With the winter months fast approaching, it's important that your heating system is working properly for you and your family. The majority of system failures occur in winter due to frozen pipes and blockages, so it's best to get any problem sorted out well in advance so that you can enjoy a cozy Christmas at home with your family. If you're having radiator problems, read on to find out the causes and how to fix them. 

Radiator Warm at Bottom But Cold at Top

This is one of the more common heating issues, where your radiator is warming up at the bottom end but feels cold at the top. This is a fairly straightforward problem indicating trapped air within the system. If air has become trapped within your radiator, it will tend to rise to the top forming a protective "pocket" that stops hot water circulating that area. 

In order to fix this, you'll have to bleed the radiator. This can be done as follows: 

  • Turn off your central heating, remembering to turn off the pump so that no more air is forced into the radiator. 
  • Use you radiator key (hopefully close by!) to turn the brass nut at the top left or right corner of the radiator. If you don't have a radiator key, you can usually pick one up cheaply at your nearest hardware store. 
  • Place a bucket or large towel on the ground near the area of the radiator you're working on. Turn the radiator key 90 degrees anti-clockwise until the air begins to release from within the system. 
  • Allow all of the air to release, after which dirty water should begin to squirt into your bucket or onto the towel. 
  • Close the valve and check the system again after about 30 minutes to be sure there is no leakage. 

Radiator Warm at Top But Cold at Bottom

This is a typical symptom of radiators that are full of sludge. Unfortunately, even though it may only be one radiator that is suffering at present, chances are the others are heading in the same direction. 

If your radiator is a modern steel unit, check for any corrosion deposits or rust around the ends. If there is a significant build up of rust in certain areas, considering replacing the radiator. Otherwise, if your radiator is free of corrosion damage, then proceed to drain the system. This can be done by removing the radiator from the wall and flushing the contents out with a typical garden hose. 

There are various sludge remover products on the market that you can try, however if the system is full to the brim with sludge then these products won't be very effective. In this situation, you will have to "power flush" your radiator. Power flushing your radiator isn't an easy thing to do, so you should avoid power flushing the system by yourself at all costs. Instead, call out a heating engineer with the correct skills and experience to troubleshoot your problem and carry out the repairs. 

Only the Upstairs or Downstairs Radiators Are Working

It is very common for either the upstairs or downstairs radiators to fail independently of the other radiators in your home. 

Upstairs Radiators Aren't Working

If the radiators in your upstairs bedrooms and hall aren't working properly, then the feed and expansion tank has likely run dry. This can either be indicative of a more severe problem, or it can simply mean the ball valve in the tank isn't working as intended. In order to check the latter, try the following: 

  • Check the ball valve and clear any obstructions that may be in its path. 
  • Fill the cistern and check to make sure there is enough room for water expansion when the system gets hot. 
  • When the system cools, there should be enough water to float the ball and no more. 

If this isn't the case, then your upstairs radiators have a more sinister problem. In such cases, you should contact your local heating engineer from a site like http://www.bescoair.net to troubleshoot the problem for you. 

Downstairs Radiators Aren't Working

The reason your upstairs radiators are working independently of your downstairs system is due to a faulty pump. Unfortunately, this is a very tricky fix for those unfamiliar with heating systems, so it's much safer to call out a heating engineer to carry out the work for you. 

Of course, this isn't an extensive list and there are many other problems that could arise with your radiators. In such situations, you should always consult with a qualified heating engineer rather than attempt to fix them yourself, as central heating units and tricky systems that require skill and expertise.