life in a tiny apartment.

February 6, 2013


Tip #50: Be kind to your radiator.

Our radiator has the biggest personality in our tiny apartment. When people exclaim about our ability to live together in such a tiny space, I’m tempted to reply: “…and with that pushy radiator, too.”  He’s the supporting actor who desperately wants to take the leading role in our wee family drama. He clanks and fusses and spits and steams until he’s certain he’s gotten our attention. Heat during the day? Who needs it? 80 degrees when you’re trying to fall asleep? It’s yours. Symphony of clatters and bangs at 3:00 am? Everyone’s dream, no?

But he also keeps us toasty and he’s small and discrete, so we stay friends. If you live in a tiny apartment in New York–or anywhere in the Northeast–chances are you have a radiator friend (or foe) of your own. Here, a few tiny tips for living with an overbearing bully:

On particularly dry nights, I fill loaf pans with water and set them on top to make things a little steamier. I can’t imagine introducing a humidifier to this space and this is a free alternative (though honestly, this thing is verging on cute).

To help mitigate the rattling we’ve wedged small wooden shims under the feet in an attempt to straighten him out.

And to help with incessant hissing, we replaced the radiator vent. We’re basically home-maintenance heroes. I know.

At the risk of revealing all of my dorkiness in one blow: I think this video is all kinds of awesome and much more helpful than any of my rambling. (Some day I’ll tell you about my ardent crush on Bob Villa circa 1988).

Do you guys have steam radiators? How do you keep them happy?

PS. We’re thinking about painting our little buddy come spring. Stay tuned.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply megan February 6, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    I think the loaf pans are perfect! I've never had a radiator, living in the West Coast, but I could imagine putting some nice infusions in those pans for some quality time – just you and the radiator. Some lavender perhaps? Wood chips and vanilla?

    • Reply Erin February 6, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      mmm! good idea!

  • Reply Jesslovesphilly February 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    I never thought to put pans of water on top of my radiator… definitely beats buying a humidifier. I'm going to try this out.

    My radiator doesn't give me too much trouble but it sounds like yours has quite the personality.

  • Reply Lauren Ashley February 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Ha! Our radiator is exactly the same – such an attention whore. 🙂

  • Reply Kate February 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Horror story: Last week, my fiance attempted to bleed the radiator in our bedroom (side note is there a worse phrase than 'bleeding the radiator'?). Anyway, I was asleep (10 feet for the radiator) and it exploded. Dirty radiator water everywhere, including our white ceilings and wall.

    I slept through the entire thing.

    Best fiance EVER award goes to ME, obviously!

    I'd be super interested in seeing how you paint yours…ours is silver and I don't like them very much at all.


    • Reply Erin February 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      oh no! a similar thing happened in my dorm in college, though my room was spared the mess. hope you guys got through it with minimal trauma!

  • Reply Allison February 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I think we've FINALLY reached the point where we don't wake up every time our radiator starts hissing in the middle of the night, though I still don't think we'll ever be friends. Too much history, you know?

    • Reply Erin February 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      understood entirely.

  • Reply Julia February 6, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    we have a house full of radiators and i love them! my favorite place to keep rising bread dough :). we turn the heat way down at night to save $ so the makeshift humidifier trick wouldn't work for me (we have a real humidifier). my favorite radiator in the house though? the one right next to the shower- built in towel warmer!

    • Reply Erin February 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      a warm towel sounds awesome! (the radiators in our apartment are difficult to control, heat-wise. it's either all on, or all off).

  • Reply Molly February 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    I got so frustrated with mine that I had my super get rid of it! Here's hoping that the heat pipe in the corner can pick up the slack.

    • Reply Erin February 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm

      so wild! hope you stay toasty!

  • Reply Debs February 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    I grew up with radiators. My parents covered them with awful wooden boxes. I think they look lovely exposed.

    Yes! Paint the little bugger! How about PINK!

    • Reply Erin February 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      ha! not sure the landlord would love that scheme…but i do!

  • Reply Julia February 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    Yes, you are home-improvement pros! I'm thoroughly impressed! Does it have a name yet?

    • Reply Erin February 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      ha! no name, poor thing.

  • Reply barb February 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    I grew up with radiator heat. They were a great place to park a cold butt after sledding and to warm mittens and socks. And I loved the sound of them, it was home.

    • Reply Erin February 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm

      We had really noisy radiators growing up, too. Though I admit the sound in my house growing up was closer to small nails than large mallets.

  • Reply Elizabeth Hyzy February 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I moved into a really amazing apartment in November and it's the first I've ever had to deal with a radiator in my life! It's taken a lot of getting used to. I couldn't sleep without earplugs until very recently and I nearly always open the window at night. I'd love to hear how the painting goes, mine are currently silver paint coated and chipping away as we speak.

  • Reply Clean February 7, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Our radiators hold a special place in my heart. They're the originals in our 1920's apartment and they have an embossed flower detail that's so pretty. They're painted a lovely gold, it's almost matte but has the littlest bit of shimmer. I adore the look. Plus, warm towels in the bathroom are a definite treat!

  • Reply forefrontfashion February 7, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    our steam radiators are so.dang.loud. it honestly sounds like there is someone in our apartment running around and hitting our pipes with a bat when it comes on at night. and of course it always perks up at night just when its time for sleep. ear plugs!

  • Reply Caitlin Jennings February 8, 2013 at 1:13 am

    we live in an old brownstone in Brooklyn and had the plumber over this weekend to replace the valve. our bedroom was so hot at night we couldn't sleep and would wake up totally dehydrated. now i've turned all of our radiators off!

  • Reply rebecca February 9, 2013 at 3:17 am

    a black radiator would be so bad a**. i also admittedly enjoyed that video very much.

  • Reply Melissa September 12, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    Any tips for baby-proofing these bad boys? We have two big ones and my 11 month old is very interested in them once they start clanking. My dog also sleeps right next to them which is another attractor for my son.

    • Reply Erin Boyle September 12, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      Ah, our timing (i.e. when Faye started scooting/walking/being mobile) and when they were on for the winter in addition to their placement in our apartment meant that we never really had to baby-proof. There was a brief period before they were off for the winter (before last) when we stuck a wooden crate in front of one just to be safe. But this past winter when Faye was older we just taught her not to touch. That said, my sister had to baby proof hers, and she had luck buying white covers online. (Sorry, I’m not sure the specifics!) Good luck!

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Comments are moderated.