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Last updated: 6th June, 2024


When Should You Replace Radiators?

When Should You Replace Radiators?

While radiators are considered to be one of the most resilient things you have in your home, this does not mean that they will last forever

As with anything else you use on a regular basis, radiators can fall victim to wear and tear.

Unlike wear and tear on other household items, such as the sofa, damage to your radiators can be quite dangerous and not particularly noticeable. Old radiators can fail, leaving you without central heating or with insufficient heat.

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You can often tell when old radiators need to be replaced by looking into your central heating. If you are not having any issues with hot water, but have noticed that it feels colder than usual, then it is likely that the time has come to look into replacing your radiators.

How Often Should Radiators be Replaced?

There is no straight forward answer but in general you should replace your radiators anywhere between fifteen and twenty years.

Sometimes, a lack of central heating does not mean that you need a new boiler but need to replace your radiators instead.

There are various benefits to buying new radiators, and it goes beyond just making sure that you will be warm and cosy when you need it to be!

New radiators are made with modern features and technology, which means they are much more energy efficient than older models.

Not only does this mean that you have a greater range of designs compared to older radiators, but new radiators can also help you considerably lower your heating bills as they are potentially much more energy efficient.

You might not have given much thought to your radiator and everything it does for you, for most of us, the radiator is a standard feature of the household, and it is something we all take for granted.

This is why many people end up struggling to manage their energy bills or the cold spots because they do not even consider getting a new radiator until it is too late.

We tend to assume that a radiator will perform as it should when we require it, but if you live in an older property, it is likely that the central heating system has not seen maintenance for many years and it may no longer be fit for purpose.

Replacing the radiators is more than an aesthetic upgrade, although this is also something worth considering if you are renovating and aiming to add value to your home.

However, before you look into getting new radiators installed, you need to make sure your boiler has the capabilities to deal with the new system

How to Prepare For New Radiators

While a radiator can transform the appearance of a room, there are more things than just the aforementioned aesthetics to consider.

Most properties will benefit from modern radiators, if you are moving into a new build property you shouldn't have to worry, as most new housing developments already feature relatively new systems.

While modern radiators are going to be more energy efficient and effective than the old system you have been using, many people, when they choose to replace this heating system, tend to get more units than they have previously had.

This can be a good option for some homes, but you need to make sure that the boiler you have installed can handle this increase in workload.

The same rule applies for those who are looking into getting a larger style of radiator for their homes, one that covers a wider surface area, as this too will increase the amount of heat and hot water that your boiler system has provide. For some properties, replacing the old radiators will also mean getting a new boiler.

In most cases, it is a good idea to replace the old boiler anyway as this will provide heating for years. Even though modern radiators are made for efficiency, they won't last forever, but the boiler system can be used for other radiators over time.

Getting a new boiler can be a difficult and time consuming, with multiple engineers required at once. However, this is a task that is worth doing, and you will feel the benefit for years.

What Causes A Radiator To Break?

Usually, issues that occur with a radiator are the result of a larger issue rather than something happening with the actual unit itself.

This is why it is sometimes best to replace all radiators within the property, and potentially even the entire heating system.

Corrosion is one of the most noticeable issues that you might see on the rads or heating panels you use in your house. Corrosion can appear on the panel of the radiator itself, on the pipework or within the heating system for example, and cause major issues.

A lack of efficiency from your heating system might be caused by corrosion or magnetite rust, which can result in cold spots and a general lack of heating.

Internal corrosion of rads usually takes years to notice, as the problems may gradually get worse.

To tackle corrosion and rust, you can hire a professional. Companies such as British Gas offer a chemical 'powerflush' service, which may help make your radiator work more efficiently in a specific room.

This service will remove trapped air and any sludge that has gone into the system.

It is possible to keep your radiator working for years, and able to provide enough heat for the entire room, with regular maintenance from British Gas and yourself.

Combine professional services with a regular bleed of the radiator to keep it working for years, and maximise it's lifetime.

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How to Bleed A Radiator

Another cause of issues with radiators is trapped air. Over time, air can get into the central heating system, and because heat rises, it will cause air to bubble at the top of radiators.

This is an issue that commonly occurs with the radiator that is furthest away from the boiler and is fed by down pipework.

Trapped air in the top of the radiator panel can make it less efficient, and cause it to be unable to heat a room.

