Of course there are many wonderful things I enjoy about living in Berlin, Germany. Of them all, here is a small, but not insignificant detail I really enjoy: Berlin uses hydronic heating instead of forced air systems for heating. This form of heating is super efficient, and the rooms always feel more cozy. Hydronic systems are simply hot water circulating through a closed pipe system, and radiators are the most common equipment to transmit the heat that is created. While, I have always enjoyed this system of heating, I've never liked the radiators themselves. Having lived in old American cities, Chicago and New York, I've always felt that the radiator was an eyesore in my apartment. The type of radiator that I'm used to always seems to have a nasty film of dirt covering the entire surface area, which is then covered up with a gruesomely thick layer of tacky metallic paint that has been built up over decades and is almost always chipping off in several obvious places. And then that sticky paint inevitably attracts more dust that's hard to remove. To top things off, these heaps of garbage take up a lot of floor space. But they create such nice warmth!
It was always a love-hate relationship that I had with radiators. That is, until I moved to Europe.
Since I have always associated radiators with old apartments, it's been pleasant to see that in Germany, a country that often feels light years ahead in modernity compared to the U.S, the most common system of heating is still the classic hydronic system. But the radiators here are not beat up, rusted pieces of garbage you are forced to keep in your home. And they are not covered here like they are in the fancy homes of wealthy Manhattanites. The radiators here are design features of a space, and they are displayed with pride. Here, they don't take up a lot of space; they are built into a niche under a window or they are sleekly designed and proudly mounted on a wall. Most of the time, they also serve other purposes in addition to simply heating a room. Some are used as towel racks. Others have coat hooks! How wonderful to finish dinner at a nicely heated restaurant and just before walking out against the icy cold winter, you can put on a coat that has been warmed for you! How nice to step out of a shower and use a heated towel to dry yourself! And some just look like a beautiful piece of sculptural art.
Here are what radiators look like in Europe.
Written by Zahra Ali