Installing Convectors


An older radiator can be unattractive and take up a lot of space. A radiator cover can improve appearances. (Look online or ask at a plumbing and heating store for companies that custom-make metal units to fit all sizes of radiators.) However, if you want more space in a room and you have a hot water -- not steam -- system, you may be able to replace your radiator with a convector.

The steps shown can be used to add a convector to an existing heating system. Consult with a heating contractor to be sure you install a unit of the right size.

A convector is surprisingly simple and lightweight. The system usually has a copper pipe surrounded by thin aluminum fins. When the boiler heats the water running through the pipe, the fins direct the heat away from the pipe and into the room.

A convector's cover may appear to be merely decorative, but it is actually precisely sized to produce convection; cool air enters below the fins, and warm air comes out the top. Keep obstructions at least a foot away from a convector.

Prestart Checklist

One day to replace a radiator with a convector

Pipe wrenches, groove-joint pliers, screwdriver, drill, carpentry tools, propane torch

Connecting copper to steel pipe, basic carpentry skills

Consult with a heating expert to determine convector size

New convector, copper pipe, dielectric unions, valves as needed

Step 1

Drain the system. Unscrew the union nuts at each end of the old radiator and remove the radiator. From below, remove the plumbing leading from the old radiator to the heat pipe. These old pipes may be difficult to detach.

Step 2

Using a fine-tooth saw, such as a backsaw (shown), and a chisel, cut the baseboard molding to accommodate the convector. Attach the convector back panel to the wall with screws driven into studs.

Step 3

Temporarily mount the convector onto the back panel and mark the location of the floor holes. Drill holes wide enough so that the pipes will be at least 1/2 inch from any wood surfaces.

Step 4

From below, install plumbing to reach the convectors. Use a dielectric union to make transitions from steel to copper. If needed, a flexible connector easily makes complicated turns.

Step 5

Mount the convector onto the back plate and sweat the joints at each end. Install the end caps and the front panel of the convector unit.

Maintaining Convectors: Bleeding Line

If a convector has a bleed valve, bleed air from it. A balance or heat-control valve may have a handle, or you may need a screwdriver to open and close it. When the slot is parallel to the pipe, the valve is open; when the slot is perpendicular, the valve is closed.

Maintaining Convectors: Straightening Fins

If fins are bent, the convector will radiate heat less efficiently. Straighten the fins using two putty knives, pliers, or a fin comb.

Maintaining Convectors: Quieting Noise

If a convector makes a humming or grating sound, the fins may be rubbing against a support bracket. Slip a piece of plastic between the fins and the bracket to dampen the sound.

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