We have a raised ranch that we have lived in for about 6 years that
has domestic hot water. This past winter we would here the water
bubbling and running through the pipes whenever the furnace kicked on.
IT never did that before. Is that caused by air and a need to "bleed'
the system? Is that a D-I-Y kind of thing?
Yes, and yes. It's pretty easy to bleed your own radiators, really. The
hardest part is finding the right tool to open the bleeder valve. Some of the
older ones take a large slotted screwdriver, but the newer type have a square
head bolt instead of a screw. You can get a key to turn this type at any
plumbing supply house -- but *not* at home centers like Home Depot or Lowe's.
You could probably find one at a real hardware store, too, someplace like Ace
or Tru-Value, or an independent "Mom & Pop" hardware. Expect to pay about
The circulator pump has to be running when you bleed the radiators. Have a
towel handy. Open the valve slightly, until you hear air coming out. It will
start to sputter soon, as water comes out along with the air. When only water
comes out, close the valve. Repeat for all radiators.
If the problem comes back, bleed them again, because you might not have
gotten all the air out the first time. Repeat another time or two, if you
observe the bubbling noise diminishing.
If the problem keeps coming back, though, you have a bigger problem. There's
not supposed to be air in the system, and you may have a leak somewhere. If
you're lucky, it will be a bad bleeder valve that is allowing air to enter the
system. Replacing a bleeder valve can be a DIY job if you're comfortable doing
your own plumbing with steel pipe. *Shut off and depressurize the boiler
first!* Replacement bleeder valves can be obtained at a plumbing supply house
for a few dollars. Depending on the type of radiator, you may need to buy some
adapter bushings as well, but you're looking at five to ten bucks per valve,
tops, to replace them. This is a good time of year to be fixing that stuff,
too, because if you mess something up, you have all summer to get it fixed
before you need to heat the house.
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