How To Balance Radiators Guide For Energy Efficiency

James Elston
Written by James Elston
Updated on 19th September 2023
Posted on 18th September 2023
How To Balance Radiators Guide For Energy Efficiency

How to balance radiators easily yourself – Our easy guide

With winter comes an increased need for heating and hot water, so it is always a great idea to handle any heating challenges you might have beforehand.

One such heating issue that people tend to experience is having unbalanced radiators. While it might sound strange, balancing your radiators is all about ensuring that they work effectively and efficiently, especially if you are investing in an energy efficient new boiler.

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Why should you balance your radiators?

When you turn on your heating system for the first time, every radiator in the home should heat up at the same speed to a prescribed temperature. If this doesn’t happen, and you notice that some radiators are hotter than others, you will need to balance them.

If you have recently had to suffer the cost of a new boiler, it may have potentially caused an imbalance for one reason or another when it was fitted. Balancing is the best way to sort everything out.

You should note that this can be quite a cumbersome process, so if you aren’t comfortable handling it yourself, you can always enlist the services of a professional to handle it. There are a lot of things to consider when balancing your radiators. Elements such as radiator valve layout, pipework, radiators and more have to be considered.

Nevertheless, considering that this issue is typically apparent just as the months begin to get cold, we have created this how-to balance a radiator guide for those with the experience or bravery. So if you want to know how to balance radiators with minimal fuss, then continue reading.

What Does Balancing a Radiator Really Mean?

Balancing radiators simply means turning the valves on the radiators. These valves are responsible for the amount of water flowing through all the radiators in the house, ensuring that they heat up at the same speed and equally.

Is balancing the same thing as bleeding?

replace old radiator thermostat valve

You can do two things to your radiators: you can bleed them, and you can balance them. While these terms might seem similar, they both mean different things.

For example, if you have a radiator that makes noise when it comes on or doesn’t properly heat up at the top, you need to bleed it.

Bleeding the radiator means getting rid of trapped air that stops it from functioning properly. This process is quite easy; all you need is a radiator key.

Balancing a radiator, however, simply means you need to reduce the amount of hot water that gets to the too hot radiators and increase how much flows to the colder ones. If you discover that your radiators aren’t functioning properly, it might be necessary to balance them.

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Is it worth balancing your radiators?

Imagine this scenario: the radiator in your living room gets too hot too quickly, while the one in the hallway seemingly takes forever to get just half as warm. If you face a situation like this, you must balance your radiators. Hot water is not getting distributed evenly meaning cold patches on your radiators, which is a problem you do not want to face during the winter.

Required Tools

You will need to have the following tools on standby when balancing your radiators:

  • Adjustable spanner
  • Lockshield valve key
  • Radiator bleed key
  • Screwdriver
  • Multimeter with thermometer
  • Digital thermometer

Types of Radiator Valves

Before you start balancing your radiators, you need to understand the type of radiator valves you might have in your home.

Lockshield valve

The Lockshield valve is a smaller type of radiator valve and comes with a domed plastic hood cover. Some lockshield valves come with a screw on the hood that you must take out before you can access the switch underneath the plastic hood.

You will need pliers to do this. Underneath the lockshield valve hood is what appears to be a flat-head screwdriver.

Thermostatic radiator valve (TRV)

The thermostatic radiator valve is the most widespread one used on radiators today. It is a dial with numbers on it. You can use the numbers on the dials to set the radiator’s temperature.

Manual valve

radiator manual valve

The manual valve is the original radiator valve because it only comes with 2 positions: off and on. These settings mean you can only allow the flow of water or not.

The manual valve typically has a plain, round metal top. This top can be twisted off or on.

You should note that all radiators, regardless of their design, will have a TRV or manual on the inlet; the lockshield valve will be on the outlet.

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When should you balance your radiators?

Experts recommend bleeding and balancing your radiators once every year, right at the start of the cold months. Nevertheless, there are other times when you might need to balance your radiators. They are:

  • After replacing your old boiler with a new boiler
  • After replacing your central heating pump
  • After making changes to your heating system
  • After cleansing or flushing any component in your heating system
  • After replacing your valves and radiators
  • After removing radiators for one reason or another
  • If you buy a new radiator

How long does it take to balance radiators?

