All you can heat

27 Mar, 15

Are eco-friendly or period styles the new radiator ‘flavours’ for discerning consumers?

The chrome ladder towel warmer has long been established as a go-to for bathroom and kitchen heating. And it’s easy to see why as it provides room heating with the additional benefit of drying towels or tea towels, all in a finish which ties in with current brassware trends. In fact, such is their popularity, according to the Domestic Central Heating Market Report from AMA Research, towel warmers accounted for 15% of the radiator market in 2013.

However, the popularity of chrome ladder rails has spurred mass imports, creating greater accessibility and driving down prices. It means a once desirable design is now almost a commodity product, with the likes of B&Q offering a chrome towel rail from under £30.

For the more discerning consumer, heating needs to offer so much more, whether that’s in terms of technology or a more exclusive look. It’s great news for designers and specifiers who operate in the more exclusive part of the market, as decorative radiators accounted for 20% of radiator sales in 2013 and AMA Research reports the increasing demand for these styles will support value growth in the medium term. In fact AMA Research reports by 2018, the UK domestic radiator market will be work £292million, an increase of 18% compared to 2014.

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Energy-conscious consumers

Consumers are becoming more conscious of energy-saving in the home. Following years of spiralling energy bills, the need to conserve or better still optimise heat use, has become a more significant purchasing factor. Smart controls such as the Dimplex radio frequency controller or Warmup 4iE WiFi Smart Thermostat are set to grow in popularity, as they enable consumers to better control heating. And in the case of the latter can also advise on saving money, by shopping around utility companies and showcasing the best prices.

But energy-saving has influenced the design of radiators too, from the way they work through to the materials used in their manufacture. Infrarad offers a range of infrared radiators, which unlike traditional convection models, heat people in the room rather than the air. And materials, such as aluminium are starting to appear on the market, alongside the usual steel models. UK sales manager for Vasco, Dave Thornback adds: “Customers seem to be spending longer selecting a radiator because they want to know exactly what they are getting for their money and they want to understand the energy-saving aspects of the radiator, especially in the ultra-efficient aluminium radiator sector.”

According to Vasco, aluminium conducts heat four times better than steel and its Alu-Zen radiator holds two litres of water compared to 10 in a traditional radiator. Interestingly, chrome is the least efficient finish

Neutral, natural colours

Perhaps the move towards a more energy-efficient finish is one of the reasons behind a growing move towards more coloured finishes. Radiators and towel warmers are available in pops of bold colours, pastel hues, through to natural tones in shiny bright glosses through to graphite textures. Sales director of Vogue UK, Steve Birch comments: “There is a trend towards colours, and even textured colours in some bathrooms”, and he looks to neutral and natural palettes as being important for on-trend sales, as he explains: “More natural-looking heating solutions are undoubtedly appearing in heating specialist’s portfolios.” and Dave Thornback of Vasco agrees, adding: “A trend is emerging for natural colours and earthy tones, which blend seamlessly with modern interiors.”

But, as we know, radiator and particular colour choice is personal, industry experts suggest designers and showrooms need to be aware of how to meet a wide variety of needs. Steve Birch of Vogue UK comments: “The ability to paint in any RAL colour is therefore essential if you want to satisfy all demands.”

And to truly maximise on the colour trend, accomplished designers and specifiers will forget about just matching the radiator finish to the tap finish. They will take a look at the complete environment. Office manager of iGlass, Lisa Saysell explains: “Consider the synergy between the radiators and other products in the bathroom and kitchen i.e. kitchen splashbacks or worktops to match the radiator.”

Period drama

Of course, it’s not only colour that can influence the purchase of a radiator or towel rail, because its form can equally create drama. Obviously minimalist designs are still en vogue but just like fashionable TV shows, such as Downton Abbey or Wolf Hall, period styling is also making a revival in interior design. This is particularly true in the bathroom, where classic sanitaryware is beginning to make a comeback. Product manager for Heritage Bathrooms, Tina Robinson agrees, pointing out: “The trend for period features in the home is on the rise, and therefore as more homeowners are choosing a towel rail that follows this trends, retailers [and specifiers] should consider a focus on a Victorian-style towel heater that features an inset radiator.”

Improve heat understanding

But whatever heating technology, colour or form a consumer requires, industry experts agree designers and specifiers need to better understand the heating requirements of a room. Last year we reported designers and specifiers can often select inappropriate models or leave them as an afterthought in the planning and design of a kitchen or bathroom. So Steve Birch suggests: “For example, in a bathroom, the towel warmer chosen needs to be considered in relation to where the sanitaryware is to be positioned and how much wall space there is. Likewise, when purchasing a design radiator, the BTU of the room also needs to be calculated to ensure the model chosen efficiently heats the bathroom or kitchen.”

However Birch also says it the role of suppliers to better support and educate retailers and specifiers, not only on the latest finishes and products but the technology behind them. He says: “Retailers [and designers] also need to be kept up-to-date with the latest technical advancements that often baffle consumers, so it’s crucial that manufacturers provide them with concise, up-to-date literature and point of sale materials, as well as constant training and support.”

Understanding interior trends and warmth requirements, together with the assistance of helpful suppliers, means designers and specifiers can only profit from the appetite for stylish heat sources.

This article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News