How to balance a radiator system

When looking to get your central heating working to the optimum it is always best to balance the system. It is fair enough to try explain how to do it but firstly it is important to understand why and what it is. It is great to have a new central heating system and a new boiler and radiators but if it is not set up properly then you will have inefficient heat where you need it. So firstly choosing the correct radiators based on the output that you need for the room that you can easily and quickly work out using our BTU calculator, which will even submit possible actual rads for you. Once you have calculated the rads and had them installed you would hope that the installer doing the job will balance the system but sometimes they do not. If you are adding or changing to new radiators you may need to balance them. The rule of thumb is to balance radiators when they are first installed to ensure they work effectively.

Baker's of Danbury - Frith Farm

OK, great so what is balancing the system?

In terms of step by step instructions the process is actually quite simple. As you are aware most systems today are on a two pipe arrangement that has flow and return into the boiler. Hot water coming from the boiler and going around the circuit and come back into the boiler via the last radiator at a lower temperature. In the system there will be rads, and these are the heat emitters which in most cases rely on convection to circulate the air in the room, hot rising and cold at the bottom. So often the first radiator on the system, the closest is generally the hottest and then obviously going down in temperature as you go away from the boiler. The end of the radiator chain will be the coldest. So the principles are fairly straight forward and what balancing the system is trying to accomplish is that every radiator on the system operates at a pretty similar temperature. In theory the term should be how to “balance the temperature of a radiator system”.

If your radiator has cold spots, then balancing them will not help! You may need to look at another task, such as bleeding the radiators. Radiator bleeding is another simple job that you can do yourself. However if you have a lot of radiators and they progressively become colder along the chain and the last is luke warm or there is a steady temperature drop across the range of radiators then you may need to balance them. In theory this is a simple DIY job but in practice it can become more complex due to the way the radiators are arranged in the home heating system.

This is all great, but in most cases systems are added to or changed and pipework is utilised where existing and so on. Finding the first radiator or even the sequence order can be a problem. The only option is to turn on the heating and follow the heat around the rads. Once you have the sequence, you then need to establish the temperature of each radiator and see whether there is a common result across all. Good luck so far and if you are already confused then get a plumber in to do the work. If you have just had column rads fitted from our Revive collection then get him or her back and with their thermometer.

It is important to note that for balancing radiators correctly you will need an accurate digital thermometer to take temperature readings so that you can establish what the temperature difference is. The cost of a decent digital thermometer may be more than the cost of the plumber, so unless you're a DIY'er who is looking to do this sort of task on a more regular basis, then it may not be cost effective. In addition, this job will take more than just a couple of minutes to do for the non-professional so pencil in some time to do this task properly. You may not really need a heating engineer to do this, but it can be fiddly and impossible if you don't know what the different temperatures are since the only way to do this job properly is to take readings of the temperature of the pipe at the individual radiators. Hence a tool with a thermometer function is necessary.

If you wish to continue with the balancing then the way to create a constant temperature across the whole system is to limit the heated water flowing through the system. You can do this by changing the valve fixed to the return pipe on the radiators. Basically there is a flow and return pipe on every rad in most cases. This will be hotter than the one leaving the rad and again will only be determined by turning the system on.

Once you have established the sequence of rads on the system and the flow and return pipes then you can start limiting what leaves the rads using the radiator valve. Thermostatic valves (TRVs) should be fitted on the flow pipe only as these work best here. The lock shield valve /wheelhead valve or return valve needs to now be restricted or opened up to limit or increase the temperature of that radiator. This valve is hidden under a removable plastic cap. You then can start balancing individual rads and the rest of the radiators to a mean temperature across the system.

Great easy and now you have a perfectly efficient system with beautiful radiators supplied by Columnrads. If not call an installer and give us an email and we will try and help you.

If you still need help, see the video below.