The radiator maintenance guide – keeping your home’s heating system running smoothly

Radiators are the main source of warmth in the majority of homes, which means it’s important to stay on top of any problems that develop. From fixing a leak to cleaning tips and more, this guide covers all you need to know to help keep your radiators in good working order.

Radiator - The radiator maintenance guide - keeping your home’s heating system running smoothly

How to make your home’s heating system more efficient
Did you know that approximately 50% of energy bills go towards heating your home and water? Bleeding your radiators is just one way to reduce your home’s heating bills, but there are many other ways to ensure your central heating system is more efficient. Turning your boiler on for 10-15 minutes during the spring and summer months helps to prevent issues arising. You should also keep an eye out for any signs that could spell trouble, such as if the pressure keeps dropping on the condenser boiler or if there’s dripping water from it, which could signal a leak. If this is the case you’ll need to call in a professional trades person to fix the problem for you.

Another inexpensive way to improve your heating system is to make use of radiator insulation foil. The foil sits behind the radiator and reflects the generated heat back into the room.

You can avoid complicated and costly problems by having your boiler serviced each year. Also, fitting a thermostat onto the boiler and setting it to a maximum temperature of 60°Ccan help save money and energy too. Ensuring your home is properly insulated makes a huge difference to how energy efficient your property is. Fitting loft insulation and draft-proofing doors and windows can all help reduce heating bills, and it’s a cost-effective solution for keeping your home warm.

Check for any leaks
One of the most important steps to take in maintaining your radiators is to carefully check the pipework for any leaks or cracks. The smallest of drips can turn into a large problem if not dealt with as soon as possible. You should also check the pipes around your boiler, being careful not to accidently touch any hot water pipes. Cracked pipes should be replaced sooner rather than later to ensure your heating system can maintain the pressure that’s needed to heat your home.

If the radiator is leaking, it’s likely to be coming from the spindle of one of the valves. To fix a leaking radiator you’ll first need to dry the valve and press some paper towel against it so you can pinpoint where the leak is coming from. If the leaking is coming from the nut, you will need to tighten it, but be careful not to overtighten. If it’s the spindle that’s the issue, you’ll need to unscrew the nut and apply some plumber’s tape, and then replace the nut. If you find the problem persists, then it’s best to call in a plumber to fix the issue for you.

Flush the system out
Flushing the system out is a job best left to a professional if you’re not experienced at DIY. To flush the system you will need to attach a hose to the drain outlet on the boiler and run it into an outside drain or the borders in your garden. Next, open the valve on the radiator that’s the highest in your home and leave the system to completely drain. When it’s fully drained you can then switch on the water inlet valve and run until the water that’s coming out of the hose is clean. Once done, close the valves, allow the system to fill and run the boiler.

Check for signs of corrosion
The best way to check for signs of corrosion is to drain approximately half a litre of water from one of your radiators and see what colour it is. Orange water is a sign that rust has developed, and if it’s black it means there’s sludge present. To fix the problem you will need to treat both with corrosion inhibitor.

Fixing a cold patch
Sometimes your radiators may develop a cold patch in the middle, at the top and ends – this is typically caused by deposits of rust in the bottom, which prevents the water from circulating.  You will need a large container or bucket for the dirty water and an old towel to catch any drips.

Curing a noisy radiator
Banging or knocking noises are caused by air bubbles trapped in the water of the central heating system. To cure a noisy radiator you will need to switch off the heating and wait for approximately 15 minutes, and then bleed your radiators to release the trapped air. You may have to repeat this process several times to remove the air.

Bleeding a Radiator
The majority of homes in the UK have gas central heating, which makes maintaining your radiators and any heated towel rails an essential task. Bleeding a radiator is a simple job, but it’s one that’s often overlooked.

What does bleeding a radiator mean?
Bleeding a radiator means to release the air that is trapped inside. This trapped air causes cold spots and reduces the efficiency of your radiators. Bleeding your radiators ensures a warmer home and reduced energy bills too.

When do I need to bleed my radiators?
You need to bleed your radiators when they take too long to heat up and/or are colder at the top.

Bleeding a radiator
Bleeding a radiator isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Just follow these six simple steps and you’ll soon be enjoying a warm and comfortable space once again.

Step 1 – Turn the central heating off
Turn your central heating system off, as you run the risk of getting sprayed with boiling water when you bleed your radiator.

Step 2 – Gather your tools
To bleed a radiator you will need an old tea towel, bowl to catch the water and a radiator key.

Step 3 – Locate the bleed screw
Locate the bleed screw, which is positioned in the top corner of the radiator. Place a bowl directly underneath it.

Step 4 – Turn the radiator key anti-clockwise
Position the radiator key on top of the bleed screw, covering it with a separate cloth and gradually turn the key anti-clockwise for half a turn. You will hear a hissing noise as the air releases. Hold the cloth close to prevent water from dripping.

Step 5 – Tighten up the screw
When the air has stopped hissing and the water trickles out steadily you can tighten the screw, but be careful not to over-tighten it as you could damage the valve. Wipe down the radiator to dry it off.

Step 6 – Turn the central heating back on
Turn your central heating back on and check the boiler pressure. You may need to boost the pressure by using the filling loop on the boiler. It’s a good idea to check all the radiators in your home are heating up properly and none of the bleed valves are leaking. Occasionally you may need to bleed some of your radiators a second time.

How to clean your radiators
It’s easy enough to clean the outside of your radiators, but how do you go about cleaning the inside of them? Dust and dirt can easily become trapped inside a radiator making it tricky to properly clean it, but it’s actually surprisingly easy to do by following these steps, and best of all you don’t need any special equipment.
What you’ll need to clean a radiator:

•    Cloths
•    Towel
•    Water
•    Soap
•    Bucket
•    Sponges
•    Long measuring stick or similar
•    Wide tape

Step 1 – Remove as much dust as possible with a vacuum cleaner
You should start by removing as much dust and dirt as possible from around and underneath the radiator by using a vacuum cleaner.

Step 2 – Wrap a cloth around the end of a long stick
Take a dust cloth and wrap it around the long measuring stick or similar object and secure with tape. Take care not to cover too much of the cloth.

Step 3 – Push the long stick into the radiator
Take an old towel and lay it out underneath the radiator, and then push the long stick right down inside each section of the radiator so that the dirt goes to the bottom. The dust and dirt will fall onto the towel.

Step 4 – Wipe down the radiator
Take the bucket and fill it with warm water and add a small amount of washing-up liquid. To solve this problem you will need to close the radiator valves, remove the radiator from the wall and flush it out. Dunk the cloth in and squeeze out excess water, then wipe down the outside of the radiator. Dry with a soft cloth. You should also check the wall above the radiator, as the heat can cause dirt to stick to the surface, so give this a wipe over too.

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