Painting Heating Radiators


Related Articles

Paint Like a Pro

Passionate about Painting

COPYRIGHT 1998, 1999 G.G. ALONZY

Dear NH,
My situation is pretty basic. I am remodeling a farm house that was originally built in 1885. The house is heated with a one pipe steam radiator system that was originally coal - converted to oil first and now to gas. I have 8 beautiful radiators that are being stripped of the some dozen coats of paint by sand blasting with oxidized aluminum. 2 of then are done now and the detail is incredible! And with the paint gone the heat efficiency is so much better.

My question comes down to this. Do I need to coat them with anything for protection of the cast iron? If so, what do I use? I am having a heck of a time finding this answer. I have heard everything from Jet engine paint to cooking oil! Any advise will be greatly appreciated.
JR from Lansing, Michigan

JR,
Yes, you should coat them. The overall appearance is better, cleaning is easier, they will be protected from rust, and you can use the paint to control the heat they radiate. If you use any type of oil, such a cooking oil, you may protect the iron from rust, but you will also make future painting very difficult if not impossible, attract dust to the residual tack from the oil, and in general make their appearance less attractive.

You may use polyurethane if you want a clear coat. The best finish by far is a sprayed paint for durability and consistent appearance. A high temperature paint can be used, but it is not absolutely necessary. The temperature of steam is within the working range of most spray paints. Don't use a latex spray. It will not provide a tough enough finish. A gloss oil is the best.

Choosing the color is critical to control the heat output. If you paint the radiators black, they will generate much more heat than if you paint them white, "natural" silver or gray. I learned this years ago during the 1970's oil crisis, when solar heating and cooling was the "in" thing. I don't remember the specific scientific reasons, but darker surfaces both absorb and radiate heat better than lighter surfaces.

I remember making a mistake with radiator color in my first home, which had a similar steam system to yours. There was one bathroom in the house that had you sitting inches from the radiator. Anyway, I thought it would be aesthetically pleasing (read "look cool") to paint the radiator black. Well, the BTU output from this tiny radiator was so intense that I ended up repainting it white to make the room useable. After that, I selectively repainted radiators black or white based on my heating experience in each room. Since most of the radiators were under covers, the color change was not noticeable, but the temperature difference sure was! BTW, if you install a reflective metal shield behind each radiator, either aluminum or sheet metal, you will also increase the amount of heat radiated back into the room. Again, aesthetics rule.
NH


Have a small home repair question for THE NATURAL HANDYMAN? Just click here www.naturalhandyman.com/aitikia
For more home repair information, visit NH's growing list of original home repair articles and quality links www.naturalhandyman.com
If this information has been valuable to you, please consider making a small donation to support NH's free service to the home repair community! For more information, please visit our "Friends" page www.naturalhandyman.com/friends
The Natural Handyman Site Directory

Stay Connected with TDS





Subscribe to TDS Newsletters

Join over 250,000 other subscribers!

Join Fido!

Discounted movie tickets
Sign up for Savvy Savings at TDS and get a free membership for discounted movie tickets!

Your Email:


The Dollar Stretcher
Dollar Stretcher Parents
Dollar Stretcher Tips
Financial Independence
The Computer Lady
Computer Lady Lessons
Healthy Foods

Your Email:


View the TDS Privacy Policy.