There are a number of reasons you might want to remove a radiator from your property. Perhaps you're looking to upgrade your entire central heating system or maybe you simply want to paint or tile behind an existing radiator. Whatever your reason, if you're going to remove a radiator it's important to do it properly to avoid draining your central heating and flooding your property. Firstly, if you're only looking to paint behind your radiator, you should consider purchasing a mini roller or radiator roller instead. These small, long handled paint rollers let you paint behind radiators without needing to move the radiator unit, so they provide a quick, convenient alternative. If you need to remove your radiator for any other reason, this article should provide a quick guide.
As always, this is only a general guide to radiator removal and it's important to not perform any DIY task that you're uncomfortable with. If you're removing or replacing several radiators, or don't have the proper tools, it might be better to simply hire a plumber. If you'd prefer to try it yourself, here are some of the important steps you need to follow when removing a radiator. This process shouldn't take long but be careful and take your time, especially if you haven't done it before.
You'll only need a few tools to remove a radiator but it's best to have these to hand before starting so you don't get caught short at a critical moment. The most important tools you'll need are a radiator bleed key, a spanner that fits the radiator nuts (or an adjustable one), adjustable grips (it's better to be safe than sorry), old towels and some kind of tray (a painter's rolling tray is ideal) to absorb or catch any water.
It's helpful if you're able to move your radiator pipes a little but this won't always be possible, for example if they are set in a concrete floor. If they can't be moved, it'll just be a little more difficult to maneuver your tools but you should still be able to remove your radiator easily enough, with some extra effort.
It's also important to note whether or not you have pressurised or gravity-fed central heating. If you don't know this already, you can check to see whether there is a pressure gauge on the front of your boiler or in your airing cupboard. Your gauge should have two indicators on it, one for the current pressure and one for the ideal pressure; if this isn't the case, make a note of the current pressure as you'll want to restore it to the same level when you're finished. If you have a hot water tank in your loft, you're almost certainly using a gravity-fed system and won't need to worry about the water pressure.
Before you think about removing your radiator, the first and most important step is to shut off the water supply to the unit. While you could shut off your property's water supply entirely, this is unnecessary and won't make much difference to the large volume of water that is already flowing through your central heating system. Instead, you'll want to shut off the water supply to the radiator you're removing by closing its lock shield. This is a small valve, usually concealed by a plastic cover, on one of the pipes that feeds into the radiator. Use a spanner to turn the valve right in order to shut off the valve. Make a quick note of how far you have to turn your spanner to close the valve, so you know how to return it to its original position after replacing the radiator.
Next, you'll need to bleed the radiator. First, place a bucket or tray directly under the bleed valve as you're looking to drain the radiator, not simply to release air, so you'll should expect a fair amount of water. Do this as you would any other time, by inserting the radiator key into the bleed valve and opening it. Any escaping water should end up in your tray beneath the radiator and it should stop within about five minutes. There are some specialist kits that will help you drain radiators with a minimum of mess but they shouldn't be necessary, so long as you cover the surrounding area and keep an eye on how much water is flowing out of your radiators.
If, after five minutes, water is still flowing from the bleed valve then it's possible that the radiator's lock valve isn't functioning properly and you won't be able to remove the radiator in this way. Hopefully it works perfectly and, after wiping away the last few drops of pressurised water, you'll be ready to progress to the next step.
After bleeding the radiator, it's time to fully drain it. You can achieve this by using your spanner to loosen the nut attached to the lock valve on the radiator's side. Again, make sure to place your tray underneath it as you'll likely be dealing with considerably more water this time. It shouldn't take long for water to start seeping out and flowing down into your tray. This process can take a while but we recommend keeping a close eye on it, to avoid the tray overflowing and staining your carpet with dirty water. If the tray fills up, tighten the nut to shut off the water flow, empty the tray and then continue the process. While you might not be able to avoid a couple of drips falling onto the floor, a handily placed towel should prevent any serious water-based calamity. Once you're satisfied that the radiator has been drained, it's time to remove it.
Before removing your radiator, take a moment to study the brackets that are holding it in place. Bracket designs can vary greatly so it's important to have some idea of how they function before taking them apart. Once you're comfortable with the brackets, place a towel under the nut at the other end of the radiator and then undo it. Again, some water might escape but there shouldn't be enough to cause a major issue if you've already drained the radiator properly.
Tighten the bleed key to help prevent any spillages while moving your radiator. Now, loosen the brackets and lift one end of the radiator to encourage any remaining water to flow out into your tray at the opposite end. This might take a while so you can always prop up the end instead of having to hold it for quarter of an hour, just make sure that it's stable before leaving it.
Now you can finish removing the radiator from its brackets and move it out of the way. If you're only temporarily removing it, make sure you keep the various nuts and screws somewhere obvious and lean the radiator somewhere convenient. If not, take it away and you can bring in your shiny new replacement. Reinstalling the radiator should be straightforward as it's simply a case of completing the same steps in reverse order but without the lengthy periods of draining water from the unit. If you've bought a new radiator, there should be instructions included which detail how to install it but most designs tend to be similar in how they are installed.
The basic steps you'll want to take are to mount your radiator back on its brackets and attach all the necessary pipes, then open the valves. Unlock the bleed valve before refilling the radiator as there will be a large amount of air that needs to be vented as water floods the unit. Your central heating might lose some pressure as a result of having to fill this radiator so check your boiler and top up the pressure if needed. It's also worth adding some inhibitor to ensure your system functions properly and reduce the formation of rust in your pipes and radiators.
If you are looking to install a brand new radiator, HeatandPlumb.com offer a vast range of high quality designer radiators in every style imaginable.