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Radiator vs. Convector — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Urooj Arif — Updated on May 4, 2024
A radiator heats spaces by radiating warmth from heated surfaces, whereas a convector heats by circulating air over a heated element, dispersing heat more quickly.
Radiator vs. Convector — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Radiator and Convector


Key Differences

Radiators operate by radiating heat from a hot surface, typically heated by hot water or steam flowing through the unit. This heat slowly warms the air around it and the surrounding objects directly through infrared radiation. Conversely, convectors heat by drawing in cool air from the room, warming it over a heated element (often electrical), and then pushing it out to circulate warm air throughout the space.
The heating method of radiators results in a steady, more sustained warmth that remains in the room for a longer period, even after the heating source is turned off. This makes them efficient in maintaining a comfortable temperature over time. On the other hand, convectors work by creating air currents to spread warmth throughout a space quickly, which can lead to faster heating but may not retain heat as long once the unit is switched off.
Radiators are typically made from materials like iron or steel and require a boiler to heat the water or steam that flows through them. They are a common feature in older buildings and are appreciated for their ability to provide consistent heat without drying out the air. In contrast, convectors are often lighter, made from materials like aluminum or ceramic, and may use electricity as a heat source, making them more portable and easier to install in various settings.
In terms of installation, radiators are generally fixed and often part of a central heating system, which can make them less flexible but ideal for comprehensive home heating. Convectors, however, are available in both permanent fixtures and portable models, offering more versatility in placement and use, particularly in spaces not served by central heating systems.
Aesthetic considerations also differ; radiators can be bulky and more obtrusive, but they are sometimes appreciated for their traditional look. Modern designs have made them more attractive and integrated into home decor. Convectors tend to have a more modern appearance, with sleek designs that can be more easily concealed or integrated into the aesthetic of a contemporary room.

Comparison Chart

Heating Method

Radiates heat from heated surfaces.
Circulates warm air by heating and blowing it.

Heat Retention

High (retains heat longer).
Lower (cools down faster when off).


Often part of a central heating system.
More flexible, includes portable options.


Commonly made from iron or steel.
Often aluminum or ceramic, lighter materials.


Traditional, often bulky.
Sleek, modern, easier to blend in.

Compare with Definitions


Common in older homes and buildings.
Our home's radiator system is linked to the central boiler.


A heating device that circulates warm air.
The convector quickly warmed the chilly office.


Radiates heat via infrared radiation.
The radiator warms the room by radiating heat from its surface.


Ideal for quick heating of spaces.
Turn on the convector to quickly get rid of the morning chill.


A heating unit using hot water or steam.
The old cast iron radiator is a key feature in the room.


Features a modern, streamlined design.
The sleek convector fits perfectly under the window sill.


Often built from durable materials.
The steel radiator is heavy but extremely durable.


Utilizes a heating element and fan.
The electric convector heats the air, which is then pushed out by the fan.


Known for even heat distribution.
The radiator provides consistent warmth without hot or cold spots.


Portable and flexible in placement.
We placed the portable convector in the basement for extra warmth.


Radiators are heat exchangers used to transfer thermal energy from one medium to another for the purpose of cooling and heating. The majority of radiators are constructed to function in cars, buildings, and electronics.A radiator is always a source of heat to its environment, although this may be for either the purpose of heating this environment, or for cooling the fluid or coolant supplied to it, as for automotive engine cooling and HVAC dry cooling towers.


A partly enclosed, directly heated surface from which warm air circulates by convection.


A heating device consisting of a series of pipes, typically inside an upright metal structure, through which steam or hot water circulates to heat the surrounding space by radiation or convection.


A space heater that transfers heat by convection; a radiator


A similar heating device based on other technology such as the generation of heat through electrical resistance.


A space heater that transfers heat to the surrounding air by convection


A cooling device, as in automotive engines, through which water or other fluids circulate as a coolant.


(Physics) A body that emits radiation.


A transmitting antenna.


Anything which radiates or emits rays.


(automotive) A device that lowers engine coolant temperature by conducting heat to the air, through metal fins.


(of buildings) A finned metal fixture that carries hot water or steam in order to heat a room.


(electronics) A type of antenna.


That which radiates or emits rays, whether of light or heat; especially, that part of a heating apparatus from which the heat is radiated or diffused; as, a steam radiator.


An oscillator.


Any object that radiates energy


Heater consisting of a series of pipes for circulating steam or hot water to heat rooms or buildings


A mechanism consisting of a metal honeycomb through which hot fluids circulate; heat is transferred from the fluid through the honeycomb to the airstream that is created either by the motion of the vehicle or by a fan

Common Curiosities

What is the principle behind a convector heater?

A convector heater warms air by convection; the heated air rises, pulling cooler air into the heater.

Can convectors be used in any room?

Yes, convectors are versatile and can be used in any room, particularly where quick heating is needed.

What materials are radiators made from?

Radiators are typically made from metals like iron or steel.

Are radiators energy-efficient?

Radiators are energy-efficient for continuous use, especially in cold climates, due to their ability to retain heat.

Do convectors come with fans?

Some convectors include fans to aid in distributing heated air more quickly.

Which is faster at heating a room, a radiator or a convector?

A convector heats a room faster than a radiator.

How does a radiator work?

A radiator transfers heat through radiation and conduction, warming the surrounding air and objects.

Is installation of a radiator complex?

Radiator installation can be complex and is often done permanently in buildings.

How portable are convectors?

Many convectors are designed to be lightweight and portable.

Can a radiator be used as the primary heating source?

Yes, radiators are often used as the primary heating source in homes, especially in colder climates.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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