What is a BTU?

Last updated: August 7, 2017

What is a BTU?

What Exactly Is A BTU?

If you’ve been browsing our collection of radiators and heated towel rails, there is no doubt that you’ve come across the letters BTU.

But what exactly is it and what does it mean?

Well…

The BTU rate of a radiator is a quick and easy way of letting you know how much heat a radiator will emit, and is basically there to help you decide if a radiator is the correct size for your room or not.

infographic btu

It’s important to know just how much heat each room of your home needs in order for your system to work efficiently and for you to have a space that is neither too hot nor too cold.

You know as well as we do that design, style and finish are all very important factors when it comes to purchasing a radiator, but perhaps the most important part of making the right decision – when it comes to parting with your hard-earned readies – is the BTU output of the radiator that you need.

So let’s take a look at what those three little letters really mean.

SO WHAT IS IT?

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit.

A BTU is the measurement used to represent the amount of energy it takes to heat one pound of water (about a pint) by one degree Farenheit.

This measurement is more commonplace in the UK, but is also used throughout the rest of the world and is most commonly associated with energy, power, air conditioning and steam generation.

BTU is the standard heat measurement when it comes to choosing radiators, so you should see it featured on the product spec of any good radiator.

RADIATORS AND BTU

If you are looking to buy a new radiator (and let’s assume that you are), taking the time to calculate the correct number of BTUs you’ll need is integral to you making the correct purchase.

Too little BTU output and your room will not reach the required temperature and you’ll suffer from your space being cold and uninviting, and nobody wants that.

Too many BTUs and you could find yourself paying over the odds for heat that you don’t need and being far too warm to function properly.

black kitchen radiator

For you to feel the full benefits of a radiator, and your central heating system, it is important that you select a radiator or heated towel rail that has the adequate heat output for the space it’s been selected to live in.

Basically, you wouldn’t put a huge triple columned radiator in a pokey little cloakroom, just as much as you wouldn’t put a small, single-panelled convector radiator in a huge open-plan sitting room.

It’s common sense really.

CALCULATING BTU

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out how much or how little BTU output your radiator needs – you just need to be handy with a tape measure, count some windows and know what is on the other side of a few walls.

Simple!

To help you to calculate the right amount of BTU you’ll need, there are plenty of calculators around the web that you can use – we even have our own here at BestHeating.

btu-calculator-340x240Our calculator is totally free to use and you can even download it through the App Store or with Google Play to make things easier for yourself.

With the help of our app, working out the required BTU amount has never been easier.

You just need to know the area of the room you want to heat and a couple of other details too – like how many windows there are, whether they are single or double glazed and how many radiators there are in the room.

Our app explains in greater detail what it is that you need to enter, and it’s free!

Once you have the required details, you are armed and ready to make the right purchase; one that is better informed and more appropriate to the needs of your home heating.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT RADIATOR

  • MEASURE YOUR ROOM – Know the dimensions of the room you want to heat. Work out the square metre area of the room in order to be accurate with the amount of heat you will need.
  • COUNT THE WINDOWS IN THAT SPACE – It is important to factor in the number of windows there are in the space. Draughts will contribute to the final BTU number.
  • COUNT THE RADIATORS YOU’LL NEED – Do you need one, two, three or maybe even more radiators to make the most of your central heating.
  • KNOW WHAT IS ABOVE AND BELOW THE ROOM – Knowing what is above and below the room will make a big difference to the final BTU number. Solid floors retain heat very differently to a floor with a cellar or a cavity.
  • KNOW WHAT IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF EACH WALL OF THE ROOM – As with the floor and the ceiling, what is on the other side of the wall, and what the wall is made of, will play a big part in the size and output of the radiator you choose.
  • USE OUR BTU CALCULATOR – Take all of the information you have collected and make sure you have it to hand when you use our BTU Calculator.

Follow the checklist above and you will soon be enjoying the warmth and luxury of efficient, practical and beautiful new radiators that we specialise in here at BestHeating.

We’re sure you’ll find exactly what you’re after.

Stay safe and Happy Heating.

  • Chris

    John,

    Is the physical size of the radiator (total surface area of the panels) directly related to heat output, or is there more to it than that?

    Using your BTU calculator my living room needs 4381 BTUs and have ordered from you a 600 X 800 double panel convector radiator (SKU 962208) which is rated at 4728 BTUs but the physical size, even with twin panels, seems quite small, after drawing its location out on the wall.

    • John Lawless

      Hi Chris,

      In regards to heat output the physical size of the radiator is not an important factor compared with output.
      If you have correctly calculated the BTU output that you need for that room – taking into account the windows you have, the wall types, etc – then that particular model will do the job.
      It’s always best to go a little higher on output anyway in my opinion, because you can always turn the heating down, but you can’t make something warmer than it’s top temperature.