Radiators are the most common way of spreading hot water from boilers around properties in the UK, but maintaining your radiator is a crucial, yet often forgotten, task.

Like all aspects of your heating system radiators have to be maintained to ensure they’re working correctly, but what actually happens to stop radiators working?

Trapped air or gas prevents hot water from heating your radiator fully. But this is easily remedied by the simple of bleeding radiators, which you can do yourself, and it can make a real difference to how energy-efficient the heating in your home is.

While this isn’t a hard to do, please follow these instructions with caution. If you don’t feel confident about what you’re doing, stop and contact us.

Step 1: Turn your heating on and get your radiators hot

Turn on the heating so that all radiators in your home come on – you may need to turn up the temperature on your thermostat and individual radiator temperature controls to make sure they all come on.

Remember to wait until your radiators are fully heated before moving on to step two. You need to build up the pressure inside the radiator to be able to force the air out.

Step 2: Find out which radiators need bleeding

Once your radiators are all hot, go and check each one individually to see if all parts of the radiator are warming up. Be careful – radiators can get very hot and you don’t want to burn yourself.

Cool spots, particularly towards the top of the radiator, mean that there could be air or gas trapped and therefore you’ll need to bleed that radiator.

Air or gas is more likely to get trapped in the highest radiator in the home. It can also sometimes get trapped in the coil that runs through the hot water cylinder, as that can often be the highest point in the system.

Once you’ve found your cool spots it’s time to move onto step three and bleed them.

Step 3: Bleed the radiators

Before you bleed any radiators make sure your central heating is switched off. This is reversing the process identified in step one and will allow you to handle the radiators without burning yourself or soaking your floor.

Bleeding radiators usually requires a radiator key, but with more modern radiators you can use a flat-blade screwdriver. Often finding the radiator key is the hardest part so it’s a good idea to keep it near one of your radiators or near the boiler. Otherwise you can buy a radiator key from any hardward or DIY store for a few pounds.

At the top of the radiator at one end there will be a valve. You can attach the radiator key to the square bit in the centre or put the end of the screwdriver into the groove.

Hold the key or screwdriver with a cloth, and have another cloth ready to catch any drips, then slowly turn the radiator key or screwdriver anti-clockwise – if gas is escaping you’ll hear a hissing sound.

Once there is no more gas, liquid will come out and the valve will need to be closed quickly. With the more modern screwdriver operated escape valve, liquid is likely to emerge as a jet rather than a dribble.

Step 4: Check the pressure

Check the pressure by having a look at the gauge on your boiler. If the pressure is too low, you’ll need to ‘top up’. For advice on this procedure, please visit our Repressurising your boiler page.