Radiator Repair: When To Ask for Help

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Like everything in life, we take radiators for granted until something goes wrong. Then suddenly you’re shivering, freezing cold and wishing that someone had taught you all about radiators at school! Not to worry — we can talk you through some common radiator issues and whether or not they warrant professional help.

Common radiator issues

If you’re happy getting your hands dirty and doing a bit of DIY, then this guide should save you the expense of calling out a professional plumber.

We receive a number of calls every week about cold radiator, radiator whistling, hissing radiators, radiator clicking, and of course leaking home radiators.

Whilst there are some issues that require professional help, there are plenty of things you as a homeowner can do before you have to call out a plumber.

What should I do if my radiators aren’t working?

In what way is your radiator not working? Turn on the central heating and then carefully feel for the heat — is the radiator cold at the top or at the bottom, or all over?

My radiator is cold at the top but warm at the bottom

If the heat isn’t reaching the top of your radiator, it means there is air trapped inside and the radiator needs bleeding. Thankfully, this is a relatively simple process, so long as you own a radiator key:

  1. Turn off your central heating and wait for the radiator to cool down
  2. Place an old towel on the floor below the ‘bleed screw’ — the valve at the top of the radiator
  3. Use the radiator key to loosen the bleed screw anti-clockwise
  4. You should hear a hissing sound. Keep the valve open until the hissing has stopped
  5. Once the hissing has stopped, retighten the bleed screw and turn the heating back on to make sure the bleeding has worked

My radiator is warm at the top but cold at the bottom

The waterflow is being restricted or redirected at the middle and bottom of the radiator. This means there is rust blocking the pipes. Remember, radiators are made from either steel or iron, so iron oxide (fancy word for rust) will eventually accumulate as water passes through. Having said that, blockage can also be caused or exacerbated by limescale. Most of the time this demands tricky specialist solutions like power flushing or chemical cleaning, so you’re better off calling a professional.

My radiator is cold all over

This could be due to a number of things, including rust blocking the pipes, frozen valves stopping the flow of water, or a problem with your boiler.

What should I do if my radiator’s leaking?

The only way to stop the leaking is to stop the flow of water into the radiator and allow the existing water time to drain out.

  1. Turn off your central heating
  2. Turn off the mains (you can find out how to do this in our plumbing guide — link to guide once live)
  3. Open the radiator valves and put down a bucket or a thick towel to catch the  draining water
  4. Wait for the radiator to drain

Please bear in mind that this is not a long term solution and you will need to call out a plumbing professional if you have a leaking home radiator.

Why is my radiator making a noise?

Radiators make noise for a variety of reasons, and most of the time there’s nothing to be worried about. 

Whistling

Radiator whistling, sometimes also referred to as a hissing radiator, is usually caused by water entering into the radiator either too quickly or too slowly. You can solve radiator whistling yourself by turning the valves fully on. 

Clicking

Although we receive a lot of calls about radiator clicking, this is actually completely normal! This is the sound the radiator makes when it’s heating up and cooling down.

Sometimes, there’s also a clicking sound below the floorboards. We once had a call out from someone who thought this was a sign there was a mouse living below their radiator, but it’s actually just the sound of the pipes expanding and contracting!

Tapping

Tapping is a more serious radiator noise. It could also be described as a gurgling or hammering sound. 

It could be caused by air in the radiator, in which case it just needs bleeding and you can follow the steps provided above. However, it can also mean loose pipes below the floor or be the result of an incorrectly fitted thermostatic valve.

Radiator noise can be perfectly normal but remember, if the sound is a loud and persistent tapping or hammering, it may be a more serious issue that requires professional help.

When to ask a professional

To recap on the advice we’ve provided, you should always call a professional plumber in the event of a leaking home radiator and a tapping or hammering radiator noise. 

However, remember that radiator noise in and of itself is not necessarily a problem! It can just be a natural effect of the radiator and its associated pipes heating up or cooling down. 

You can temporarily stop a leaking home radiator by turning off the mains and draining the radiator, but this is only a temporary solution and a professional will need to be called.

Likewise, a cold radiator may just need bleeding, but it could be indicative of a more serious issue like rust. 

Also please remember that if you aren’t the DIY type because you’re busy or your mind just doesn’t work that way, Bicester Property Services are happy to carry out any kind of radiator repair and maintenance, including bleeding!