How to change a radiator

Adjusting radiator valve

Changing an old radiator for a new efficient model will ensure your home is heated efficiently and save you energy. If you need to change a radiator, the good news is that it is a task that you can do yourself. Radiator replacement is easy once you know what to do and should only take you a couple of hours, especially if you opt for a replacement that's exactly the same size. Doing the work yourself will save you time and reduce the radiator replacement cost. If you aren't sure how to change a radiator, we've made it easy for you with our step-by-step guide.

Radiators come in various sizes and styles. But the easiest way to change a radiator and cut your radiator replacement costs is to replace it with a very similar model of the same dimensions. Look for a radiator with the same distance between the two water pipes. 

Some helpful tools you will need

Before you change a radiator, you need to make sure you have the correct tools for the job:

  • New radiator
  • Wall fixing brackets
  • Wall plugs
  • Radiator to wall connectors
  • Screws, bolts and washers
  • One end cap
  • One bleed cap
  • Two adjustable wrenches
  • Washing up bowl, bucket or drip tray 
  • Radiator bleed key or flathead screwdriver
  • Pipe cable
  • Multi-purpose digital detector
  • A drill (drill driver for internal walls or a hammer drill for masonry walls)
  • Masonry drill bit
  • Steel wool
  • Rags or cloths for spills
  • Thread seal tape or PTFE tape

How to change a radiator

The first thing you must do when it comes to radiator replacement is to check the wall's condition. Look to see if there are any cracks or crumbling plaster. You may have to make repairs before fitting the new radiator. You also need to check where the wall studs, pipes, and wiring are, so use a digital detector to help locate them to avoid drilling into anything you shouldn't. It's also a good idea to put down protective sheets or towels to avoid water damaging your floor.

Now you are ready to learn how to change a radiator:

1. Isolate and drain the radiator

Start by turning off the water supply and central heating system. Once the radiator is cool, you can move on to closing the valves at both ends. Now you can drain the water from the radiator. There is a connection at either end of the radiator. Put a towel and a bowl underneath for the water to drain into. With a spanner, loosen the nut by turning it away from you. You'll find the bleed valve at the top, so put your radiator key into it and turn clockwise. More water should start to drip down into the bowl. 


2. Remove the radiator

When you have drained out all the water from the radiator, you can remove it from the wall or floor. There will probably still be some water inside, so angle the radiator valve into the bowl and pour out all the remaining water. You can then put a cloth into the opening to stop anything more leaking out as you move it. Take off the valve tail nuts from the old radiator and set them aside to use again. Put a few layers of tape on their threads to preserve the seal.


3. Replace the wall brackets

If your replacement radiator isn't compatible with the old brackets or has different proportions, you will need to replace them. First, measure between the fittings on the new radiator. Then you'll need to measure from the base of the bracket to the base of the radiator. Mark these measurements on to the wall and check everything is straight with a spirit level before you drill into position. When it comes to hanging your new radiator onto the brackets, check that the valves at the base match up with the pipes on the floor.


4. Hang the new radiator

Now, it's time to put the valve tails and bleed valve into the new radiator. Position the radiator on to the bracket and tighten the nuts to ensure it is connected to the pipework. You can then turn the lockshield and control valves to drain the radiator. Then open the bleed valve a little to release any trapped air before closing it firmly. You can now turn on your central heating system and enjoy your new radiator.


Checking for leaks or drips

Now you know how to change a radiator, it's also a good idea to learn how to check for leaks in your central heating system. Your Gas Safe engineer can check for any leaks, but there are also simple ways you can check yourself. For instance, you can attach some sheets of tissue paper around the pipework under the radiator valve. After a few days, if you find that the paper is wet, it could be that the valves need replacing. You can also check on the floor by the Thermostatic Radiator Vales to see if there are any signs of damp or any water around the pin when you remove the valve head.


Knowing how to change a radiator can save you a lot of time, money and hassle. But if you aren't comfortable with doing it yourself, contact your plumber, and they will be happy to do your radiator replacement for you.


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