How to calculate the size of radiators

Updated July 05, 2018

The size of a radiator will determine its capacity to produce heat, which is measured in British thermal units (Btu) per hour. The amount of heat you need will depend on the structure of the house, the size of the room and how you are going to use the room. You do not want to get a radiator that is too small, lest you not have enough heat, nor one that is too large, lest you waste money on excess capacity. You can size a radiator for either one room or an entire house.

Calculate the volume of the room you want to heat by multiplying the length times the width times the height. Those dimensions should be in feet, and the resulting volume will be expressed in cubic feet.

Adjust the numbers for the use of the room. Multiply the cubic footage by 5 if the room will be used as a dining room or lounge. Multiply by 4 if it will be used as a bedroom. Multiply by 3 if it will be used as a common area or kitchen.

Adjust for the construction of the room. If the windows are double-glazed, subtract 10 per cent. If the room faces north, and therefore receives minimal sunlight, add 15 per cent. If the room has French windows, add 20 per cent.

Determine the size of radiator you need. The number you produced by doing Steps 2 and 3 is the necessary Btu-per-hour output of the radiator.

Repeat the calculations from the first section for each room in the house.

Add the heating requirements of all the rooms together.

Add 30 per cent to the total calculated in Step 2 -- 20 per cent for the central water heater and 10 per cent for general heat losses -- to determine the total capacity a central radiator would need.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
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About the Author

Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."