Heating: What is BTU?

Most bathrooms feature a radiator, it not only keeps the room warm but helps drive out moisture and dries your towels. However when you come to update your bathroom and select a new radiator, there’s a myriad of choices and selecting one isn’t just down to the looks, how much heat it produces is also very important.

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The Science

Heat in radiators is commonly shown as BTU, but what is a BTU?

BTU is the “British Thermal Unit”. It’s an old unit of measurement which equals the amount of heat required to raise 1lb of water by one degree Fahrenheit. In more scientific terms, 1 BTU equates to approximately 1.06kj (kilojoules) which is the amount of heat produced by burning a wooden match.

Many manufacturers will show heating output as both BTU and Watts now, and many heating options are electric so Watts often makes more sense. 1 BTU equals approximately 0.3W, or 1 Watt is equal to approximately 3.4 BTU.

What this means for you.

So now you understand what BTU means, but how many do you need for your room? Unfortunately there isn’t a straightforward answer. Most rooms require between 20 and 45 BTU per square foot of space, but this is affected by a broad range of factors including; The height of the room, the style of windows, the flooring, the type of room (bathroom, bedroom etc.) and the climate you’re in.

Luckily, many websites feature a calculator for figuring out how much BTU you need for your room, such as this one by Vogue – www.vogueuk.co.uk/btu-calculator

Making the right choice.

Once you’ve figured out how much heating is required for your room you can finally get on to the exciting bit, picking a radiator!
Radiators come in a huge range of colours, styles and finishes which affect their heating output. Flat panel radiators typically output much more heat than a ladder style towel rail, and chrome tends to be less efficient than a painted finish.

Handily, most manufacturers list the output in their brochures so you can see exactly what you’re getting. This will allow you to pick the most suitable unit for your heating requirements and provide you with a range to choose from to suit your tastes.

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