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Avoid Getting Ripped Off
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Avoid Getting Ripped Off
Before you call the Local Plumber?


So you've bled your radiators, but still your home is not warm enough. What else can you do without calling in the plumber?

Plenty of homeowners are happy to do a bit of DIY but steer clear of anything to do with plumbing or heating. However, lets now take a look at how easy it is to service radiators and improve the efficiency of your central heating system without calling in that expensive plumber.

But what if you suspect a radiator is badly clogged or corroded and needs replacements. What about adding an extra radiator or fitting thermostatic valves? Are these jobs for the plumber or can you do this work easily yourself too?

Even if you decide that you'd rather get in the plumber, with a little extra knowledge you can at least decide what needs doing a valuable skill of making sure you don't get ripped off on extra jobs that is not required.
The Exact Work Required


When the central heating system breaks down completely, you'll usually have a condition to help your decision. For example, if the boiler doesn't start first check gas and electricity supplies, pilot light etc. But if the central heating system is just downright inefficient where should you start to look?

If it's just one or two radiators that don't get warm enough even though others in you home work fine then first check the suspect radiator is not actually turned off by one of the valves.
Radiator Valves


There are two control valves for each radiator. One is for ‘domestic' control and has an easily turn-able knob or even a (TRV) temperature control valve. The other is used as a balancing valve often called a lock-shield valve. Used as a means to restrict the flow of hot water to a particular radiator on the heating circuit. This will ensure that all other radiators in the house get their equal supply of the hot water. It is often covered with a top that is not turn-able and this must be removed to gain access to the spindle, which can be turned by using the head from another other valve.
Balancing Valves


In many systems, particularly those with thermostatic valves this second valve is used for balancing and is set accordingly. As with most valve controls, turning the spindle anticlockwise opens the valve.

Another reason for one or two radiators to run cooler is because they are on the end of a long run of pipes, particularly if the pipes feed other radiators on the way. Ask yourself if these other radiators really need to be as hot and if not; start turn them down using the balancing valve as described. This may enable enough hot water to reach the radiators at the end of the run to suit your comfort needs.

Of course, the radiator may be under sized for the size or position of the room in the house or completely clogged up. To try to decide what is wrong with this type of situation, ask yourself if the system was working last winter, or if anything else has changed.
Pump Failure


It is possible for the pump to fail and the central heating system to still partially work, so a check on the pump is worthwhile. Feeling the pump for vibration with a gloved or otherwise heat-protected hand will determine if the pump is running and in a newer system this will be a valid test. But it is possible for the pump impeller to be badly eroded and a ‘feel' test will not prove this. Generally however, if the pump fails the radiators do not get very warm at all and the boiler will turn off frequently from overheating.
Older Properties


In older properties, the original installation may have only been designed to heat part of the house and if the system has been extended over the years the boiler may not be sufficiently powerful to run it. If you notice that in cold weather the boiler hardly ever turns off and the return pipes to the boiler run cool then this is likely to be the problem. The solution is to fit a more powerful boiler and this is a job for the professional.

On the other hand, if the boiler turns off frequently (before the room thermostat temperature is reached) and the return pipe to the boiler is hot, then chances are that either the flow through part of the system is restricted (by one of the problems above) or the boiler has plenty of capacity and bigger (or more) radiators can be safely fitted.

In the later case all the radiators will be running hot, but the rooms may not be getting warm enough.
Room Thermostat


In many homes a single control thermostat, usually sited in the hall controls the central heating system. Unfortunately, this arrangement doesn't take into account local variations in temperature, and some rooms may become too hot or cold unless you keep adjusting the manual radiator valves. The answer to this is to fit thermostatic valves, which open and close automatically in response to room temperature thus using the boiler capacity more efficiently.
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