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Home Care Library

Saving Money by Increasing Radiator Efficiency

With winter upon us, and energy prices sure to rise, now is a good time to find ways to reduce your energy bill by increasing the energy efficiency of your home’s hot water radiators. In this article and video we will be describing four things that you can do to improve the performance of your hot water radiators:
  1. Bleeding air out.

  2. Adding a reflector against your wall.

  3. Cleaning your radiators.

  4. Checking for sludge build-up.


One of the most common causes of poor performance of a hot water radiator is air trapped in the system. Over time, the repeated heating and then cooling back down of the water in your system causes air to be released from the water (helpful accessory: vacuum cleaners). And since air does not conduct heat as well as water, this trapped air reduces the energy efficiency of your radiator system. To eliminate the air, you should purge the air out of your radiators at the beginning of the heating season, and then whenever they seem to not be putting out as much heat as normal.

If you have baseboard radiators, air trapped in your system can make a “gurgling” sound when your system turns on. When you start hearing this sound, you should purge the air out of your system. For instructions on how to purge the air out of your baseboard heating system, you can see our video titled “Baseboard Heating 101".

If you have a wall style radiator, and if the top part of your radiator feels much cooler than the bottom part, then this is a good indicator that you need to bleed out trapped air. All radiators come with a special key called a “bleed” key. On the top of your radiator, you will notice a protrusion called a “bleed valve.” Before you start, you will want to get a rag or a small bowl to catch any water that will drip out. Fit the bleed key into the bleed valve and slowly turn it counterclockwise until air starts escaping from the valve with a hissing sound. When water begins to dribble out, this indicates that all the air is purged. And you should now gently turn the bleed valve in the opposite direction to close it the way it was when you started.


Placing a reflector panel between an outside wall and your radiator can improve the energy efficiency of your radiator by as much as 10-20%, by reducing heat loses to your outside walls. You can buy ready-made radiator reflectors, or you can make your own using aluminum foil (with the shiny side facing your radiator) and gluing it to a piece of cardboard, or better yet, to a thin piece of stiff insulation such as Kingspan or Celotex.


When your radiator heats up, it causes the air around it to rise as it is heated, and this draws up dusty air from your floors. As the dust builds up on your radiators, this build-up acts like a layer of insulation, which reduces the heat transfer efficiency of your radiators. So to maximize the performance of your radiators, you should routinely remove this dust by vacuuming with a soft brush attachment, and wiping down the surfaces of wall style radiators (helpful accessory: heat barriers).


And lastly, if you have wall style radiators, over time you can get sludge build-up inside of your radiators which can significantly reduce their performance. To check for this, you can carefully touch along the bottom of your radiator to see if you detect any cold spots. Be careful when you do this, so as not to burn your fingers. If you find any cold spots, this could indicate that you have sludge build-up, and will need to contact a professional to clean it out.


We hope you find these suggestions helpful, and that they enable you to reduce your energy costs this winter by improving the energy efficiency of your radiators.

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