Why does my radiator click?
Because there's so much water flowing around your central heating system at a variety of temperatures, it's inevitable that your radiators are going to make a certain amount of noise, including clicking sounds. Most of these noises are usually part and parcel of the system and nothing to worry about, but it is worth keeping an ear out in case the noises start to get louder and indicate a more serious issue. Water damage can be very destructive and expensive to repair, so being mindful of what's going on with your heating and radiators will help you to catch any problems early and deal with them without much disruption.
Radiator clicks causes and solutions
Metal expanding and contracting
The most common cause of clicking sounds is simply due to the metal in your radiators expanding as it gets hot and contracting as it cools down. The noise may also sound more like a creaking or groaning and is a normal central heating sound and no cause for concern. If you hear a creak, groan or click coming from your rads then 95% of the time, expanding or contracting metal is the reason. You'll hear it most when you turn your heating on and then later as it goes off. You shouldn't here this noise once the system is up to a constant temperature.
Air trapped in radiators
If you're hearing a clicking or a tapping sound it might be the case that you've got a bit of air trapped in your radiators that needs letting out (bleeding).
In the UK, a central heating system will get a lot of use throughout the year and, over time, air can manage to make its way into the system and work its way to the top of a radiator.
As well as the clicking sound, a common symptom of air in your radiator is if it gets hot at the bottom but feels cooler at the top. This is caused by the air preventing the hot water from reaching the very top of the radiator, stopping it getting fully up to temperature.
Bleeding the radiator using a radiator bleed key will let out the air and help your radiators to get hot more evenly. This will improve energy efficiency and may well reduce or even stop the clicking and tapping noises coming from your rad.
If the clicking sounds like a rattle or a bang then this could be caused by a pipe that is not adequately secured to a wall or joist. When water flows through, the loose pipe might be coming into contact with a surface and letting out the noise. If you have only noticed this recently then this should be a simple fix for a plumbing professional. Don't leave this issue unchecked though as loose pipes can get weaker over time and go on to cause more serious problems if a leak develops.
Worn out radiator valves
Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) are an easy and popular way of maximising the efficiency of your radiators. They allow you to control the temperature in every room of your home and can be set so that you're not unnecessarily heating rooms that aren't being used.
However, like any well-used component, TRVs can wear out. When this happens you may notice noises from your radiator particularly when they're cooling down. This tends to be due to the old internal parts of the valve rattling when the valve is almost closed off.
Fitting some new, high quality thermostatic valves will usually sort out this problem and will also likely have a beneficial impact on your heating efficiency.
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Get in a plumber
If your clicking noise doesn't appear to be caused by any of the things discussed above then it's time to call in a professional to take a look as soon as possible. Concerning noises in a central heating system don't go away by themselves and will often get worse as time goes on, increasing the potential for more expensive and destructive damage.
Getting in a plumber will give you peace of mind and will ensure that your heating system keeps you warm when you need it most. As a general rule of thumb, you should have a heating engineer perform boiler and heating maintenance on your system every 12 months, much like servicing a car, so any minor problems are dealt with before they become a bigger issue.
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