Removing a radiator is a job that many people might shy away from but it’s not that difficult if you know your heating system, take it step by step and have the right tools available. Whether you are removing a traditional wide radiator or a more modern panel style, the concept is the same. By isolating the radiator but leaving the valves attached to the pipes leading to and from the radiator, it can be taken off without having to drain the whole system.
Safety first is the watchword with anything around the house and working with plumbing and heating is no exception. The first step is to turn off the heating and wait for the radiators and pipes to cool down. Then the radiator valves at either end need to be closed to isolate it.
One of the valves will be larger than the other, this is the control valve, which should be screwed down clockwise. This might have a thermostatic valve fitted, which may or may not have an ‘off’ position.
Thermostatic Radiator Valves
Note that this is different from a frost position (usually marked with a star). If you take a radiator off with a thermostatic valve set at the frost position, there’s a chance that the temperature in the room might drop to a point where it opens and floods the room.
If there’s an off switch, set the valve to that position and unscrew it at the collar below the valve. It should be only hand-tight, if you use a spanner on this nut there is a risk that you will dislodge the lower valve assembly from the copper pipe. Again, this is not such a good idea as water will gush everywhere. If there’s no off switch for a thermostatic valve you will have to fit a special screw down dust cover which fits in place of the sensor to close the valve properly. If you don’t have any they can be bought from plumbing supply shops.
Dealing with the Second Radiator Valve
At the other end the smaller valve (known as the lockshield valve) must be closed but it’s important to count the number of turns it took to close it. This is because it controls the balancing of the system and you will need to put it back to the same position otherwise the radiators will not be uniformly warm around the house.
To check that the radiator is successfully isolated, unscrew the bleed valve at the top of the radiator with a rag and have a bowl ready just in case. Some water will come out but it should stop after a short while. Keep the bleed valve open as the air coming into the radiator will help the emptying process.
Emptying the Water from the Radiator
Now it’s time to empty the radiator, which is done by unscrewing the union nuts that secure the valve bodies to the bottom of the radiator at each end. Before starting make sure you have plenty of rags on the floor under the radiator (old towels if possible), a bucket and a bowl or large tray to catch the water.
At this point you need to be even more careful of accidentally wrenching the valve from the pipe. Starting at the control valve end, use a plumbers wrench to hold the valve assembly while you apply pressure to the union nut. Water will begin to come out as the nut loosens. A panel radiator is easier to deal with as there will be good access to the union nuts, but with wider traditional radiators it might be harder to get a large amount of movement on the nut. They are also more likely to be rusted on.
As each bowl or tray fills, close the joint again and empty the water into the bucket, then open it up again. Eventually the radiator will be empty and you can finish unscrewing the union nut.
Then Take it Away!
Undo the union nut at the other end, there will be some water but not a great deal. Once both ends are clear you should be able to lift the radiator off it’s radiator brackets and carry it away. With a traditional radiator the wall brackets might be bolted on. Check this out beforehand and if that’s the case, it’s easier to undo them before you disconnect the pipes,