Common radiator and heating problems and how to fix them

At this colder time of year, we’re all looking to retreat inside into the warmth of our homes and hibernate. This means that any problems we experience with our central heating (such as our radiators!) can have a greater impact on our comfort in the home.

To make sure your radiators are working efficiently, the team at The Electrical Guys have created a list of some of the most common radiator problems, to help you keep your home warm and cosy during the winter months. Read on to find out more.

Common radiator problems

One radiator is not working and is completely cold

Is one of your radiators not working? It’s safe to assume that the problem lies with that single radiator, rather than your full heating system.

Firstly, we would recommend checking your thermostatic valve (which measures the temperature) and the valve at the opposite side. Make sure they are both moving correctly and if not, try tapping them slightly to loosen them up.

If your central heating system is powered by your boiler, you could try a process of elimination. First try turning off all your other radiators and see if the cold one begins to warm up. If it does, slowly start turning on the others in the home and see if the cold radiator keeps heated.

If neither of the above options solve your problem, it may be time to speak with your local plumber (if you have a water-based central heating system) or your electrician (if you have an electric radiator or heater).

Your hot-water radiator is cold at the bottom

If your hot-water radiator is cold at the bottom, it could be a sign that you have a build-up of debris or rust inside. This is caused by natural corrosion that occurs within the radiator, that breaks away and sinks to the bottom, and stops water the water flowing properly.

If you think this is the problem, you need to flush the debris out of your radiator; left too long in the system, and it can cause damage to the pipes and boiler, which can be a costly problem to solve.

Your radiator is cold at the top (or middle)

If your radiator is cold at the top, or in patches, it could be a sign that air is trapped inside the radiator. This air obstructs the flow of heat through the system, preventing them from heating efficiently.

This problem can be solved by bleeding your radiators and letting the air out of the system. Follow these steps to bleed your radiators:

  1. Switch on your central heating
  2. Identify which radiators need bleeding (which ones have cold patches)
  3. Turn off the central heating and let the radiators cool until they are at a temperature you feel comfortable handling
  4. Locate the bleed valve. It is likely to be at the top of the radiator, and will look like a screw or bolt at the top of the radiator
  5. Use your radiator bleed key by pushing it into the valve, and turn to loosen it
  6. Listen out for a hissing, which is the sound of the trapped air escaping
  7. When the hissing has stopped, and water starts to come out of the valve, tighten up the bleed valve once more
  8. Once you have finished bleeding all of the radiators, check the water pressure of your heating system, and let in any additional pressure.

Your radiator is leaking water from the bottom

A leaky radiator is very easy to identify and something you want to make sure you fix as soon as possible.

To remedy a leaking radiator, lay towels around the area to prevent any further damage to your flooring. A radiator leak can come from one of three places; the main radiator unit, the bleed point or valve, or the pipe fitting at the bottom of the unit. Check each of these places to identify where the water is coming from, then take the following courses of action.

  • Leaking valve: A leak in your radiator valve is likely to be caused by general wear and tear over time, so replacing the valve is likely to be the best course of action.
  • Leaking radiator unit: If the main body of your radiator is leaking, it’s likely to be down to corrosion inside the radiator that creates small ‘pinhole’ leaks. In these instances, unfortunately the problem can’t be fixed, and the best solution is to replace your radiator as soon as possible.
  • Leaking pipe unit: This could be the easiest problem to fix! Often these pipe units simply need tightening up at the joints with a spanner, as they can occasionally come loose. If tightening a joint doesn’t work you may need to break down the joint to investigate further, or replace the joint altogether.

Radiator maintenance tips

Regular care and maintenance of your radiators will help to prevent further issues from occurring, and keep your radiators working properly for longer. If you’re experienced at home DIY projects, or work in the trade yourself, you can tackle this yourself quite easily.

  • Regularly bleed your radiators; if you do this proactively, you get a head-start on potential problems
  • Speak to your local plumber about having your system flushed using a chemical cleaner. You could even opt for a power flush, which will help clean not only your radiators but other pipework across the system.
  • Clean the exterior surface of your radiators regularly with just a damp cloth. Many cleaning products contain chemicals that may damage the finish, and overall appearance, of the radiator.

We hope we have been able to help you identify the problems you’re having with your radiators, and the potential solutions to these problems. If in doubt, consult a central heating expert, who will be able to check over your radiators, and ensure they are in tip-top condition.

Did you know The Electrical Guys stocks a range of electric radiators? Check out the collection or go straight to some of our most popular ranges:

Ceramic core radiators
Freestanding radiators
Aluminium radiators
Electric heaters