Taking the heat out of a tricky issue

Radiators are commonly installed in hospitals, care homes and other medical services buildings. However, as Stelrad’s Chris Harvey reveals, only certain designs are really suitable for buildings used by elderly and vulnerable people.

Low surface temperature (LST) radia- tors have been part of the heating landscape for several years now, but modern versions offer a number of
new benefits.

LST radiators are key where there is a need for specialised heat emitters for safety critical environments – especially those that need to meet NHS Guidance for ‘Safe hot water and surface temperature.’ This includes hospitals, care and nursing homes, as well as sheltered housing, schools and nurseries.

It’s a specification requirement of build- ing designers and architects that the heat emitters in these buildings protect the young, the elderly and the vulnerable, who will live in or visit buildings such as these.

When asking whether LST radiators are needed, you only need to consider the risk of older people falling and injuring them- selves on a radiator along with potential dangers from those with a visual impair- ment bumping into or brushing against radiators.

Some elderly people have a reduced sensi- tivity to high temperatures and others simply cannot react quickly enough to prevent injury from hot surfaces if they inadvertently touch and come into contact with a conventional radiator, where surface temperatures may be as high as 75°C.

Older people and those suffering injuries have an increased susceptibility to losing their balance and falling, and the possibility of these people falling and becoming trapped against a conventional radiator brings the need for LST radiators sharply into focus.

And of course, the injuries that are possi- ble to the very young are too horrific to contemplate, so it’s clear that serious burns can be caused very quickly at these temper- atures and that LST radiators are the obvious response to the dangers.


Incorporating a casing that covers the radiator – providing a physical barrier between the heat emitter and the people they are designed to keep warm – makes huge sense. In the case of most LST radiators, the casing also covers the incoming pipework, making sure all the heated surfaces are concealed and that any exposed surfaces stay at a safe temperature of no more than 43°C.

In addition, LST radiators need to be designed to ensure they offer as much protection as possible to those for whom they are designed to provide heating – including ensuring rounded corners and edges to the design to avoid damage from sharp edges.

Additional benefits

Remembering that LST radiators are in the main installed in buildings to offer protec- tion to older people, additional benefits such as safety grilles, easy to operate heating controls and even arthritic adaptors for people who are unable to grip controls easily, can be incorporated to provide a user friendly ‘package’ for those they seek to help.

Bearing in mind where many LST radiators are installed, it’s vital that they are built to be robust and able to withstand and resist vandalism and day to day wear and tear, from being knocked into by trolleys and wheelchairs – especially in hospitals and nursing homes. With higher quality radiators, the casing is held by security fittings that are quick and easy to install.

The security fittings what is thought to be a unique seam fixing bracket system that prevents unauthorised access to the emitter accommodated inside. For additional protection, good quality radiators have an additional long lasting, anti-bacterial paint coating, which provides an additional valu- able benefit for the environments in which they are installed.


Installing LST radiators has certainly proved beneficial to The Ridings Care Home in Swindon, which has 32 self- contained flats catering for a mix of active elderly individuals and couples, many with 24-hour care needs.

It had been operating an ageing electric underfloor heating system, with electric immersion heaters providing hot water. It was expensive to run and needed replacing with a modern, reliable energy-efficient alternative.

A traditional wet heating system was selected, with modern gas-fired condensing boilers providing the heating source, with two additional gas boilers operating in conjunction with solar thermal and solar PV panels to preheat the cylinder and provide hot water.

But with differing levels of disability and care requirements to cater for it was important to select radiators that prevented the possibility of heat-related injury.

More than 80 LST radiators were installed with additional integral remote sensing thermostatic valves to allow adjustment of room air temperature, making them highly energy efficient. They also featured an arthritic adaptor designed to make it easier for older people, who may have problems with their grip, to adjust heat levels in their rooms.

Ultimately, it was the decision to specify quality, high-specification LSTs that made the installation of a desirable, cost–effective wet system viable.

Chris Harvey is marketing manager for Stelrad