How to replace a radiator in your home

There are lots of reasons you might need to change a radiator in your home. It might have stopped working completely or may not be working as well as it normally does. 

Rust and damage are two good reasons for replacing a radiator. Or maybe you just want to upgrade your radiator to something a bit more in keeping with your décor. 

Whatever the reason for replacing your radiator, it’s important to keep everything well maintained and working as it should so that you aren’t left without central heating when you need it the most.

In this post, we’ll explore how to replace a radiator in your home.  

How do I know if I need a new radiator?

Replacing your radiators is probably not something you’ve considered up to now. After all, you’d expect the radiators in your home to last a long time. Like most things, though, they don’t last forever. 

At some point, you may have to look at changing a radiator in your home.

Wear and tear, bumps, and scrapes can all contribute to the length of time your radiators will keep performing at their best. 

If you’ve noticed that your home isn’t feeling as warm as it used to, but you haven’t got any issues with your hot water, it could be a sign that your radiators aren’t performing. 

If that’s the case, it’s not all bad news! New, modern radiators are much more advanced than older models, meaning they’re more energy efficient, and upgrading them could save you money on your energy bills. 

The question is, do you need a plumber to change a radiator, or can you do it yourself? 

Is installing a radiator a big job?

As with anything home improvement-related, if you’re not confident replacing a radiator, you should enlist the help of a professional. 

Changing a radiator for a model that’s the same is relatively easy as long as the pipes and brackets are in the same place. 

You should also check the depth as some radiators might sit closer to or further away from the wall. 

If you’re not experienced at changing radiators, there’s a chance that some water will escape during the process, and you could end up with damaged flooring or walls, making it an expensive job. 

If you’re considering upgrading to a different style or size of radiator, then it’s worth getting a plumber involved. 

We’ve already mentioned that the pipes may not be in the same place, but it’s also essential to ensure your boiler can cope with a bigger radiator if that’s the route you’re going down.      

Using a wrench to turn off the valve on a radiator

How to prepare for changing a radiator

You’ve done your research on how to replace a radiator. You’ve decided on the style, size, and colour of the replacement. But what should you be doing to prepare for the replacement of your radiator?

Here are a few pointers.

  • Be sure of your measurements – if they differ, you’ll need a plumber.
  • Ensure you have the right tools for the job.
  • Make sure your heating system is turned off and cooled down.
  • Clear the space where you’ll be working – there’s nothing worse than not having enough space to move. 
  • Shut off the radiator, or radiators, being replaced by closing the valves and bleeding any water from the radiator before removal. 
  • You’ll need a jug or bucket to catch the water you’re about to drain from the valve.
  • Towels are handy to have close by in case of any spillages. 

Can you install a new radiator without draining the system?

If you’re feeling confident and armed with the knowledge to replace a radiator in your home, you’ll need to start by draining the water from the radiator you are removing. 

If you’re only replacing one or two radiators, draining the whole system is not usually necessary. 

The water supply to the radiator will stop when you close the valves, but you still need to ensure the central heating is switched off and the system has cooled down thoroughly before starting the job. 

The valves close by turning them to the right. You’ll need an adjustable spanner to loosen the nut once the valve is closed. 

Carefully does it here so that you allow a little water out at a time, not a deluge! 

Once all the water is drained, you can remove the valve and take the radiator from its brackets. 

There may be a bit of water spillage during removal, so keep some towels handy to protect the floor. 

Is it okay to buy a second-hand radiator? 

There are some good deals to be had on second-hand radiators, but you should be cautious when you’re choosing anything pre-loved. While it might look fine on the outside, it’s possible that it’s corroded on the inside.

For original period radiators, it’s worth buying from a professional reclaimer so you can be sure it’s been refurbished inside and out.

Remember also that second-hand radiators are much less energy efficient than modern radiators, so while it might be cheaper to buy upfront, it will cost you more to run.   

Do you need a plumber to change a radiator?  

If you’re replacing a radiator in your home with a like-for-like model, it’s possible to do the work yourself. However, if you’re upgrading to something that doesn’t match up with the pipes and brackets already in place, you’ll need help from a plumber.  

Arton Plumbing and Heating is a local family-run business providing plumbing and heating services to Maidstone and the surrounding areas. 

Our friendly Gas Safe registered engineers are qualified to repair and replace your existing central heating system and radiators.

We work with our clients to minimise any disruption during our work, and we pride ourselves on looking after your home as though it was our own. 

We’re well known for providing excellent customer service, so you can rest assured that you’re in good hands. Our five-star reviews speak for themselves!  If you found this article helpful, you might also enjoy our post on dealing with frozen and burst pipes.

FAQs on how to change a radiator

In this section, Arton’s Technical Service Manager, Lee Wenham, answers your frequently asked questions on how to replace a radiator in your home.

Is it easy to change a radiator?

Changing a radiator can be a manageable DIY task for homeowners with basic plumbing skills and the right tools. However, it’s important to note that working with a heating system involves potential risks, and if you’re not comfortable or experienced with plumbing, it’s advisable to seek professional help.

When should you replace a radiator?

If your radiator is showing signs of extensive corrosion, persistent leaks, uneven heating, or visible damage, it may be time to replace it.

Consider upgrading an outdated or inefficient radiator, especially if you’re facing frequent repairs or compatibility issues with system upgrades. Reduced efficiency and changes in home layout can also prompt replacement.

If your radiator is obsolete, difficult to repair, or parts are scarce, investing in a new, more reliable unit is likely the most practical solution.

How long does it take to replace a radiator?

The time it takes to replace a radiator can vary depending on factors such as experience, complexity of the installation, and whether any unexpected issues arise.

On average, a straightforward radiator replacement by a skilled individual may take around 2 to 4 hours. This includes draining the system, removing the old radiator, installing the new one, and refilling the system.

You should allocate additional time for any adjustments, system bleeding, and potential complications. If you’re not experienced with plumbing or heating systems, enlist the help of a professional to ensure a smooth and safe installation process.

Can you remove a radiator without draining the system?

It’s generally not recommended to remove a radiator without draining the heating system. Draining ensures safety, prevents water damage, and allows for the removal of air pockets.

Follow proper procedures: turn off the heating system, drain the system using a radiator bleed key or valve, disconnect the radiator, and seal exposed pipes. If uncertain, consult the heating system manual or seek professional assistance to avoid complications.

Post author

Lee Wenham

Date of post

April 17, 2023


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