In many homes, gravity fed systems provide a reliable and efficient means of delivering water to various fixtures and appliances.
These systems rely on the natural force of gravity to move water from a storage tank to taps and radiators, making them simple and cost-effective. However, like any plumbing system, gravity fed systems can be susceptible to a common problem known as airlock.
An airlock occurs when trapped air within the pipes or radiators disrupts the flow of water, resulting in reduced performance or even a complete blockage. Identifying the airlock is the first step to removing it. You can then vent the radiators or remove the blockage with hosepipes.
How To Remove An Airlock From A Gravity Fed System
Airlocks can be troublesome, but they are some of the easiest to fix plumbing issues. Whether you have to remove airlocks from a radiator or other part of the system, make sure you have the following tools at hand:
- Bowl or container
- Spanner or wrench
- Flathead screwdriver
- Hosepipe or flexible tube
- Towels or rags
Once you’ve gathered everything, follow the steps below to fix the problem.
1. Locate the Airlock
An airlock can occur in pipes, taps, or radiators, and identifying the affected area is the first step in addressing the problem. Here are some signs that can help you pinpoint an airlock in your gravity fed system:
- Inconsistent water flow: One of the most common indications of an airlock is irregular or reduced water flow from taps or faucets. If you notice that the water flow from a specific tap has suddenly decreased or become intermittent, it could be due to an airlock in the pipe connected to that tap.
- Cold spots on radiators: Airlocks in radiators can lead to uneven heating, with some parts of the radiator remaining cold while others are hot. To check for this issue, turn on the heating system and allow the radiators to heat. Carefully touch each radiator in various spots. If you feel cold spots or areas with significantly lower temperatures, it’s a sign that there’s an airlock in the radiator.
- Noise from pipes or radiators: When air is trapped in the system, it can cause unusual noises like gurgling or knocking sounds in the pipes or radiators. If you hear these sounds, it’s likely that an airlock is present somewhere in the system.
- No water flow from taps: In severe cases, an airlock can completely block water flow to a tap or faucet. If you turn on a tap and no water comes out, it could indicate an airlock. However, such severe cases are best fixed by a plumber.
Once you have identified the signs of an airlock in your gravity fed system, you can proceed with the appropriate steps to remove it.
2. Prepare the Area
Area preparation depends on the type of airlock you’re trying to fix. In radiators, turn off the heating and allow the radiators to cool down completely.
Remember that water pushing airlocks out of a radiator will eventually start leaking, and it might burn you if it is too hot. To remove airlocks from pipes, turn off the water supply to the affected tap. However, don’t turn off the main water valve, as you’ll need water from another tap.
3. Vent Air from Radiators
Airlocks in radiators are the simplest to remove. All you’ll need is a flathead screwdriver (or radiator key if you have one), a bowl or container, and towels or rags. Here’s how to remove the airlock.
- Locate the bleed valve, usually at the top of the radiator, either on one end or in the corner. This is a small, square-shaped valve that can be opened with a radiator key or screwdriver.
- Position a towel or rag beneath the bleed valve to catch any water spills. If you expect a larger amount of water to be released, place a small container or bowl under the valve to collect the water.
- Insert the screwdriver or radiator key into the bleed valve and turn it anticlockwise to open the valve. You should hear a hissing sound as the trapped air escapes from the radiator.
- As you release the trapped air, water will eventually start to flow out of the valve. At this point, close the valve by turning it clockwise. This indicates that the airlock has been removed, and the radiator should now heat evenly.
- Turn the central heating system back on and allow the radiators to heat up. Check the affected radiator for even heating and ensure there are no other cold spots. If the radiator is heating evenly, you have successfully removed the airlock.
4. Remove Airlocks with Hosepipe Method
The hosepipe method is an effective technique for removing airlocks in pipes within a gravity fed system.
By creating pressure using water flow from a functioning tap, this method can force trapped air out of the system and restore proper water flow. Here’s a step-by-step guide to removing an airlock using the hosepipe method:
- Gather the necessary materials: You’ll need a hosepipe or a flexible tube long enough to reach from the affected faucet to a functioning one. You’ll also need a couple of towels or rags to catch any water spills.
- Connect the hosepipe to the affected tap: Attach one end of the hosepipe to the tap that is experiencing the airlock. Make sure the connection is secure and tight to prevent water from leaking.
- Connect the hosepipe to a functioning tap: Connect the other end of the hosepipe to a functioning tap that is on the same floor or lower than the affected tap. Again, ensure a tight and secure connection to avoid water leakage.
- Open both taps: Turn on both the affected and functioning taps, allowing water to flow from the functioning tap through the hosepipe and into the affected tap. The pressure created by this process should force the trapped air out of the system.
- Monitor the water flow: Keep both taps running for a few minutes, observing any changes in the water flow from the affected tap. You may hear gurgling or hissing sounds as the trapped air is released.
- Close both taps and disconnect the hosepipe: After a few minutes, close both taps and remove the hosepipe. Use a towel or rag to clean up any spilled water.
- Test the affected tap: Turn on the previously affected tap to see if the water flow has been restored. If the water flow has returned to normal, the airlock has been successfully removed.
5. Resolve Persistent Airlocks
Sometimes, it may take more than one try to resolve an airlock problem. Repeat the steps above (depending on what you’re trying to fix) to see if the airlock goes away. If you can’t get rid of it, contacting a plumber might be the best solution.
Removing airlocks from a gravity fed system is a crucial aspect of maintaining the efficiency and functionality of your home’s plumbing and heating systems.
Whether it’s venting air from radiators or employing the hosepipe method to release trapped air in pipes or faucets, these techniques can help you tackle airlocks and ensure a smooth and consistent water flow throughout your home.
You should also keep in mind that regular maintenance, including properly bleeding radiators once a year and ensuring your system is correctly balanced, can help prevent future airlocks and minimise disruptions.