While the weather is slowly getting warmer, the chilly weather means that noisy pipes and radiators are still posing issues for many of us here in the UK, especially for plumbers and similar trade professionals. Some of these issues have quite complex causes, and may need extensive investigation. Happily though, many of them are easily diagnosed and often quite simple to fix. And if you need any spare or replacement parts, you can find a great range right here at R&J Builders. We stock an extensive range of plumbing and heating equipment, including ancillary products and fittings such as replacement radiator valves and draw-off plugs.
Here are some of the most common problems you might still find with pipes and radiators, and the initial steps you should take when working out how to fix them.
1. Banging in the pipes
Banging or loud shuddering noises in the pipes is frequently referred to as ‘water hammering’. Specifically, it’s generally understood to be a series of banging noises coming from the pipework, usually when a tap or valve is already turned off.
The culprit is most often high pressure from the mains, either when a tap is turned off quickly, or fast-acting valves on appliances. These can suddenly stop water moving through the pipes and result in a shockwave effect, causing them to vibrate and therefore giving rise to the hammering noise that causes so much concern. An alternative (or concurrent) cause can be that the pipes under the floor aren’t secured correctly - or they’re inadequately supported - causing them to rattle against the framework.
The first thing to do is to check the thermostat, either on the wall or on the boiler itself. This involves switching the boiler off and allowing the system to cool down. Once it’s been switched off and cool for a short while, turn the heating back on and switch the thermostat up to a decent temperature. You should hear a click when you do this. If not, it could indicate a more serious problem with the boiler that requires further investigation. The pipes, meanwhile, will need to be secured firmly. If they already are, it might be worth considering padding them slightly, so that they’re not banging against their structural framework.
2. Heating system is making a gurgling noise
One or several radiators are making loud gurgling sounds, like a kettle about to reach boiling point.
The most common cause of this is reasonably simple: there’s probably air trapped inside. Alternatively, the issue may arise from a frozen condensate pipe. Although we’re yet to see any proper snow in this winter season, colder weather can still cause the pipes to freeze, which stops the water dead in its tracks.
If the issue is a frozen pipe, you can trace the problem to the white overflow pipe outside the house, normally at the most exposed external point close to the drain. Then, it’s just a matter of pouring a little warm water onto the surface of the pipe to thaw it. It’s important to make sure it’s only warm, not boiling hot, as this can potentially make the issue worse rather than solving it. If on the other hand the issue is trapped air in the radiators, you can easily fix it by bleeding them, releasing air from the system with the use of a radiator bleed key. You may have to do this a few times over the course of a few hours to get all the air out.
3. Loud noises coming from the boiler itself
The boiler is making loud rumbling or banging sounds. This is referred to as boiler kettling, and luckily it’s not always as serious as it might first sound!
These sounds can be a sign that limescale has built up in the boiler’s heat exchanger. This is often due to hard water build-up; it’s a common issue in older heating systems. It could also be caused by low water-flow within the system. This is a problem more commonly associated with modern gas boilers, which often need a specific flow rate to operate properly. You can find this flow rate in the boiler’s manual. If you or the owner doesn’t have access to it, you can often get this information directly from the manufacturer instead.
First of all you’ll need to remove the excess scale by using a descaler in the feed and expansion tank, then wait a little while for it to make its way around the system. Once that’s done, flush the central heating with clean water. It’s also worth adding some radiator inhibiter to prevent corrosion.
It’s important to note that this post might not necessarily provide an exhaustive list of how to identify and solve your problems when it comes to radiators, but with any luck it should give you a few good ideas on how to spot the most common issues! (Plus, even if you correctly work out what the problem is, it may need further investigation or corrective measures than what we’ve listed here.) Either way, you can get exactly what you need to sort things out right here at R&J Builders Hardware. We stock a huge range of plumbing and heating supplies and accessories, which you can order online right here on our website, or click and collect directly from us in-store!