Piping Hot: Cast Iron and Aluminum Radiators

By HomeAdvisor

Updated October 18, 2016

Apartment white radiator
Steam and hot water heating systems have been used in homes for over 100 years, and many systems installed more than 50 years ago are still functioning extremely well today. The type of heat they provide is safe, effective, and many would say, more comfortable than that of dry heating systems. In addition to their performance, cast iron and aluminum radiators are also prized for how they look and the charm their appearance brings to a home.

Aluminum Radiators

The aluminum radiator is relatively new when compared to its cast iron counterpart. While certainly tough and durable, aluminum radiators are also lightweight and generally less expensive than those made of other materials. Since they aren’t very heavy, they can be mounted in places where other radiators cannot.

The designs available for aluminum radiators are numerous and quite varied. The many styles mean that they can easily fit into modern or classic settings, as well as anywhere in between.

Cast Iron Radiators

Many people with steam and hot water systems still have the original cast iron radiators in place. These devices date back to the 1800s. Because they were designed so well, it is quite common for them to still be in good working order today.

Cast iron radiators are extremely heavy and can’t be mounted on a wall (like aluminum ones) unless special techniques and equipment is used. Most that are available today are either refurbished originals, or reproductions of classic designs. It would be difficult to find a cast iron radiator that would fit well in a modern style setting.

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Refurbished or Refinished

New cast iron radiators are often made to look as much like the old ones as possible. The difference is the craftsmanship of the new models doesn’t often stand up to the originals.

Purchasing a radiator made this year will probably ensure that it will function well for quite some time. There are also other metal options (like aluminum or stainless steel) that wouldn’t be available used. New radiators are more versatile in both the selections available and where they can go in a home. They will also take advantage of any design improvements that have been made in the past 100 or so years.

For around the same price, one can also purchase an original radiator that has been cleaned meticulously, and fixed to function properly. While it would be difficult to argue that an older radiator is in any way as versatile as a new one, there are other positive characteristics that come with buying a vintage model.

A radiator that is over 60 years old will have a few more stories to tell than one that was born yesterday. It will have a long history of valiant service and after being refurbished, it will most likely function well for a long time to come.

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