When it comes to heating your home, we want to help you do it as efficiently and low-cost as possible. As the cost of living crisis continues to create budget difficulties, one of the questions we often get asked is, is it ok to hang curtains over radiators? In this guide, we’ll cover all you need to know about curtains over radiators, if they block heat and how to keep your radiators running properly.
Can curtains hang over radiators?
The simple answer is, yes! It is common to install radiators under windows to help the heat circulate faster as it is the coldest part of the room. This means that the window will likely have curtains in front of it and above the radiator for privacy or for decoration. But, is it the best idea and do the curtains block any of the heat from the radiator?
Where should curtains sit above a radiator?
Ideally, short curtains are more suitable over a radiator than floor length. Whether you have a double or single panel radiator, the bottom of the curtains should sit at least 2 – 4 cm above the top of the radiator. Or, at the same height as the window sill.
If you prefer the look of longer curtains, we would advise pairing them with blinds as we mentioned earlier and keep the curtains open permanently when the heating is on.
You could also create more space between the curtains and the radiator by hanging the curtains further away from the window. The easiest way to do this is by installing ceiling tracks or extended brackets to hold the curtains at a distance from the wall.
This is particularly useful if you have a chunky cast iron or steel column radiator that protrudes out from the wall more than a slim modern radiator. Not only will this enable more heat to enter the room, but it will also allow the curtain fabric to hang smoothly over the radiator without creating uneven bumps from the columns.
Do curtains over radiators block heat?
Just like a radiator cover or large piece of furniture, curtains over radiators do block heat from entering the room efficiently. The reason for this can be explained by how radiators actually heat the room. The process is called convection.
When the heating is on, the warm air from the top of the radiator rises and heats up the cooler air above. The hot air moves up to the ceiling because it is lighter than cool air. Just like how a hot air balloon works!
As the hot air cools again, it sinks and moves around the room in a convection current. This allows the radiator to heat up the whole space by distributing heat evenly.
Now you can picture the circular motion of hot air particles, it is easy to see how long curtains over radiators would block heat and prevent the warm air from moving around the room efficiently.
Instead, most of the heat could escape out of the window and waste energy and increase cost. Not ideal considering how expensive heating is with the current cost of living. We’ve gone into how radiators work in loads more detail in our how radiators heat a room guide.
Is it safe to have curtains over radiators?
It is safe to hang curtains over radiators. The main reason for this is that hot water radiators are not capable of reaching the temperature to create a fire hazard.
It is more dangerous to leave other heat sources such as candles with open flames on the window near the curtains.
However, there could be a potential danger of hanging curtains over an old or faulty electric radiator. This is because the electric radiator could cause a spark which may catch the curtains on fire.
If you are concerned about the safety of an old electric radiator, make sure to get in touch with an electrician to service the radiator.
Should curtains be open or closed when the radiator is on?
When the heating is on, you ideally want to keep floor length curtains open. If the curtains are closed when the radiator is on, the heat will get trapped behind the curtains. So instead of the heat circulating into the room, it will likely leave through the cold window glass.
If you do have curtains over the radiator but still want the option of privacy, we would advise installing blinds or shutters on the same window. This means that you can open the curtains when the heating is on to heat the room, and close the blinds to keep nosey neighbours out!
Blinds will also help you adjust the level of sunlight that enters the room. Perfect for working from home with bright glare from the sun, or for having a long lie in when the extra blackout is much needed.
Should you tuck your curtains behind radiators?
If you have floor length curtains over the radiator, it is not a good idea to tuck them behind the radiator when the heating is on. This is because the thick fabric will block the panels at the back and the sides. Since radiators produce heat from the entire model, covering any part will reduce the potential heat output and prevent the room from reaching the temperature you want.
Can you move a radiator?
Floor length curtains do create a beautiful feature in the bedroom and living room. So it is understandable if this is something you don’t want to sacrifice for the decor you love if your heart is set on them. Even if it is not the most practical or cost effective choice!
If that is the case and the curtains cover the radiator, you could hire a plumber to move your radiator to a different wall. This should cost somewhere around £150-£200 and could save you money on the heating bills in the long run.
If you think you have limited options for where to position the radiator, vertical radiators are a great space-saving choice. Vertical radiators use the height of the wall instead of the width, therefore they create extra space for furniture and storage.
Whatever size room you need to heat, vertical radiators come in slim and wide designs and create stylish statement features.
Curtains over radiators top tips
If you are hanging new curtains over a radiator, keep these top tips in mind to help you up the heat output and lower the heating bills!
- Make sure the bottom of the curtains sit at least 4 cm above the top of the radiator.
- Always keep the curtains open when the heating is on.
- Don’t tuck curtains behind the radiator, use tie backs instead.
- Pair floor length curtains with blinds for additional privacy and sunlight control.
- Install ceiling tracks to increase the distance from the radiator to the curtains.
Jess has a passion for interior design and wants to inspire people to look at radiators as home decor. She enjoys keeping on top of the latest design and heating trends to ensure the Advice Centre has all the information and inspiration homeowners need to make the best choice for them.