Radiators can also become very noisy when the pipework is full of air, and this is how you can see whether it needs to be bled.

Bleeding a radiator means that you are releasing the air from the panel. Sometimes, sludge might also be released with water from the unit if you are dealing with this problem.

When you do this, water can seep out of the radiator so ensure you have something to protect the floor and to collect the water.

It is important that the hot water and central heating in your home is turned off before you attempt to do this.

Bleeding the radiator requires the radiator key to be pressed into the release valve, which can cause water to come out of the panel. You will hear a release of air and water might come out of the radiator when this key is turned.

When less water starts to come out of the radiator and the air is no longer hissing, it is time to turn the key back to seal the valve.

Sludge might be in your system if the pipework is very corroded. While this can be released through bleeding, it might be best to see a professional for this issue to keep your home safe.

This is something that happens with older radiators, and it might be a sign that the system needs to be replaced.

After you have bled the radiator, the pressure in your boiler will lower. This is why you will need to learn how to re-pressurise the boiler before tackling the radiator. You can find this information in the boiler's handbook.

Benefits of a New Radiator

Even if your older radiator does work, it would still be beneficial for you to look into getting them replaced as they are likely to cause issues over time.

There are various benefits that can come with replacing the radiators in your home, and this is something many properties would benefit from.

Not only will replacing the radiator offer better heat in the home, but you may also find that it is much cheaper to turn the heat on in the first place.

While the initial cost of replacing the radiators might be a lot, you will find that it will cost a lot less to have the central heating on because all modern radiators are made for energy efficiency.

All radiators need to be gas safe, but with newer models, you can choose modern features such as a thermostatic radiator that will give you greater control over the temperature of every room.

Radiators now also come in a wider range of designs and colours, like wide or vertical panels which may suit your home more than the older models you are used to.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Know If My Radiator Needs Replacing?

To determine if your radiator needs replacing, look for several key indicators:

  • Persistent Cold Spots: These often occur at the bottom of the radiator and can indicate sludge buildup that flushing might not resolve.
  • Rust and Corrosion: If you notice rust or corrosion on the radiator, especially if it leads to water leakage, it’s a clear sign that the radiator is failing.
  • Inefficiency: If certain rooms are consistently colder than others despite balancing and bleeding the radiators, it might be time for a replacement.
  • Age: Older radiators may not heat as efficiently as newer models and can bring down the aesthetic appeal of a room.

Is It Worth Replacing 20 Year Old Radiators?

Yes, replacing 20-year-old radiators can be worth it for several reasons:

  • Improved Efficiency: New radiators are more efficient and can heat your home more effectively, potentially reducing your heating bills.
  • Better Heat Output: Modern radiators tend to have better heat output and come in designs that can distribute heat more evenly.
  • Updated Aesthetics: New radiators can refresh the look of your interiors, aligning better with modern decor.
  • Reduced Maintenance: Newer radiators often require less maintenance than older ones that might be prone to issues like leaks and rust.

Should I Replace 40 Year Old Radiators?

Definitely, replacing 40-year-old radiators is advisable. Radiators of this age will not only be less efficient but may also pose risks of leaking or causing damage due to their deteriorated condition. New radiators will be more energy-efficient, safer, and could be a necessary upgrade to ensure your heating system works optimally with a modern boiler.

Can a Radiator Last 20 Years?

Yes, a radiator can last 20 years or more, particularly if it has been well maintained. However, the efficiency and effectiveness of a radiator can decline over time due to internal corrosion and sludge buildup, even with regular maintenance.

Is It Worth Replacing Old Radiators with New?

Replacing old radiators with new ones can bring several benefits:

  • Energy Savings: Newer models are designed to be more energy-efficient, helping to lower energy costs.
  • Improved Heating Performance: Modern radiators provide better and more reliable heat distribution.
  • Aesthetic Improvement: Upgrading old, bulky radiators to sleeker, modern designs can improve the look and feel of your home.

Is It Worth Upgrading Old Radiators?

Upgrading old radiators can significantly improve your home heating system's efficiency and effectiveness. Modern radiators are designed to work more efficiently with contemporary boilers, especially if you have or are considering a condensing boiler. Additionally, upgrading can help you achieve better temperature control and reduce hot and cold spots in your home.

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Article by
Stephen Day | Co-founder
Gas Safe registered and FGAS certified engineer with over 20 years experience in the heating and cooling industry.