You should note that the process of balancing your radiators is not as quick as bleeding them. The entire process, from start to finish, might take a couple of hours.

However, most of that time is when you are waiting for the radiators to cool down and heat up. Be patient when going through this process, knowing that when you finish, your home will be cosy and warm.

Radiator balancing – Step-by-step guide

At this point, you should have the required tools ready, so it is time to balance your radiators.

1. Turn the central heating system off.

Before you balance your radiators, you need to completely turn your central heating system off and then wait for your radiators to completely cool down.

2. Bleed the radiators

The second step to balancing your radiators is to bleed them. As stated earlier, it is a great idea to bleed them first when you want to balance your radiators. This way, you can eliminate any trapped air, resulting in your radiators heating equally. Additionally, by bleeding your radiators, you can get a more precise temperature reading. This accurate reading lets you confidently know which radiators require less water and which require more.

3. Make a list of your home’s radiators.

Making a list of your home’s radiators can help you remember which ones are too hot or cold, ensuring you don’t balance the same radiator twice.

4. Turn the radiator valves.

man adjusting radiator valves

The moment your radiators are fully cold, you should open the radiator valves on both sides of the radiator. Regardless of the design, every radiator has two valves on either end. This process involves you turning the valves anti-clockwise.

Thermostatic radiator valves and manual valves are quite easy to open, you simply need to twist them using your hands. Lockshield valves, however, have plastic hoods, and you will need to remove the hood before you can do anything.

Turn the metal valve anti-clockwise once you remove the hoods using an adjustable spanner or a lockshield valve adjuster.

5. Identify and mark the radiator that heats up the quickest

Once you complete the above steps, turn the heat on and walk around the home. Have your list in hand to identify the radiator in your home that heats up the quickest. Generally, it is the one that is closest to your boiler.

Since your home might have multiple radiators, it might be best to enlist the help of your friends or family members. Have them stay in rooms with radiators to help identify which radiator heats up the quickest. Write the order of the radiators on your list.

6. Turn your central heating system off and back on.

While this might sound like someone’s trying to take the mickey, this step is quite useful. Turn the heating off again for all your radiators to completely cool down. They should be cold to the touch before turning the heating back on.

7. Turn the lockshield valve on the quickest-warming radiator

By this point, you should have located the fastest-heating radiator. Go to it and turn the lockshield valve completely to the closed point. Once this is done, then switch it up by a quarter.

8. Measure the temperature

As soon as the radiator is hot, record the temperature where the pipes head into the wall or floor. This should be on the side with the lockshield valve. Record your findings

Once you finish this, take the temperature of the pipework located on the TRV or manual side. Record your findings.

Slowly turn the lockshield valve till you get a 12 Celsius temperature difference between both valves. The best way to do this is to take a couple of minutes in between each radiator valve adjustment. This provides enough time for the temperature to change.

9. Repeat the above steps with your other radiators

Once you have achieved the 12 Celsius temperature difference, you have successfully balanced your radiators. Remember to balance your radiators in the order they heat up. Double check your list to ensure that you have your radiator order correct.

When balancing radiators, you will discover that the number of quarter turns you need to open the lockshield valve directly correlates with how far that radiator is from the boiler. Generally, your last and slowest-heating radiator will have you completely opening the lockshield valve.

Once you have completed this process for all the radiators in your house, you’re done, and your radiators should now evenly pump out heat.

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Written by
James Elston
James Elston Director Of Boiler Central
Posted on: 18th September 2023

James Elston is our resident boiler replacement and heating expert here at Boiler Central. With over 20 years experience in the boiler installation industry, James ensures that he knows everything there is about our Gas Safe boiler installations, energy saving and home heating solutions. This can be from simply procuring the latest best combi boilers, to reviewing and ensuring that Boiler Central maintains the highest standards across our boiler installation company.

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