Unless you live in Antarctica, there will likely come a time during the year when the weather warms up enough so you won't need indoor heating anymore. And unless you have central heating controlled by a single thermostat, you'll likely need to know how to turn off the radiator in each room. Luckily, this is a task that can be done easily in minutes.
When is it time to turn off a radiator?
Landlords are required by law to provide heat to tenants. The timeframe for the heat to stay on, however, varies by city and climate. For the most part, the inside temperature must be 68 degrees before the heat can be turned off. In some cities like San Francisco, this means the heat needs to stay on all year, while in places like New York City, heat is provided from Oct. 31 through May 31.
It's not uncommon for the weather to warm up during the cold season, so much so that the heat may no longer be needed to stay warm indoors. This isn't a problem if you can shut the heat off at the thermostat. But if you have an old-fashioned radiator that must be switched off manually, your radiator will still be pumping out heat until you make it stop.
Simply put, if a room gets too hot, it may be time to turn off the radiator. It's a matter of being comfortable as well as saving energy. However, if there's a temporary heatwave in the middle of the winter, you'll likely want to lower your radiator's output rather than shut it off completely to avoid pipe bursts.
Types of radiator valves and how to shut them off
A radiator that uses hot water to heat up a room needs valves so it can be turned on and off accordingly. There are three types of valves on hot water radiators or steam radiators -- thermostatic, manual, and lockshield -- all of which are easy to shut off.
Caution: Even though it takes just a few minutes to turn off a heating radiator, it will take time (about an hour) to cool down completely.
- Manual valve. A manual knob can usually be found on the right side of a heater. It controls the hot water flow, which in turn heats a room. Simply twist the knob all the way to the right (clockwise) until you can't turn it anymore -- this means it's in the off position.
- Thermostatic valve. Just like a thermostat can control central heating, there's a numbered knob on the radiator that allows you to control the temperature. It's usually found on the bottom or top left of the radiator. The thermostatic radiator valves or TRVs have numbers on the dial (usually 0 to 5 or 0 to 6) that make it easy for you to regulate the heat. When spring arrives to stay, you can turn the dial to 0. There may also be a manual valve in addition to the thermostatic valve, so be sure to turn that one off as well. A TRV is a more energy-efficient option because you can set the valve to a higher or lower number to get the right temperature. Once the room reaches the desired temperature, the TRV senses the warmth and doesn't get any hotter.
- Lockshield valve. You may have a radiator valve that has a cap screwed on over it; this is called a lockshield. But there's no need for a radiator key or anything like that -- all you need from your toolbox is a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. Unscrew the cap and use the pliers to grip the metal valve -- it'll likely be hot and too hard to turn anyway with your bare hands. Turn the valve in the clockwise direction to turn the heat off.
When to call in a pro
Turning off a radiator is very much a DIY task, provided both the radiator and the valves are in good working order. But if a valve breaks, it's time to call in a pro. If it happens when you're shutting down the heat for the spring, though, don't wait until the cold weather comes around again before you do something about it. It'll be much easier to get an appointment with a heating technician during the off months than it will be during peak heating season in the winter.