How to Balance Your Central Heating System and Radiators

Summary: Learn how to balance your central heating system ensure that all your radiators are getting hot. Knowing how to balance your radiators is useful to ensure your central heating operated efficiently.

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Why do Radiators Need Balancing?

Some radiators occationally get quite a bit warmer than others. When this happens it usually means that your central heating system is out of balance.

In some instances, radiators can be different temperatures due to the distance that water that heats them has to travel from the boiler or pump. If your heating system is not balanced then the radiators that are closest to the boiler or heating source may get a lot more heat than those that are further away.

To be absolutely sure of even temperature distribution around the home you can buy or sometimes hire radiator thermometers which clip onto the radiators pipes and measure the difference in temperature between them. The proper name for radiator thermometers is Differential Thermometers and in the digital age these have become so advanced that the temperature of both the incoming and outgoing radiator pipes can be measured, at the same time, with one thermometer.

Radiator thermometers can be bought from some plumber’s merchants and have clamps, or springs attached to enable them to be clipped to the radiator valve pipes. They are not widely used in the trade and you may have to make do with a digital thermometer.

Take the measurement at the flow side (wheelhead) first, then at the Lockshield and adjust accordingly using the instructions below.

Balancing Your Radiators and Heating System

Turn off Your Heating and Open Valves

To balance your central heating system, turn off your heating system and allow all radiators to cool down.

Open both of the valves for all of the radiators and turn on the heating. You may need some help but you now need to go to each radiator and work out when they heat up and what order they heat up in. Note the order down. You will need a small spanner or an adjustable wrench to adjust the Lockshield valve.

Types of Radiator Valve

There are two valves on all radiators. One, which is regularly used to turn the radiator on and off and one which is covered by a domed cap.

The capped one is called a Lockshield valve the other is a wheelhead or control valve. You need to use grips of some kind to pull of the plastic cap from the Lockshield valve. Some Lockshield valves have a screw through the cap which must be removed before the cap can be pulled off.

Lockshield Valve

Lockshield radiator valve

Wheelhead Valve

Wheelhead radiator valve

Turn off the Heating System Again

Repeat the procedure above, letting everything cool down and start over again. This time as soon as you fire up the heating boiler, go to the very first radiator on the system and fit the thermometers to the pipes on both valves.

Turn off the Lockshield Valve

Turn off the Lockshield valve completely and then turn it on again slowly until the difference in temperature between both thermometers is about 11 degrees C.

Continue round the system doing the same thing. For each radiator, the Lockshield valve should (but not always) need opening a little further for each radiator until (in some cases) it is fully open on the last radiator.

You should now have a balanced heating system.

More Help and Advice With Central Heating and Radiators

To understand fully how your radiators work, go to our Central Heating - One & Two pipe systems project and our other central heating projects.

If there are radiators on the system which will not balance properly they may need to be removed and flushed out or the system may need to be drained down and cleaned - see our projects on these topics.

Why not go to our video section on balancing central heating and watch the "Central heating system" film to find out how to get the best from your central heating.

Don't fancy doing this project yourself? We work with Checkatrade to ensure that we recommend only reliable and trustworthy tradesmen.

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