Handy tips for resolving radiator issues

Radiators can be difficult to handle, especially when a small problem turns into a huge expense. Before calling a plumber, for an easy fix, check out these handy tips for resolving small radiator problems.

Handy tips for resolving radiator issues

1. How to stop radiator leaks

  • If a leak develops around the packing nut, located just below the handle, close the valve and gently tighten the nut clockwise with an adjustable wrench. Open the valve.
  • If the leak persists, have a plumber replace the packing or the valve. The plumber may have to shut down and drain the system.
  • Before calling a plumber to fix a leak around the joint in the pipe that enters the radiator, try tightening the nuts using two pipe wrenches.

2. Replacing radiators with convectors

  • You can exchange bulky radiators for trim baseboard convectors. Both units provide the same amount of heat.
  • Though convectors take up less room, remember that you should not block them with furniture.
  • A heating contractor can give you a cost estimate.

3. Bleeding a radiator or convector

If a hot-water radiator or convector isn't heating properly even with its valve fully open, the problem may be air trapped inside. The solution is to vent, or bleed, the air out.

  • To bleed a unit, the boiler must be operating; turn up the thermostat if necessary.
  • The bleeder valve on a radiator is opposite the inlet valve and near the top. On a convector, it is on a return pipe under the cover.
  • Using a screwdriver, open the valve carefully and slowly. Let the hot water flow into a cup until it stops sputtering. Then close the valve. Some bleeder valves require a key, sold in hardware stores.
  • As a general rule, hot-water radiators or convectors should be bled once a year. The unit farthest from the boiler tends to collect the most air and may require more frequent attention.
  • Bleed the whole system at the start of the heating season or whenever it has been off for a long time. To do this, start on the top floor, at the radiator farthest from the boiler, and work down, finishing with the one nearest the boiler.
  • Instead of a bleeder valve, some convectors have an automatic vent valve that slowly releases air as the system fills with water.
  • Keep an automatic valve clean. If it drips, replace it.

4. Save energy with zoned heating

To save energy, some hot-water systems are separated into zones, each with its own thermostat.

  • This lets you lower the heat in the bedrooms during the day, for example. If there is no chart near the boiler, figure out which rooms are in which zone by turning up one thermostat at a time.

Don't let your radiator intimidate you. Use these handy tips to resolve small issues and contact your local plumber for bigger projects.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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