten. 2. Good quality aluminium radiators do not use any “manual” processes in the manufacturing process, so the quality debate is irrelevant. With all these factors considered, I believe the above testament to be truly reflective of the facts surrounding aluminium radiators. Their popularity and persistent demand across the heating and plumbing industry is continuing to grow, so installers and specifiers should evaluate all the variables next time they are choosing the best radiator for the job. www.hpmmag.com September 2017 debate is irrelevant” enquiry number 122 Steel radiators are rising in popularity and there has been a steady growth in demand across the heating and plumbing industry in recent years


HPM September 2017
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