How to balance your radiators with smart radiator valves

Large hallway with black and white floor tiles, a radiator in the foreground wall with a Hive Radiator Valve attached, a green drawer unit in the background next to a Hive Thermostat on the wall and a bike propped up against the wall

Have you noticed that some rooms at home heat up quickly, while others take ages to reach a cosy temperature? You might think there’s a problem with your smart radiator valves – but it’s far more likely to be caused by the set-up of your heating system.

You can fix it by ‘balancing’ your radiators. And don’t worry, there’s no juggling or acrobatics involved. Just a bit of logical thinking and DIY. If you’re fairly confident with jobs around the house, it’s the kind of thing you can probably tackle yourself.

But if you prefer to get some help, a plumber will be able to do it all for you in a few hours. You can even get an expert from British Gas or Local Heroes to help.

What if I don’t have smart radiator valves but still need help?

We’re sharing our radiator balancing tips because it might be useful if you have smart radiator valves. But actually, the problem of uneven heating can affect radiators with every kind of valve – and the way you balance your radiators is almost exactly the same.

If you don’t have smart radiator valves, you probably have thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs). The main difference is TRVs are controlled by hand (usually by turning a dial from 1-5) while smart valves are controlled by app.

Why aren’t my radiators heating up properly?

Before getting started on balancing your radiators, it’s helpful to understand what’s happening in your heating system.

Water is heated in the boiler and then fed through each radiator in a big loop, which then goes back into the boiler. Water gradually cools down as it travels through the system. And that means the first radiator in the loop gets hotter water than the last one.

Balancing the radiators is a way of adjusting the water flow into each radiator to make up for this difference in temperature. Properly balanced radiators all heat up at roughly the same time, making your whole house more comfortable.

You balance radiators using the lockshield valve – which is the one you don’t normally do anything with. It’s on the opposite side to the valve that makes the radiator warmer or cooler.

What tools will I need to balance my radiators?

  • Screwdriver

  • Radiator bleeding key

  • Adjustable spanner (or a lockshield valve adjuster)

  • Digital thermometer (or a multimeter with a thermometer function)

How to balance your radiators

Step 1: Bleed your radiators

Before getting started on balancing them, it’s a good idea to bleed your radiators. This is to remove any air in the system and it’s more simple than you think.

Step 2: Turn off your central heating

Let all your radiators go completely cold before doing anything else. If you’re using the Hive app, just set the target temperature below the current temperature and wait until the system has cooled down.

Step 3: Remove the lockshields on your radiator valves

Sometimes these have push-on caps, but sometimes they’re held in place by a screw.

Step 4: Open all your radiator valves

Open both valves on every radiator. You’ll need your spanner or adjuster for the lockshield valve. Just turn it anti-clockwise as far as it will go.

To open the other valve, you’ll need to do this manually if you have a standard TRV. Again, turn it anti-clockwise so you are at the max temperature setting.

If you have Hive smart valves, all you need to do is go to the app and set a temperature for each of the radiators that’s higher than the current air temperature. This will mean the radiators will start to fill as soon as the heating is on.

Step 5: Check the order of your radiators

Once all the valves are open, turn the central heating on and make a note of the order in which your radiators heat up. This tells you where each radiator sits on the loop. You might need a little help from someone else at this stage, especially if your property is large.

Step 6: Turn your heating off again

Before you continue, you need to wait until all your radiators have completely cooled down again.

Step 7: Adjust your first radiator

Now the actual balancing process can begin. Start with the first radiator in the loop – the one that heated up first because it’s closest to the boiler.

  • Turn the lockshield valve clockwise to completely shut it off

  • Switch the heating on

  • Give the lockshield valve a quarter turn

  • Wait until the radiator has warmed up

  • Use your thermometer to take the temperature of the pipe leading to the lockshield valve

  • Also take the temperature of the pipe leading to the other valve

You now need to keep repeating the process of slowly opening the lockshield valve, waiting for the radiator to heat up and taking the two temperature measurements. Once you reach a difference of 12°C between the two valves, you can stop and move onto the next radiator

Step 8: Now complete the loop

Having that 12°C difference between the two pipes is the key to balancing your whole heating system.

So just go through the steps above with each of your radiators, following the order you noted before. And once you’ve done the last one, congratulate yourself: you’ve just successfully balanced your radiators.

Step 9: Enjoy the warmth

The next time you use your central heating, you should notice your whole home gets nice and cosy at the same time.

If you already have Hive’s smart valves, you’ll now be enjoying the full benefits of these clever bits of kit. But if you still have old-fashioned TRVs, and are curious about what smart radiator valves are, then Hive’s are super-simple to setup & install.

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