How to Replace a Radiator with a Convector Heater

What You'll Need
Pipe wrenches
Channel lock pliers
Drill with bits
Adjustable wrenches
Blow torch
Carpentry tools (i.e. hammer, saw, level, etc.)
New convector heater
Measuring tape
Large plastic bucket
Copper pipe and fittings
Dielectric unions
Valves (as needed)
Flux brush
Copper solder flux

If you want the replace the radiator in your home with a more efficient convector heater, you may be thinking it is not a job that you can do yourself. However, replacing an old radiator is much easier than you might think and makes an excellent DIY project. It will take you a few hours to complete the job; however, you will save a ton of money on installation labor, and the pride you will feel in doing the job yourself is priceless. This article will walk you through the entire process.

Step 1 - Drain the System

Before you begin, you will need to drain the radiator. So, first turn off the water pressure from the boiler, and then unscrew the union nuts from the main water pipe(s) to the radiator. Catch the water that leaks from the radiator pipes with a large plastic bucket.

Step 2 - Remove the Old Steam Radiator

To remove the old steam radiator, you may need to remove bolts from the mounting brackets that are attached to the floor for some units. With others, they may simply be standing in place. Move the old steam radiator aside so that you can install the new convector heater.

Step 3 - Install Convector Back Panel

If the wall you'll be installing the convector heater on has baseboard molding, you can use a saw to remove a section of the molding so that you can install the new convector heater. After the wall is clear, use the wood screws that come with the convector heater to install the bracket into the studs in the wall. 

Step 4 - Mark and Drill Holes for Pipe

Next, mark positions for the plumbing pipes. To do this, you need to temporarily mount the convector on the bracket. Then, use a pencil to draw a circle on the floor around the bottom of the inlet pipe on the heating element. Remove the heating element, and use an appropriate size drill bit to drill a hole through the floor. Make sure the hole is at least half an inch away from the wall.

Step 5 - Install New Plumbing

Install the dielectric union on the main water inlet pipe that was used on the old steam radiator. Then, install a short piece of copper pipe into the dialectric union that will be used to connect the new convector heater. Use pipe dope on the dielectric union coupling with the old water pipe.

(Note - If your radiator uses a two pipe system, repeat the process for the other pipe).

Step 6 - Mount Convector Heating Element

Follow the directions that come with your convector heater for mounting the heating element on the bracket. You will then need to sweat the copper to the coupler and pipe that runs from the dielectric union. Sweating copper basically involves heating the pipe with a torch and using solder flux to fill the joints.

Step 7 - Install Cover

After you have connected the copper pipe, you need only to install the cover on the new convector heater. Use the included screws or bolts to do this.

Step 8 - Turn On Water Pressure

Go to your steam boiler and turn the water pressure back on. The new convector heater is now ready for use.