People across the globe have reveled in the warmth and comfort of radiators since the nineteenth century. Yet many people have no idea what kind of radiator they own or how to tell various kinds apart. This could become a problem if replacement parts or repairs are ever needed. Most radiators are defined either by how they're heated or in terms of style. Understanding the differences in functionality and appearance could be a real help in many situations.
Hot Water Radiators
A hot water radiator is one that works in conjunction with a boiler to provide your home with warmth. These are denoted by having two pipes on the side. One of these channels water heated by the boiler into the coils of the radiator. The other pipe takes the cooled water back to the boiler where it can be reheated. Because it's a closed system, water doesn't need to get added unless there's a leak someplace. Since trapped air can impede the flow of water in the pipes, you need to do some regular maintenance to keep the unit functioning properly.
A steam radiator is fundamentally different from a hot water unit in the way that it operates. You can easily tell if you have one by looking at the side of the unit. If there's only one pipe leading to the boiler, you have a steam radiator. The boiler heats water to a boil, pushing the steam through the coils of the radiator and warming the cast iron. Once the steam cools, it condenses back into water which drips down the pipe and into the boiler. This is also a closed system. You need to make sure that the system is air-tight so that steam doesn't escape.
Vintage Styled Radiators
Older radiators are often stylized with beautiful wrought iron and elaborate facades. These tend to fall into either the Italianate or Victorian categories. These beautified cast iron radiators bring far more than warmth into homes - they bring a sense of style and elegance which many modern units have replaced with stark functionality. The Italianate radiator is identified by its rounded fins and curved feet. Victorian cast iron radiators, on the other hand, tend to have raised metal work and more ornate patterns. Both of these styles demand a high quality of craftsmanship and grace.
Modern Styled Radiators
These days, cast iron radiators are made to be more minimalistic in style. Units tend to favor practicality over design, achieving excellence in their primary function - warming a space. Modern engineering has achieved what the original designers of radiators could never dream of in terms of efficiency. It is possible to find more aesthetically pleasing ones if you look into designer radiators, many of which mimic modern art.