How to Balance Radiators: Step by Step

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Last updated: October 31, 2023

We all want an evenly heated home where every room is nice and toasty but sometimes your radiators can get out of synch, leaving your central heating a little patchy. So, if you have noticed some of your radiators are taking longer to warm up or remain cold then they may need balancing.

We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to balance radiators to help you bring back an even distribution of heat around your home.

Why Balance Radiators?

Effective heating of your home is a necessity, especially during the cold winter months when you need to keep you and your loved ones happy and warm. But if your radiators are not working at their optimum and are out of balance with the others in your central heating system, it can lead to unpleasant cold spots in your home.

An unbalanced radiator can be caused by several things, from not being fitted correctly, to a build-up of debris or general wear and tear. The result is an uneven distribution of hot water from your boiler. Left out of kilter, this will create patchy heating, with cold or excessively hot areas that don’t make for a cosy home. But, by balancing your radiator to bring the speed it heats up back in line with your other radiators, you can create an efficiently heated house that’s a joy to live in.

Related Post: 5 Ways to Prepare Your Boiler For Winter

house interior with radiator

What Is The Difference Between Bleeding & Balancing Radiators?

Balancing a radiator is a different process to bleeding a radiator and shouldn’t be confused although they can be used together to sort out a cold or poorly functioning radiator problem.

Bleeding a radiator aims to fix a single radiator that’s not heating up due to trapped air inside. If your radiator makes a noise when the heating comes on or has cold spots at the top, then it’s likely they need bleeding, using a radiator bleeding key.

When balancing a radiator, you are evening up patchy hot water flow across all the radiators in your home to bring the colder radiators back in line with the rest. So, if your living room radiator remains lukewarm but the radiator in the hallway gets to full heat really quickly, then your radiators need balancing.

What Tools Will You Need?

Balancing your radiators is a pretty straightforward process but you do need a little know-how and the right tools for the job.

To balance your radiators, you will need:

  • The radiator bleed key
  • Screwdriver
  • Lockshield valve key or an adjustable spanner
  • Digital thermometer or a multimeter with a thermometer

If you are in any doubt about doing it yourself, call out an engineer who can do it for you.

How Long Does it Take to Balance Radiators?

As balancing radiators means working with every radiator in your home, the process can be lengthy as it’s more complex than simply bleeding a single radiator. Depending on how many radiators you have in your house, it will most likely take the best part of a day, but the time and effort is worth it for an evenly heated, toasty home.

How to Balance Radiators — Step by Step Guide

If you’re ready to balance your own radiators and have all the right tools, then follow our eight steps to getting your heating back in line:

ONE: Turn off your heating system

To successfully balance your radiators, they need to be completely cold so start by turning off your central heating and let all the radiators cool down. You can also help to make your final temperature readings more accurate by bleeding your radiators first, so any air collected inside is released.

TWO: Know your valves

While waiting for your radiators to fully cool, now is a good time to familiarise yourself with the valves as they may differ, especially if you have radiators of different ages or models.

  • Lockshield radiator valves will have a cover that needs to be removed. You will also need a lockshield key or adjustable spanner to open this control valve.
  • Manual, wheelhead or control radiator valves is an older type of valve which only has two positions – on or off.
  • Thermostatic radiator valves (TRV) are on most modern radiators. This radiator valve looks like a dial which can be turned by hand.

Whichever types and combination of valves you have, you will need to open them all up fully on every radiator in your house, by turning them anti-clockwise.

THREE: Make a list of all your radiators

On a piece of paper, make a list of all your radiators, noting which room they are in, and their position. You’ll need this to record the order in which your radiators heat up.

FOUR: Identify your fastest heating radiators

Once all the radiators have cooled down and the valves are fully open, turn them back on and write down on your list the number order in which they heat back up. The fastest radiators are most likely going to be the radiators nearest the boiler, which should give you a head start as you walk around the house!

FIVE: Turn off, turn on…again

Once you have the order of fastest to slowest radiators to heat up, turn the heating off again, leave your radiators to cool fully then switch the heating back on. You now need to head to the fastest heating radiator on your list.

SIX: Open up the fastest heating radiator

Go to the first radiator and turn the valves on this radiator so they are fully closed, before opening again by one quarter turn.

SEVEN: Take a temperature reading of the first radiator

Once you feel the radiator heating up, you need your digital thermometer or multimeter to take the temperature and assess its heat output.

  • First measure the temperature of the pipework next to the lockshield radiator valves
  • Then measure the temperature of the pipework on the opposite side of the radiator, next to the manual or TRV valve

You now need to very slowly turn the lockshield valve clockwise until the difference between the two temperature readings is exactly 12°c. Take your time to open the lockshield valve and when you get to this 12°c difference, the radiator is balanced.

EIGHT: Repeat!

Now repeat this process with all your other radiators – in the order they heat up from fastest to slowest – and your heating balance will be beautifully restored!

Man is repairing radiator battery in the room

What if This Doesn’t Solve the Problem?

If, after following the steps to balancing your radiators, the issue still remains, then it’s possible that you have a problem that needs additional, more expert attention. Possible causes include a weak boiler pump or sludge and debris that’s restricting the flow of hot water around your central heating system. Or it could be that your boiler is past its best and may need replacing

At this point, it is wise to call out a heating engineer who can fully assess the situation and more accurately identify the underlying problem so you can get it remedied and bring your home back to full and even heating comfort.

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  1. How to balance radiators – Viessmann
  2. Consumer Guide: Balancing the central heating system – Heating & Hotwater Industry Counsil
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