Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Curtains can be a great way to spruce up a room and diffuse natural light. But you should consider where you place them in your home, especially if there is a radiator nearby. Consider how safe the curtains are before you use them.
Curtains can catch fire from electric radiators if the radiator is close to a curtain made of flammable material. Water radiators usually don’t get hot enough to cause curtains to catch fire, but the radiator could still burn any fragile materials nearby.
A curtain can be an excellent option if you want to decorate a room or cover windows. However, you should consider where the windows are in relation to the radiator and the radiator type. Keep reading to learn how you can safely use curtains near a radiator.
Consider the Radiator Type
Before determining if curtains will catch fire from a radiator, you need to know what type of radiator you have. Some are safer than others, so the type can significantly affect the fire safety surrounding your radiator.
Here are two popular types of radiators you may have and how each can affect fire safety in your home.
Many older radiators use water or steam to heat up. Because of that, they don’t get as hot as newer ones, so they can actually be safer when it comes to curtains and other flammable items.
A water or steam radiator doesn’t typically get hot enough to cause a fire. Your curtains would need to sit right on the radiator, and the curtains may burn even then.
Still, water and steam radiators can be dangerous. You don’t want to get your curtains too close to one because it is still a risk. However, if you want to use curtains near a radiator, it’s not as risky when the radiator is an older one that uses steam or water.
Newer radiators are usually electric, so they don’t have water pipes nearby. That can improve the look and make them less bulky. But electric radiators can get much hotter than older models.
These radiators don’t need water or steam, and electricity can work more quickly. Of course, this means you can enjoy a warmer room during cold winters. But it also means the radiator is more likely to cause a fire when you place curtains near it.
Choosing the Right Curtains
Once you figure out what type of radiator you have, you should consider the best curtains to get. You can use curtains near an electric radiator, but you must be more careful. That way, you can reduce your risk of them catching fire.
Here are a few things to consider if you’re set on using curtains near a water or electric radiator.
You should consider the fabric you want to use for your curtains. Thicker curtains can be nice to block out light during the day. But they can be harder to manipulate, and they weigh more.
Thinner fabrics are easier to hang and cut but may not block as much light. Some fabrics are also more or less flammable. Consider if you want to give up some ease of use for something with less risk.
Linen and cotton are some of the most flammable fabrics. Heavier, thicker fabrics can still be flammable, but they aren’t as bad as thinner ones. So even if you don’t need to block the light, a thicker fabric may be the best option.
Of course, you should also consider how close to the radiator the curtain will be. Full-length curtains can look glamorous, but they also will touch any radiator that sits below a window.
That may be okay for a water or steam radiator, but it’s still a risk. Instead, consider cutting the curtains to just the window’s length. That way, they can cover your window enough, but you don’t have to add an unnecessary risk of fires.
If there’s a decent amount of space between the window ledge and radiator, you can lengthen the curtains. Just make sure there’s space between the curtain and the radiator to keep it from getting too hot and catching fire.
Purpose and Design
You may also want to consider your curtain’s primary purpose or function. If you open and close the curtain daily and at night, you’ll need it to be as far from the radiator as possible. That way, you don’t have to worry about fires when you’re out of the house or asleep.
However, perhaps you have blinds that open and close, so your curtain will be an aesthetic choice. In that case, you may not have to worry as much about the fabric or length. As long as the curtains don’t sit at the sides of the radiator, you can leave them open.
You’ll still have some risk of the curtain catching fire. But it won’t be as big of a risk as if you left the curtains closed over the radiator.
How Can You Tell the Type of Radiator?
You can inspect the sides and area around your radiator to see if it uses water or steam. If so, you should see pipes extend from the radiator, which is how the water or steam comes in and out.
With an electric radiator, you probably won’t see pipes. You also won’t have an air vent like with a water or steam radiator. If the floor below the radiator looks warped, you probably have a steam radiator because the steam can damage the floor.
You can also hire someone to come look at your radiator for you. They can tell you what type of radiator you have and help you ensure the room is safe before you put up curtains.
How Close Can Things Be to a Radiator?
If you determine the radiator uses water, it won’t get hot enough to cause a fire. Even if you have an electric radiator, you can use curtains nearby. But you’ll need to take more precautions.
Ensure you keep the curtains short and use a less flammable fabric to lower the risk of the curtains catching fire. Give at least a few inches of a gap between the curtains and the radiator.
You may also want to only use curtains near radiators in rooms you’re in often. That way, you can notice if something is wrong quickly. For example, you may not want to put curtains near a radiator in a guest bedroom that you rarely visit.
What Should You Use if You Can’t Use Curtains?
If you don’t feel safe using curtains near a radiator, consider using blinds. You can still cover your window at night or for privacy. Blinds don’t always look as stylish as curtains, but you can find some good ones.
Some blinds come in different styles, such as horizontal or vertical. Then, you can choose the type that looks good in the room.
You can also choose shorter curtains that barely cover the window. If you need the benefits of curtains over blinds, you don’t have to have them hit the floor. Sometimes, shorter curtains can look just as good and be functional and safe.
Can Curtains Touch Baseboard Heaters?
Putting curtains over baseboard heaters isn’t a good idea. For one, it doesn’t look very good, so it might affect the rest of the room’s design.
It may also not be safe if the heater gets too hot. While the heater may not cause a fire, you should opt for shorter curtains or blinds.
Curtains can catch fire from a radiator. However, you can take a few precautions, like choosing the right fabric and size for your curtains, to reduce the chance of a fire. Then, you can still enjoy some style and comfort without feeling unsafe in your home.
- First Class HVAC: Minimizing Fire Risk Around Radiators & Heaters
- Elle Decor: 10 Important Things To Consider When You’re Buying Curtains
- Blog 4 Safety: Four Most Flammable Fabrics in Your Home
- Hunker: How to Know If You Have Steam or Water Radiators
- Kylie M. Interiors: How High to Hang Drapes, Rods, and Other Curtain Questions
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