There are many home maintenance tasks that are important to stay on top of to ensure that your home continues functioning properly. One such task is bleeding the radiators about once a year to release air that may be trapped in the system.
When the temperature outside begins to fall, it's imperative that your heating system is capable of producing enough heat to keep you and your home warm throughout the winter months. However, if one or more of the radiators remain cool or they are significantly warmer at the base than they are at the top, then the problem is likely air trapped in the radiator fins. This prevents hot water from circulating properly and reduces the overall heat output of the unit.
The fix for this issue is relatively simple, but it's necessary to take your time with each step to avoid introducing more air to the system. It's also important to note that if you rush this job, there is a risk of injury from scalding water. Use this guide to learn how to bleed a radiator and restore heat to your home.
Before You Begin
Caution and preparation are key to succeeding with this maintenance task. Make sure the heat is turned off, either by using the emergency shut-off switch or by simply turning the thermostats down. If you leave the heat on while bleeding the radiators, there is a chance that you may introduce more air into the system.
Wait about an hour after turning off the heat before you begin. This will give the heating system enough time to cool down. Grab one or more towels and a bucket to help catch any water that escapes from the bleed valve. It's also recommended to have a set of work gloves that can protect your hands from hot water.
Equipment / Tools
- Work gloves
- Radiator key
Remove the Cover and Locate the Bleed Valve
It's recommended to take this opportunity to bleed all the radiators in the home. Start on the lowest floor at the radiator that is furthest from the boiler. Not all radiators have a cover, but if yours does, then remove the cover to access the bleed valve. This small valve should be located at the top of one side of the radiator.
To operate the bleed valve, you will need a radiator key, which can be purchased online or at a local home improvement store. If you don't have a radiator key and don't want to purchase one, you can try to complete this job with a set of needle-nose pliers or a flathead screwdriver.
If your radiator doesn't have a bleed valve, then it may be a steam radiator. Steam radiators have an air vent that automatically releases trapped air, so you don't need to bleed them. Though the vent can sometimes get plugged when people paint over it.
Open the Bleed Valve
Put your radiator key on the bleed valve and turn it counterclockwise about half a turn or until you start to hear the familiar hissing sound of air escaping. At this point, a little bit of water may drip from the bleed valve, so it's good to have a cloth, towel, or rag on hand to catch the drops.
For those that have a steam radiator with a plugged air vent, you may be able to clear the air hole with a thin, stiff wire or a long sewing needle. If this doesn't work, contact a radiator repair professional to assess the situation.
When you open the bleed valve, it may spit and sputter as air escapes, sending hot water flying in your direction. Take proper precautions and keep your face at a safe distance as you work.
Secure the Bleed Valve
You will know when all the air has been released from the boiler system because the bleed valve will start to release a steady stream of water. This is why you need to have a bucket in place before you begin, to avoid creating a mess on your floor. Use the radiator key to turn the bleed valve clockwise to tighten and secure it.
Repeat the Process with Your Other Radiators
After bleeding the radiator on the lowest floor that is furthest from the boiler, move to the next furthest radiator on the same floor and repeat this process to bleed the radiator.
Continue moving sequentially closer to the boiler, then repeat this sequence on the upper floors until you have finished bleeding all radiators in the home. It's a good idea to complete this task about once every year to ensure your radiators are operating efficiently.
Test the Heat
After bleeding the radiators, check the boiler to make sure that it's working properly and the boiler pressure is normal. To check the pressure, look for the water pressure gauge on the front of the boiler.
On a hydraulic gauge, you want the indicator needle to sit between 1 and 2. If it falls below 1, then there is not enough water pressure. If you have a digital gauge, there will be an alert or flashing reading to indicate if the water pressure is too low.
If the water pressure in the boiler is too low, you will need to repressurize the system. A normal water pressure reading means that you can turn the heat back on and test the radiators to ensure they are producing heat.