How to Remove a Radiator

Using a spanner to undo a radiator valve
29 September 2023 218 view(s) 6 min read
How to Remove a Radiator

Do You Need to Remove a Radiator and You're Afraid You Might Flood The House?

Here's Some Advice to Help You Out.

Radiators are the most visible part of most heating systems. Connected to a network of pipes that deliver hot water, heated by a central boiler, they are usually made of metal, such as steel, cast iron and aluminium, so they can require maintenance in terms of cleaning, painting or in the most serious cases, complete replacement, if they are old and prone to rust. In addition, you may want to decorate the room and need access behind the radiator to paint. This is why it is important to know how to remove them correctly to avoid flooding the house. Even if it is a rather simple operation, it is important to follow some suggestions to disconnect them in the right way.

Here are some tips to remove a radiator quickly and easily.

What You Will Need:

  • Adjustable wrench/suitable spanner
  • Towels
  • Bowl or shallow tray
  • Bleed key
  • PTFE tape
  • Decorators valve cap

Things to Do Before Removing a Radiator

The key element in removing a radiator is draining it without having to drain the whole heating system. A radiator can hold a lot of water depending on its size and type and the process is best carried out slowly to avoid spills.

First of all, turn off the heating system, close the valves fully on both sides of the radiator, turning them until they are completely shut off, make a note of how many turns it takes to close the valves so you can set them to the same position when you refit the radiator. It is important to note that some Thermostatic valves have a minimum setting that allows frost protection so never fully close, you may have to remove the valve head and fit a decorator's cap to fully close the valve. Spread towels on the floor under the nut that joins the valve to the valve tail, the water may be dirty and can stain and damage floors boards and carpets, then place a basin or shallow tray to collect the water that will need to be emptied from the radiator. Use an appropriately sized spanner or adjustable wrench to loosen the valve nut slightly, taking care not to open it too quickly or water could spray out.

When water starts flowing from the nut, stop unscrewing and let the water slowly flow into the basin. You may find that once some water has been let out of the radiator opening the bleed valve (air vent) will allow the air in the radiator to escape and the water will flow easily. As soon as the basin/or tray is full, tighten the nut, carefully empty the container and repeat the operation again. Then tighten the first nut, move the bowl under the other nut and loosen it almost completely. There will still be a residue of water inside.

Once the water stops flowing out loosen both the nuts fully and ease the valve body out of the tail, this may take a little pressure depending on how the pipe work has been fixed in place. It is useful at this point to plug the holes with a cloth to minimize the chance of residual water spilling out when you move the radiator. Once the valves have been released disconnect any wall ties that are in place (if your radiator is supported on separate floor mounts please ensure that the radiator is supported fully when you remove the wall ties), and check any wall brackets are not secured in any way - then lift the radiator from the wall supports. Depending on how heavy your radiator is you may need two people to do this, you can then either tilt it to empty all the water into the basin, or carry it outside and then empty it completely.

It is advisable to place the radiator on the floor, on a soft surface such as cardboard covered in a dust sheet to avoid scratching the floor or damaging a carpet.

Once you have completed your job you can replace the radiator by reversing the steps above

  • Re-hang the radiator on the wall brackets or floor supports and secure the wall ties
  • Remove any cloth plugs from the radiator and reinsert the valve body into the valve tails
  • Tighten the valve nuts on both sides
  • Open the valves on both sides
  • Re-start the heating system so the water is circulating
  • Check for any leaks and tighten valves as needed
  • As the radiator fills air will escape from the air vent, when full water will be released through the vent so have a cloth ready to catch this
  • Close the air vent
  • Give a final check for leaks and when the radiator is hot check for a build-up of air and release if needed.

One thing to consider when emptying a radiator is the amount of inhibitor that may have been lost from the system and the impact that may have on the level of protection inside the system. This may be something that a plumber can top up when you have your regular boiler service.

What does a heating system consist of?

A heating system, whatever type it is, consists of a few essential parts.

  • Heat generator: boiler or heat pump, which can be powered by gas oil or renewable energy.
  • Heat emitters: radiators, from the most classic cast iron radiators to the most modern steel or aluminium ones. There are up-to-the-minute innovative designer radiators, and practical towel warmers, ideal to be placed in bathrooms or the most common functional flat panels. In recent years, "alternative" type heating systems such as wall, skirting and underfloor or air heating systems (fan coil) have become more popular.
  • Distribution system: piping, depending on the type of water distribution network, are single pipe and return, single-pipe, and two-pipe. Pipe systems can be copper or new multilayer plastic pipe, often newer systems will be a mix of the two.
  • Regulation system: thermostat/timer thermostat, which allows you to manage/program the system. Controlling the time, the system operates using a central location to sense ambient temperature.
  • Other devices: pumps, which are used to distribute hot water around the system, to the various heat emitters and thermostatic valves, which are placed directly on the radiators and are used to regulate the temperature of each room.

There are two key types of heating systems, Direct and Indirect.

An Indirect system is filled with water that remains in the system and is circulated through the boiler and radiators. There are two types of Indirect systems.

  • Open vented, which uses an open tank at the highest point of the installation (often the loft), is used to store and top up the fluid from the heating system as it expands when heated.
  • Closed (pressurised/sealed), use an expansion vessel to store the expanded fluid

A Direct system uses mains water that is continually replaced within the system – this causes an influx of oxygen and bacteria in the water, meaning Stainless Steel or Brass radiators should be used to avoid rusting of the radiators or contamination of the water supply.

The addition of appropriate inhibitors helps prevent the natural process of rusting and metal corrosion (galvanic corrosion) that occurs when water is in contact with various metals and the corrosive effect different metals have on each other for example copper and aluminium.

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