5 simple adjustments to improve your hot-water heating system

A hot-water system rarely requires a lot of maintenance beyond annual servicing by a heating contractor, but they can run into minor problems and efficiency issues. Before calling for service, check out these five simple ways to get the most out of your hot-water heating system.

5 simple adjustments to improve your hot-water heating system

1. Caring for radiators and convectors

A hot-water system has either a radiator or convector in nearly every room. Accumulated dirt on a radiator or convector reduces its heating capacity.

  • Vacuum radiators and exposed pipes regularly, using a crevice attachment for hard-to-reach spots.
  • Remove caked-on dirt with a damp rag.
  • Remove a convector's cover and vacuum its fins at least once a year.

2. Adjusting a radiator's heat output

To reduce the heat output of a hot-water radiator or convector, turn the inlet valve clockwise. To increase the heat, turn it counterclockwise.

  • Hot-water units heat slowly; it may take a few days to find the best setting.

3. Boosting a radiator’s heat output

  • If a radiator or convector isn't heating well, make sure that the valve is open all the way. Also check that air can flow freely into the bottom and out the top. Window coverings and furniture placed too close to the unit are often a problem.
  • On a convector, blocking air intake at the bottom in particular will dramatically cut its heat output, as will bent fins, which can be straightened with a putty knife.
  • Air trapped in the radiators or convectors is the most common problem. It is vented by a process called bleeding. A unit that doesn't get as hot as others may have trapped air that needs bleeding.
  • To increase a radiator's efficiency, insert an insulated reflector between the radiator and the wall. To make your own reflector, cover rigid insulation or poster board with aluminum foil.

4. Replacing a broken valve handle

To replace a cracked handle, just remove the screw in the top and lift it off. Take it to a plumbing-supply store or home centre for a replacement.

  • If the stem is damaged (sometimes the screw hole gets stripped) or if you cannot find an exact replacement, buy a retrofit handle designed to clamp onto any stem.

5. Easy pipe insulation

To prevent the pipes that carry hot water to your radiators or convectors from losing heat en route through a cold crawl space or basement, you can quickly and easily insulate them yourself.

  • Buy slitted foam pipe insulation that is ready to slip over pipes on straight runs. For corners, buy rolled fiberglass pipe insulation and secure it with a seal wrap.

On an older system, the boiler's expansion tank may become waterlogged and need draining. However, many systems have minor problems that can be easily fixed. Instead of calling for service right away, save some money by using these tips to solve small issues yourself!

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