Good central heating is important for a modern home, yet many of us struggle when it comes to basic maintenance. Granted, any work relating to a property’s plumbing utilities should usually be left to a plumber and boiler work to a licensed heating/ boiler engineer; however, the fact that a radiator has seemingly stopped working does not necessarily mean that you need to call in a Pro to get it fixed.
It is perfectly safe for an untrained person to attempt basic fixes on a radiator, such as bleeding or examining the adjustment valves. If your radiator is not working, there are a few simple tests that should let you know if it is a minor problem that can be solved with DIY, or something serious that only a Pro should handle.
If the top of the radiator is cold but the rest heats up as normal, the cause will usually be trapped air. When this builds up, it can interfere with the hot water that would usually heat the radiator.
Luckily, this is simple to fix; all you need to do is bleed the radiator with a standard radiator key. These are easy to find, buy and use, as long as you are prepared with a towel to catch the drips!
If the top of the radiator heats up but the bottom does not, it may be that you have a more serious problem on your hands.
This kind of issue typically points to a buildup of sludge, scales or rust at the bottom of the radiator. A power flush will be the best solution, but a fix like this should only be handled by a qualified plumber.
When the middle of a radiator is cold, this usually also points to a buildup of nastiness towards the bottom. Like with the previously mentioned issue, the solution is typically a power flush carried out by a plumber.
When a radiator won’t heat up at all, the very first thing to do will be to check that the valves either side are open. While this may sound like an obvious solution, taking five seconds to make sure of this will be a lot less painful than forking out for a Pro unecessarily.
Radiators have two valves: a temperature valve and a lockshield valve. Turn each of these anti clockwise until they are fully open.
If this still does not fix the problem, the next step will be to check that the temperature valve is working properly. Remove the cap and examine the pin underneath: if it can move up and down freely, the valve should be working. If not, and if you cannot get the pin free with a gentle tap, the valve may need to be replaced. This should be done by a qualified plumber.
If opening the valves still does not fix the issue, your next course of action will depend on whether it is just the one or multiple radiators that are experiencing the problem.
Again, it may sound patronising, but if all of your radiators are cold then your first step should be to make sure that your central heating is actually turned on. Simple, we know, but taking this step could save you having to hire a professional.
If the central heating is turned on, this unfortunately points to a problem with your pipework, plumbing or with your boiler. At this point, your only course of action should be to hire a boiler/heating engineer. Make sure that they are on the Gas Safe Register before you allow them to perform any work!
If it seems that only one of your radiators is refusing to heat up, start by turning off every other radiator in your property. Once this is done, go back to the faulty radiator and see if it heats up.
If it does, start turning on the other radiators one by one and check them carefully; you may be able to identify others that need bleeding.
If the radiator does not heat up, the problem is most probably down to a buildup of gunk or limescale in the faulty radiator. Again, the solution for this will be a power flush.
If all of your radiators are failing to heat up, it could point to a problem with your boiler. If this is the case, your next step should be to have a Gas Safe Registered heating/boiler engineer examine it.
It is especially important when hiring this kind of Pro that they are properly qualified. In the UK, a gas/heating engineer is only permitted to perform work on gas boilers and appliances if they are listed on the Gas Safe Register: if your Pro cannot produce their ID, do not allow them to work on your system and report them to the police as soon as possible.