An older radiator can be unattractive and take up a lot of space. A radiator cover can improve appearances. (Look online or ask at a plumbing and heating store for companies that custom-make metal units to fit all sizes of radiators.) However, if you want more space in a room and you have a hot water -- not steam -- system, you may be able to replace your radiator with a convector.
The steps shown can be used to add a convector to an existing heating system. Consult with a heating contractor to be sure you install a unit of the right size.
A convector is surprisingly simple and lightweight. The system usually has a copper pipe surrounded by thin aluminum fins. When the boiler heats the water running through the pipe, the fins direct the heat away from the pipe and into the room.
A convector's cover may appear to be merely decorative, but it is actually precisely sized to produce convection; cool air enters below the fins, and warm air comes out the top. Keep obstructions at least a foot away from a convector.
One day to replace a radiator with a convector
Pipe wrenches, groove-joint pliers, screwdriver, drill, carpentry tools, propane torch
Connecting copper to steel pipe, basic carpentry skills
Consult with a heating expert to determine convector size
New convector, copper pipe, dielectric unions, valves as needed
If a convector has a bleed valve, bleed air from it. A balance or heat-control valve may have a handle, or you may need a screwdriver to open and close it. When the slot is parallel to the pipe, the valve is open; when the slot is perpendicular, the valve is closed.