Buyer's guides:

10 radiator maintenance tips

There’s nothing worse than a cold bathroom, so keep your radiator working – and looking good – with our expert advice

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1 Bleed the radiator

To keep your system happy, once a year, before the cold weather sets in, go round the house and bleed all the radiators. You can do this quickly and easily by using a radiator key (find yours at DIY stores). First, find the bleed valve (at the top of each radiator). Then, hold a bowl and cloth beneath it, insert the key and turn it slowly. You will hear the hiss of trapped air escape. Once water starts to come instead of air, tighten the valve back up.

 

2 Cold at the bottom, warm at the top?

Don’t turn the heating up – the radiator has trapped air at the top that is keeping the warm water out. Instead, turn the heating off and bleed the radiator in the way we’ve described above to let the air out. Turn it back on and you should have an evenly heated radiator.

 

3 Clean the vents

If your radiators have a self-bleeding air vent at the top to let air exit the system automatically, it’s a good idea to clean these every now and then to stop them becoming blocked with mineral deposits (like the limescale deposits you get in your kettle). To clean them, simply soak a soft cloth with a solution of vinegar and water, wrap it round the vent for 30 minutes, then rinse carefully. Do this at least once a year – or as needed.

 

4 Fix a leak

A leaking radiator is probably doing so from the spindle of one of the valves. To fix it, first dry the valve and hold dry tissues against it to see exactly where the leak is coming from. If the nut is leaking, try tightening it (but don’t over-tighten it). If the spindle is leaking, undo the nut, wind a few turns of plumber’s tape around the spindle and replace the nut.

 

5 Cure a cool patch

Is your radiator cool in the centre and warm at the top and ends? This might be caused by deposits of rust in the bottom restricting circulation of water. In which case, close both radiator valves, remove the radiator (you’ll need a large bowl to drain the possibly filthy water from it, and a cloth or old towel to catch the drips), then flush it out.

 

6 Stop the noise

Are your radiators clicking, knocking or banging? This is usually caused by air bubbles trapped in the water of your central heating system. Turn off the heating system. Wait about 15 minutes, then bleed the radiators to let the trapped air out. You might have to do this a few times to get all the air out of the system.

 

7 Check your system for corrosion

If you suspect your system isn’t in tip top condition, drain about half a litre of water from a radiator. Orange water denotes rusting, black, the presence of sludge. Treat both with a corrosion inhibitor (or get a pro to do it for you).

 

8 Flush the system

If you’re an experienced DIYer, this is a job you can do yourself. If your radiators aren’t functioning well and you’re a newbie, get a pro in. First attach a hose to the boiler drain outlet and run it outside, ideally into a rainwater drain or on to your garden borders. Then, open the valve on the highest radiator in your house, and allow the system to drain right down. Once that’s done (the water will stop coming out of the hose), turn on the water inlet valve and run it until the water coming out of the hose runs clean. Finally, close all the valves, allowing the system to fill and run the boiler.

 

9 Give it a wash

Believe it or not, a clean radiator will work more efficiently than a dirty, dusty one, so give yours a regular wipe over. Use a dusting brush to hunt down dust and debris from the radiator fins and, if your radiator has a flat front, remove it so you get to the hard to reach parts.

 

10 Paint your radiator

It might work well, but does your radiator have the good looks your bathroom demands? A coat of paint will transform yours quickly and easily. First turn it off and allow it to cool down, then gently rub it down with a wet and dry abrasive paper and warm water with a little detergent added. Rinse, then clean and dry. Prime bare patches with a metal primer then coat the radiator with a solvent-based paint. Allow the paint to fully dry before turning the radiator on again.

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