How to turn on a home radiator

Written by amber keefer
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How to turn on a home radiator
Check radiators before winter sets in. (Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Getting ready for another winter means making sure that all the radiators in your house are heating properly. If you find that some radiators are only getting partially warm, you need to take a closer look as radiators that are not operating properly can cost you money. Performing annual, routine maintenance on a central heating radiator system can help prevent many problems ensuring that your home will heat more efficiently.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Radiator bleed key
  • Wrenches
  • White distilled vinegar

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Turn closed radiators all the way to the open position. Radiator inlet valves that are only partly open can make a clanging noise. If a radiator remains cold at the top but is warm at the bottom, there could be air trapped inside. When this happens, water can't get in, and the radiator won't heat properly.

  2. 2

    Clean the air vent on each radiator. A clogged air vent can also prevent a radiator from heating up. Close the shutoff valve located at the bottom of the radiator before unscrewing the air vent. Unclog the vent by soaking it in vinegar.

  3. 3

    Bleed air out of hot water radiators at least twice throughout the winter. Locate the valve at the top end of the radiator. Place the radiator key in the valve stem and turn it counterclockwise until you begin to hear a hissing sound. Turning the key about half way will usually do the job. Close the valve again by turning the key clockwise as soon as water begins to drain out. Turn valve stems that are slotted rather than square using a flathead screwdriver instead of radiator key.

  4. 4

    Check to see if the radiator valve might be blocked if you still get no heat. This can happen if the heating system has been turned off for an extended period of time. Mineral deposits from the water can cause the valve pin to stick. Push the pin sticking out from the radiator valve in and out. If the pin does not move, use your finger to thump on the side of the valve and then gently push down on the pin. Do this until the pin loosens. The pin should spring back out when pushed in.

  5. 5

    Shim any radiators that are not slightly pitched toward the inlet pipe that comes up from the floor. In some homes, the pipe comes out of the wall. Place a shim under the feet at the vent end of the radiator. As the years pass, expansion and contraction can cause the legs of a radiator to dig into the floor changing the slope.

  6. 6

    Inspect for any signs of water leaking around the inlet valve. Tighten the cap nuts located on the valve. Hold the valve with one wrench while you tighten each cap nut using another wrench.

Tips and warnings

  • The hissing noise you hear when bleeding a radiator means that air is being forced out by water. Be careful not to turn the valve too much.

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