Home>Discussions>INSULATION & HVAC>Steam radiator question -- How to cover them up with cabinets and still feel the heat
3 posts / 0 new
Last post
Steam radiator question -- How to cover them up with cabinets and still feel the heat

Hello fellow TOHers,

Question: Can we park a cabinet in front of a recessed steam radiator and simply provide heat output by venting through the window sill above the radiator?

Here are the details: We are in the planning stages of a kitchen renovation where we are considering what to do about a 48" long tube and fin radiator (two-pipe steam system) that currently sits in a recess in our stone wall underneath a window. Inside this recess, there is significant vertical clearance until it approaches the current sill. Maybe 30" of space above the radiator itself.

Anyway, that is where a cabinet needs to go and I want to find a method to keep the wife happy by putting that cabinet there and still get the benefit from the radiator's heat output.

Now, in another part of the kitchen we have a radiator, also under a window, where the previous home owner put a cabinet in front of and maintained heat by cutting a rectangular opening in the sill and installing what looks to be an A/C grill. Heat flows from the radiator and vents straight up through the grill. No cool air intake, no toe kick systems or anything. Just heat coming up through the sill.

I suppose we could just do the same thing, but I wanted to bounce it off of you fine people.

Re: Steam radiator question -- How to cover them up with cabinets and still feel the

You need to keep the chimney effect in place for the rad to work properly. That means cold air supply at the bottom and a way for hot air to rise away.

Re: Steam radiator question -- How to cover them up with cabinets and still feel the

I agree with Houston Remodeler---you will lose a certain amount of heat output in winter if you enclose the rad without making some accommodation so that the heat is vented into the room; you should also be aware that there are two different kinds of heat that are emitted by a cast iron radiator---one is convective heat (hot air currents), which will respond to a chimney effect, or a forced air fan duct booster, the other very important heat being emitted by a rad is RADIANT heat, which is infrared waves/rays (much like the sun's rays) that usually need the line of sight arrangement usually seen in free-standing rads; when the rad is closed in, like you propose, you lose the radiant heat to the enclosure, so the heat output of the rad is reduced; if the kitchen gets too cold, consider a small forced air setup as suggested below to compensate.

You will have to determine how cold the kitchen gets in winter with the new arrangement; if the chimney effect method is not enough to provide heat, consider a duct booster fan (register booster fan) for under $100, wired to the steam boiler in the boiler room via the 120v circuit so that the vector fan comes on only when there is a call for heat & blows hot air into the kitchen (click onto site below, then onto each individual item to get the mfgr & price)---some of these duct booster fans can be hidden behind a vector or register, both of which can be purchased at HD/Lowe's, or on the internet at the mfgrs listed.


Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.