Keep Your Radiators Working

Homes have been heated with hot water for hundreds of years and while most new homes are now heated with warm air, there are still lots of older homes where hot water radiators are the source of warmth during the winter. One of the advantages of hot water is its reliability and the fact that very little needs to be done to maintain a hot water system. However, no heating system is totally maintenance free so it's a good idea to have your furnace checked by a trained technician every year or so. In addition, to be sure your radiators are ready for the cold winter, giving them your own check up can make sure you stay warm all winter. Here's how you can keep your hot water radiators working properly.

Bleed the system

  •  During the summer when your hot water system isn't working, air can get into the closed water system and once air is the system, the space it takes up means the hot water can't circulate provide as much warmth as intended. You can get rid of the air by 'bleeding ' your system every fall.
  • First turn the heat on and wait for the system to heat up. (If the water supply valves were turned off during the summer turn them back on).
  • Starting with the radiator at the highest point in the system (i.e. the top floor) or the radiator furthest away from the boiler bleed air out of the system.
  • On the top end of the radiator is small air vent (bleed valve) put there so you can get trapped air out of the system. Hold a small cup or a sponge under the valve and open it, either with a screwdriver, a radiator key or perhaps by just turning the handle. Any air trapped in the system will come hissing out, followed by hot water. Once the water starts to come out, close the valve up again.

Check the supply valves for leaking

  •  The 'packing' around older pipe connections can wear out or the valve connection may just get a little loose over time. If you see any signs of moisture near the supply valve, first try tightening the valve using an adjustable wrench or slip lock pliers.
  • If there is still moisture coming out of the valve you can replace the packing (Packing looks like string, and you wrap around the threads of the valve -it's available at home and hardware stores).
  •  Replace the packing by first turning off the supply valve then loosening the connecting nut. Wrap the new packing tightly around the threads then retighten the connecting nut.

Look for loose pipes

  •   Pipes filled with water will expand and contract as they heat up and cool down. This expansion will cause movement in an unsecured pipe and can cause moaning and groaning sounds or even bangs and crashes from your heating system. The usual causes of these sounds are pipes that have come loose or renovations that have put walls or framing close to pipes.
  • You can often get rid of these annoying noises by checking to see that your heating pipes are firmly attached and there is clearance between or around pipes and structures.
  • Secure any pipes that have come loose and pack insulation around pipes running through holes in studs and joists.

Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer over 500 articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to He can be contacted at