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How to balance your radiators: A step-by-step guide

How to balance your radiators - featured. A small radiator on a white wall

Not sure how to balance your radiators? We asked heating experts for a hands-on guide so you can do it yourself

If your home’s radiators are heating up at different rates despite being turned on at the same time, it could be a sign that they need balancing. Instead of turning the thermostat up in the hopes of eventually feeling the heat, simply balancing your radiators may solve the problem.

We spoke to Trade Plumbing’s managing director Peter Clayton and iHeat’s director of operations Stephen Day to find out what to do if you notice cold spots in your home and suspect an unbalanced heating system is to blame.

Why balance your radiators?

Balancing your radiators ensures even distribution of heat around your home, giving you maximum energy efficiency. The benefits aren’t just in equal heat distribution; they also have positive cost implications.

iHeat’s Stephen Day explains:
“A well-balanced heating system distributes heat more evenly and efficiently, meaning your boiler doesn’t have to work as hard to heat your home. This not only saves on fuel but also helps reduce wear and tear on the boiler itself, potentially extending its lifespan and saving on maintenance costs.”

Radiator balancing requires minimal equipment and can be done yourself if you feel comfortable doing so. After a few hours of work – depending on your home’s size – you can unlock long-term savings, simply by giving your heating system some TLC to ensure it has the best shot at running efficiently.

Do I need to balance my radiators?

If you’re noticing irregularities in your home’s heating, it can be hard to pinpoint the exact cause of your issues. Do you need to drain your central heating, buy electric heaters to combat the cold or rip everything out and start again with a brand new boiler? Before you take any drastic measures, there are clues of an unbalanced system to look out for. Stephen Day explains: “The most common tell-tale sign is when some rooms in your house are colder than others, despite having the heating come on at the same time.”

If you notice that your radiators are heating up at different rates with some taking longer than others to reach temperature, it can also be a sign of an unbalanced system. “These signs usually indicate that the water flowing into them from your boiler is not being dispersed evenly, leading to energy loss and cold spots in your home.”

Another indicator lies in your thermostat activity, which Trade Plumbing’s Peter Clayton explains: “If you sit in a cold room you may have to turn the thermostat up to feel the warmth. However, if you then enter another room and have to turn the thermostat down as it’s too warm, this can be another sign of an unbalanced system.”

If you’re manually adjusting your thermostat and radiators to reach equal temperatures, you’re not only running an inefficient system, but you’re likely losing money through energy payments as a result of trying to gauge temperatures yourself. If these scenarios sound familiar, you may need to balance your radiators.

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What tools do I need to balance radiators?

Balancing your radiators is an incredibly cost-effective task, as just a few basic tools are required:

  • Lockshield valve key or adjustable spanner
  • Digital thermometer
  • A pen and paper

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A step-by-step guide to balancing radiators

Before balancing your radiators, it’s a good idea to bleed them first to ensure there’s no trapped air in your system that might interfere with the heat distribution. This is an easy DIY task, needing a radiator key, a bowl and some gloves.

How to balance your radiators. Close up of the lockshield valve on a radiator

Once your radiators are bled and free of excess air, it’s time to balance them. Peter Clayton shares his top tips:

1. Start by turning off your heating, and wait until all of your radiators are completely cool.

2. Once cool, turn all of your valves anti-clockwise to open them up (on modern heating systems the majority of valves can be easily turned by hand, but others may need an adjustable spanner).

3. Turn the heating back on. Get your pen and paper, and take note of the order in which each radiator heats up, along with a rough time estimate.

4. Turn your heating off again, and wait for the radiators to fully cool.

5. Once cool, turn your heating back on. Go to the radiator that warmed up the fastest, and fully close the lockshield valve.

6. Take your digital thermometer, open the lockshield valve a quarter and measure the temperature near the valve. Then use the thermometer to measure the temperature of the pipes on the other side where the thermostatic valve is located.

7. Write down these readings and open the lockshield valve very slowly, checking both temperatures in between each turn. Once the difference between the two temperatures has reached precisely 12°C, your radiator is balanced.

8. Repeat this process on the rest of your radiators.

If you still have issues with your radiators after balancing them, it may mean something else is causing the heat imbalance. It could be that your system needs a power flush to remove built-up sludge and debris, or that your boiler isn’t working as it should and may need a part fixed or the unit replaced. In these cases, it’s a good idea to contact a heating engineer to have your system inspected.

Balancing your radiators can be a time-consuming and repetitive process, but it’s a fairly simple task if you don’t mind running back and forth. The task’s success lies in being precise with your temperature readings, so take extra care when completing this step to ensure the best results and the biggest energy savings.

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