New construction steam systems may be a rare occurrence these days, but for home- and building-owners still fitted with the ancient steam rads from the early days of heating history, it may be too costly to change out a complete mechanical system.
However, as the years take their toll on radiators in the form of corrosion, peeling and cracking, users are looking to upgrade to slimmer, more appealing models to fit the modern home.
PM spoke with Owen Kantor, vice president of Steam Radiators. He is also vice president of sister company Runtal North America Inc. Here is his insight into today’s steam market and panel radiators in general.
PM: Tell us a little about the steam radiator market as it stands today.Owen Kantor:Steam right now is a replacement market; no one is really using steam in new construction. It’s mostly older homes and apartment buildings in places such as New York and Chicago, but it could be any location with an older, established city.
A lot of people that have steam find it’s too costly to change out their entire system, but they are looking to replace old-looking or worn-out radiators.
PM: How important is space- savings for homeowners with respect to their radiators?Kantor:The beauty of new steam radiators is their slim profile. They’re also very attractive, but most importantly they give people their room back.
A traditional radiator from the turn of the century had a profile of 8 to 12 inches from the wall, and such radiators are known to obstruct furniture placement. Sometimes couches are nearly 3 feet from the window in some of these homes.
The cost of square footage in the areas where steam heat is prevalent (New York, Chicago, Baltimore, etc.) could be anywhere from $2,000-6,000 per square foot! Anytime you have an old radiator with a wide profile taking up space, that’s premium real estate lost.
The Steam Radiators Steamview model (our more contemporary steam rad) has a profile of 2 1/2 inches. The Charleston Pro model (a traditional-styled rad) has a profile of 4 1/2 inches. Attractive looks and slender profiles give homeowners more freedom.
How important is form and aesthetics to homeowners?Kantor:Homeowners are naturally concerned with aesthetics. They’re looking for something sleek, something that has designer appeal, but the space savings is a high-importance factor, too.
The Steam Radiators rads are made of steel instead of cast-iron, with a proprietary interior material that resists corrosion. The exterior is a high-quality powder-coat finish.
Steam Radiators has more than 100 colors to choose from. White and steel gray are in stock for easy delivery, and there are several other standard colors. Then there are myriad designer colors that can be custom-ordered to arrive in about two weeks.
The radiators come in standard sizes that cover the gamut: two heights - 16 inches and 24 inches - and five lengths - 2,3,4,5 and 6 feet. So there’s something for every décor.
What will contractors appreciate about these replacement steam radiators?Kantor:Though these rads are smaller, we haven’t been stymied by the profiles. We are still able to produce an output of up to 14,000 Btus. But in replacing old rads, proper sizing by the contractor can offer a better level of comfort.
Dan Holohan, steam heating guru and historian, once told me that early owners of steam systems felt that they could be “smothered in their sleep” if they did not leave windows open at night. So these systems were oversized to cover heat loss calculations with open windows. We just don’t design like that anymore.
Many times, when these radiators are replaced, you can get by with a much smaller size to deliver comfort. We have installers ask about square footage of the room instead of the size of the radiator to be replaced.
Contractors will also like Steam Radiators for their ease of installation. The mounting is continuous, so you just need to find the studs. And the steel construction instead of cast-iron make them lighter weight, ideal for those four-story walk-ups.
Also, the rads work with both one- and two-pipe steam systems.
Let's switch gears and talk about Runtal for a moment, and the hydronic radiator/panel rad/baseboard market.Kantor:Runtal is a Swiss company that has manufactured in Haverhill, Mass., and served the North American market for more than 20 years. The biggest selling points for Runtal radiators are their design and durability. These are not thin, sheet-metal rads that will dent if a homeowner pushes a chair against them.
Runtal radiators are essentially a radiant product that operates with high or low water temperatures in closed-loop systems. These radiators are very efficient, very comfortable, and they can be integrated into any design.
In a contemporary residence, radiators can become a part of the architectural design of the home, a piece of sculpture. In a traditional setting, baseboard-style panels can be used.
The biggest growth area lately has been towel radiators. In high-end bathrooms where there’s a separate tub, shower, double-vanity, etc., floor space is at a premium. By using wall space, radiators not only dry bath towels, they can also heat the room.
Air-dried towels often feel sandpapery. The nicest thing about a towel radiator is that it not only dries, it freshens the towels. We all know the great feeling of fresh towels or sweats from the dryer. This gives the same experience.
The hot water system rads are currently sold to both the replacement and new construction markets, and though hydronics is still a small part of the heating market, it’s the best type of system in terms of efficiency and comfort. Homeowners looking to have the best in comfort will choose hydronic heating every time.
More Radiator Info ...Quick And Convenient Installation
For hydronic new construction or remodeling hot water system radiators, there is a product available that cuts down on pre-planning and offers quick installation.
According to manufacturer Myson Inc., its new T6 IVC Center-Connection Radiator is “better than sliced bread” for contractors.
Its dual-panel, double-convector design offers the advantage of a standard 2-inch central connection as well as the standard four-corner connection option.
Pre-planning and installation are greatly reduced, saving time and money for contractors. The new T design allows installers the flexibility to connect to the most convenient location for installation.
The T6 comes ready to install, and includes the wall-mounting brackets, thermostatic head and insert, drain-off plug, air bleed bent, and compression fitting. The multitude of sizes offers a Btu/hr. output range of 2,890 to 16,036.
With 18 sizes in heights up to 24 inches and lengths to 78 3/4 inches, the T6 can replace baseboard up to 29 feet, to give homeowners the benefit of space savings.