There are strong comparisons between your central heating system and your car. Get them regularly serviced and they should serve you well for years to come. Neglect them and fail to take care of them and they'll let you down when you most need them (in winter or on a motorway).
In this article, we'll explain why radiator maintenance is best performed in the summer and what the most important jobs are to ensure that your heating doesn't stop working in the cold of winter.
You use your heating less in summer
Jokes about UK weather aside, we all tend to use our central heating much less in the summer. As boilers and heating systems should be checked and have maintenance every 12 months, summer is an excellent time to get it done.
In winter you're using your heating all the time so it's quite a large inconvenience to switch it off and have a plumber perform any necessary checks and repairs. In summer this is much less of an issue.
Additionally, plumbers are much more available in the summer and may be able to come and perform the maintenance much more quickly than in the winter.
In winter, plumbers are rushing from emergency to emergency as this is the most common time when boilers breakdown.
Save yourself the hassle and get a plumber round to check your heating in the summer so you can use it without incident in the winter.
The most common maintenance jobs
Although you should get a Gas Safe Registered plumber to check your boiler once per month, you can do some of the other maintenance tasks yourself. Of course, if you aren't comfortable with doing any of the below, get the plumber to do these at the same time as checking your boiler.
Bleed your radiators
Bleeding your radiators is one of the easiest and most important jobs you can do in regards your central heating system.
Summer is a good time to do this because you probably aren't using your heating and you won't have to worry about hot radiators cooling down before you can bleed them.
If you've noticed in the winter or spring that some of your radiators weren't getting as hot as they could be, or they were hot at the bottom but not at the top, it can often be solved by bleeding them.
Bleeding a radiator simply means letting the air out that may have got trapped at the top of the radiator over time.
Instead of the hot water flowing freely around the radiator, air may have got into the system and is preventing the hot water from heating the entire radiator.
You can see exactly how to bleed your radiator in the video below where Jimmy the qualified plumber takes you through the entire process step by step.
Top up your chemical inhibitor
Inside your central heating system, water is constantly flowing around your pipework, radiators, boiler and heat pump. If left to it's own devices, the water will have a chemical reaction with the metal inside all these components, causing rust and corrosion.
Tiny shards of metal will flake off into your system, often coming to rest at the bottom of your radiators or narrowing the flow of water through your pipework.
Everything in your heating system will have to work harder and harder in order to keep hot water flowing to the right places, until the inevitable breakdown occurs, normally in winter when you need heating the most. You can see a what happens when you don't use inhibitor here.
However, this internal corrosion can be virtually brought to a standstill by pouring chemical inhibitor into your system and ensuring that the levels are topped up once a year. A 1 litre bottle of inhibitor will be enough for up to 10 radiators. If you have more than 10 radiators in your home, then use an additional bottle.
The inhibitor helps to stop the chemical reaction from occurring, reducing the corrosion and rusting that goes on inside your heating system. This will ensure that your heating system runs smoothly and efficiently and helps to prolong the life of all of the components involved.
Adjust your thermostatic radiator valves
If you've got Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) on some or all of your radiators, then it's important to pay attention to them during summer even if you aren't using your central heating.
TRVs react to the temperature in the room, so as the spring turns into summer and the temperature gets warmer, the TRVs will close themselves off as they are supposed to do.
However, what is likely to have happened just before you stop using your central heating is that you switched your TRVs down to low as less hot water is needed to heat the radiator. The higher summer temperatures will have kicked in and you will have switched of your central heating with the TRVs in the low position.
In theory this is the correct things to do, however in reality, what you might find when you come to use your heating again at the end of summer is that your TRVs have got stuck in the off position. This will mean that your radiators won't get hot and you or a plumber will need to free up the pin inside the valve.
A very easy way to avoid this inconvenience is to turn your TRVs to the 'Maximum' position and then switch off your heating. Your heating will be off so you won't be getting unnecessarily hot, but it means when you go to switch it back on in September your TRVs will be fully functional and won't be stuck shut.
The Complete Guide to Radiator Valves
Briefly turn on your heating
Because you aren't using your heating during the summer months, this recommendation could initially seem a bit counterproductive. Why would you want to switch on your heating when you least need it?
Actually, all you need to do about once every three or four weeks during the summer is remember to switch your central heating on for about 15 or 20 minutes.
Set your timer so that it comes on just after you've left the house for the day, so that the heat has time to dissipate by the time you return home.
By doing this, you'll help the components of your heating system to keep moving so that they are ready to leap back into action when the temperature drops at the end of September or beginning of October.
If you don't do this, there is a good chance that your heating will be off for three or even four months without anything moving.
One of the biggest causes of boiler problems and breakdowns is due to inactivity and you can easily prevent this by briefly switching on your heating once a month through the summer.
Consider adding smart heating controls
As well as performing maintenance, summer is a great time to make some upgrades to your heating system. One of the best upgrades to can make is by adding some smart heating controls.
Smart heating controls give you the ability to micro-manage your heating via an app on your phone or tablet.
It's quite often the case that you need different temperatures in different rooms. Whether you have a living room that you want to feel welcoming in the evenings or a bathroom that has to be the right temperature for everyone waking up in the morning, a home with smart heating controls is the easiest way to keep tabs on your heating.
View all Smart Heating Controls
Consider electric heating
If you have conventional centre heating, then you may wish to consider adding a couple of electric radiators specifically for summer.
If you have specific rooms that are well used in summer, like a conservatory, installing a electric radiator can be a really useful addition for those nippy summer nights when you don't want to switch on your main central heating system.
Having an electric rad is great for short bursts of heat and is really easy to install, without the need for adding additional pipework.
The Complete Guide to Electric Heating