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How to replace a radiator

installer looking at a tablet whilst touching a radiator

Why might I need to replace my radiators?

There are many reasons why you might need to replace your radiator. If you’re experiencing loss of heating performance - partially or completely - or simply want to update the style of radiator in a specific room, you’ll need to ensure you take the necessary precautions to safely remove an old radiator and install your new radiator. Before considering a radiator replacement, we recommend contacting a certified boiler technician to review & diagnose the problem.

There can be quite a few benefits to replacing an old radiator, including improved heating performance and energy efficiency, so it’s worth checking your heating system periodically to ensure the best performance year-after-year.

Finally, as with all home improvement and DIY projects, if you ever feel uncomfortable or are unsure about the work you’re performing, please contact a trained professional to handle the job.

We’ve listed the tools necessary for the task at hand below, so make sure that you’ve got everything required to replace your radiator successfully, should you decide to perform this work yourself. Many new radiators will come with the required fittings to install, but ensure you have everything at your disposal once you begin the task, as it can be quite involved and you won’t want to go without heating for an extended period of time if parts are missing. As with all advanced home improvement, always opt to have a certified technician perform the task when possible.

  • Spirit level
  • Radiator key
  • Adjustable pipe wrench
  • Adjustable spanner
  • Tape measure
  • Dust sheet or towels
  • Screwdriver
  • Container for use when bleeding the radiator
  • Digital detector
  • Large allen key
  • Hammer drill or drill driver
  • A masonry drill bit suitable for use with the wall plug
  • PTE tape
It’s also worth reviewing the condition of the wall behind the radiator, as well as at any intended mounting points for the new wall brackets. If the wall is damaged, such as crumbling or cracking plaster, you may need to perform repairs ahead of installing the new radiator to ensure safe installation.

Step by step installation of a radiator Here’s everything you need to get your old radiator removed and your new radiator installed.

  1. 1

    Prepare your old radiator to be replaced by turning off your central heating and isolating the radiator.

    To complete this step, you will need to first turn off your central heating and switch the required valves off either side of your radiator. The valves are typically located on the pipes to the left and right of the radiator and can be one of three types. Manual valves must be turned clockwise until they cannot turn further. Thermostatic valves need to be turned all the way to zero or off - not simply to a frost protection setting. Finally, lockshield valves need to have the plastic protective cap removed and turned clockwise using an adjustable wrench.

    When adjusting the valves, note the number of turns made or the setting on the thermostatic valve to ensure flow rate and performance is retained.

  2. 2

    You need to drain the radiator before removing it.

    Ensure you have a container placed beneath the manual control valve to catch any water that leaks out as your radiator drains. Use an adjustable wrench to loosen the nuts on the valve and allow for the radiator to drain. You may need to hold the valve in place with a second wrench should this prove difficult.

  3. 3

    Open the bleed valve at the top of your radiator to allow water to drain.

    The bleed valve is found at the top of the radiator and will require a radiator key or screwdriver (system depending). Simply turn this until water begins to drain from the system. This can take time and older systems may have murky or dirty water, so be sure your container can hold all the water. To ensure all the water is drained, it can be wise to lift the radiator off it’s brackets and tilting it, though be sure to do so with care and with another person for added safety. To ensure utmost safety, we recommend hiring a certified boiler technician to avoid unintended injury or damage to persons or the heating system itself.

  4. 4

    Remove the radiator from the brackets and prepare the new radiator for installation.

    Once all the water has drained, fully remove the radiator from the brackets and place it aside. It’s highly unlikely that your new radiator will fit onto the existing brackets, so take this opportunity to remove the brackets from the wall.

    Mark where your new brackets need to be installed to properly mount the radiator and check what’s behind this area with a digital detector - this will identify any pipes, cables or obstructions you need to be aware of before drilling into the wall. This step is one of the most accident-prone of all and to avoid any damage to your heating system, ensure you contact a professional to ensure this step is completed safely and effectively.

  5. 5

    Install the new brackets and mount your new radiator.

    The exact process will depend on your brackets and radiator of choice, but this should be fairly straightforward. Simply drill the required holes and then screw the brackets onto the wall, mounting the radiator once you’ve confirmed the brackets are secure. Ensure to properly measure the bracket spacing and height on your wall, in order to ensure a proper mount for your radiator.

  6. 6

    Reconnect the radiator to your central heating system.

    You will need to connect the pipes to the new radiator and ensure the connecting valve nuts are secure and tightly fastened, using PTE tape around each joint. Wrap PTE tape around each joint clockwise approximately 10 times. Return the valves to the original settings or turns, then slightly open the bleed valve to allow the radiator to fill with water. Once water bubbles at the bleed valve, your radiator is full and the bleed valve can be closed.

    Ensure to check for any leakage from the system and keep cloth or towels on the floor until the installation is complete. At this point, your radiator should be functioning correctly and you’ve completely replaced your radiator!

    Depending on the type of heating system you have, you might need to top up your boiler and heating system’s pressure after swapping your radiators to replace the water you drained from the old radiator. We’ve made a handy guide to help you do this, find out more by clicking here.

    If you’re ever unsure during any of the above steps or want confirmation the replacement has been completed successfully, always consider speaking to a certified professional.