Q: What do I do if my radiator panel is leaking?

This is due to the metal corroding/rusting, and the first sign of it happening is that the floor under the radiator gets wet when the heating is on. The first thing to do is to turn off both radiator valves to stop any more fluid being lost from the pipe system, which can affect the boiler and the rest of the radiators. Place a container under the radiator to catch any more drips of fluid.

If you don't have any plumbing knowledge it would be more cost effective to employ a qualified plumber/heating engineer to do the work required - the immediate emergency has been dealt with, and you can afford to get some quotes for the work to be done. It shouldn't cost an arm and a leg, as radiator panels are readily available for most plumbing merchants if it's a standard style (i.e. a flat straight panel, not once that has been bowed for a curved wall like a bay window). So for the cost of the radiator panel and a few hours' labour time, the work should be completed to a satisfactory level.

For those of you who feel they have good mechanical experience and the correct tools, then you may want to attempt it yourself. Firstly you will have to measure the width and height of the radiator panel, and determine the style of radiator. If you're not sure, stand as close as possible to it, look directly down at the top and take a photo of the top edge. Show the assistant at the plumbing merchant and they'll be able to give you a similar one.

Once you have purchased the radiator you will need to drain the old one and dismantle the fittings. The tools required for the change-over are a masonry drill and drill-bit of the appropriate size for the wall plug you will be using (red wall plugs and a 6mm masonry drill-bit for example). Use pozi-drive screws rather than slotted head ones, as there's less chance of the screwdriver slipping. When using the driver, the screw should be at least an inch and a half to two inches long for large radiators.

For plasterboard walls a toggle bolt is one of the many fixings suitable for this type of wall. You'll need two adjustable spanners, a radiator bleed key and possibly a radiator valve key (this looks like an oversized Allen key). With the two adjustable spanners, one is used to hold the top of the radiator valve (with the head taken off) to stop it rocking on the pipe when you undo the nut to panel connection. For draining and disconnection, if you have a combination boiler turn the heating controls off so that the heating system cools down before starting on the replacement. Then affter changing the radiator you will need to repressurize the system to 1 Bar for up to 10 radiators. If you have a standard or back boiler the heating controls still need to be off, so that the pump is not running when you refill the exchanged radiator.

Before starting to drain you might want to put a bin liner on the floor with an old towel on top to catch any spills you might get under the radiator valve. When the radiator starts to drain from the nut you will need to open the little air bleed at the top on one end to allow all the fluid to drain out. When this has finished, again put a bin liner and old towel under the the other radiator valve. Now you can undo both valve-to-panel nuts all the way.

With these nuts undone, and depending on the size of the radiator you will have to gently move the pipes with the valves on towards the wall to enable you to put your thumb over the hole that will be there on the radiator. Lift the radiator off the brackets, keeping your thumbs over the holes and the radiator vertical so that it can be taken to a safe area to drain any sludge that occurs at the bottom of the radiator down a sewer drain.

The new radiator can be dressed with the new fittings for the top and the old fittings at the bottom. As for the joining of the new radiator and valves, it will have to be hung on new brackets. Then you can join the valves and the panel together via the nuts, again using the two adjustable spanners to do up the valve nuts in the same way you undone them. Make sure that the new air bleed at the top of the radiator is shut, and open both radiator valves at the same time to allow the pressure from both pipes to refill the radiator panel. You can then bleed the air from the valve at the top at one end until water comes out. For a combination boiler you will need to refill the system to 1 Bar, via the filling point directly under the boiler. With the pressure obtained turn the filling point off. With a standard/back boiler this will self-fill from the little plastic container in the loft. With the radiator bled of air it will be safe to turn the heating controls back on and get the radiators hot again.

- Mark Lewis

 

After reading this are you tempted to have a go at this or various other DIY tasks yourself? Or even considering a new career as a professional plumber? At Access Training we provide a number of professional plumbing courses suitable for whether you're looking to gain industry-standard qualifications and become a plumber or simply looking to gain some new skills for your home renovation projects. For more information contact us on 0800 345 7294.