The national average cost to repair a radiator ranges from $100-$900 but most repairs will cost $300-$400. Radiator repair costs vary, depending on the type of radiator and the parts and labor needed to fix it. A new radiator can cost from $200 to $1,400, depending on the type, brand and model.
Radiators may look simple, but they actually can be quite complex, and problems with them can be tricky to diagnosis and repair.
You may be able to tackle some radiator repairs yourself if you're an experienced handyperson, but most people should hire a radiator professional for this job. If the problem involves the boiler or radiator piping, you should definitely call in a professional.
Whether your radiator is leaking, or simply not turning on, you can hire a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) service technician (or even a plumber) to repair your home radiator. Before you do, get an estimate on your radiator repair costs and whether or not you're better off replacing it, with this guide.
What's in this cost guide?
- Types of radiators
- Radiator repair cost factors
- Should I repair my radiator or replace it?
A radiator is part of a home heat distribution system. Many radiators are freestanding, made of cast-iron or ceramic parts, and installed near the walls in the rooms they are intended to heat. There are also baseboard-style radiators.
Radiators are connected by pipes which run throughout the home to the boiler, which is usually installed in the garage or basement. Boilers run on gas, electricity, solar power or wood. When the home's thermostat is adjusted to heat the home, the boiler heats water, which is then circulated, either as hot water or steam, through the pipes to the radiators. A small home may have just one radiator.
Steam systems cycle between hot and cold. Most have only one pipe, but some have two pipes. A two-pipe system has a supply valve that can be adjusted to release more or less steam. Steam radiators typically require more maintenance than hot-water radiators.
Hot water radiators circulate heat continuously to provide consistent warmth. Most have two pipes and a circulating pump. Hot-water radiators are more common today than steam radiators.
The total cost to repair your radiator will depend on the problem, replacement parts, and the hourly rate of the heating specialist.
Radiator systems range from small and simple to large and complex, depending on the type of system, the square footage of the heated space, how many radiators there are, and whether the space is one, two, or three stories. If only one radiator is involved, repairs may be quick and relatively inexpensive. If the entire system needs work, repairs may be more complex and costly.
Parts, such as vents and valves, generally start at about $10, but can cost up to $80. A new radiator can cost as little as $100 or as much as $2,300, although prices less than $800 are more common. Some radiator repair services charge a flat fee for a service call to inspect the radiator system and figure out what's needed to repair it. Other services charge hourly rates.
Radiators are susceptible to a variety of problems, some of which are more expensive to fix.
Examples of radiator problems include:
- Banging noises
- Clogged air vents
- Squirting from air vents
- Not heating
- Uneven air flow
- Broken valve
- Broken handle
The two most common repairs are for noise coming from the radiator and the radiator not producing enough heat. If a radiator doesn't heat well (or at all), its flow of steam or hot water may be blocked. If this happens, the vents may need to be opened to allow trapped air to exit. This maintenance process is known as "bleeding."
Knowledgeable homeowners can bleed the lines themselves, or they can get a qualified service company to handle the task. The time required to bleed the plumbing lines varies from house to house and system to system. In a three-story house, it can take hours to move an air bubble through a system—or it may only take a few minutes.
Many professionals charge a base service fee to investigate radiator issues to cover their diagnosis time, travel time, labor and business overhead. Pros can help with leaking radiators, funky noises, radiators that aren't heating or radiators that are getting too hot. Here are two examples of services fees:
- A Thumbtack pro in Chicago, Illinois: $85 to cover travel, the site visit and the first hour of labor
- A Thumbtack pro in Elgin, Illinois: $95 to cover travel, diagnosis and the first half hour of labor
Many radiator repair specialists charge an hourly rate when more work is required beyond diagnosis and the preliminary labor accounted for by the service fee. Some pros will quote a set rate for the expected repair based on their hourly rate. This quote should include details about what work will be done and what outcome can be expected. G & R Heating and Repair, for example, charges $85 per hour after the initial $95 service fee.
If you have a radiator that has rust inside it or is cracked due to its advanced age, it may be better to install a replacement radiator than try to repair the existing one.
When you shop for a replacement cast-iron radiator, you'll need to know a few things about your existing radiator, such as how many columns and sections it has, how tall it is, and how wide the tubes are. Standard cast-iron radiators sold today are usually 19-inches or 25-inches tall.
If you don't want to buy a new radiator, it may be possible to patch an older one, but that could turn out to be only a short-term fix. A repair pro can help you weigh the costs of radiator repair or replacement and make a decision that makes sense for you.
Marcie Geffner is a freelance content writer, reporter, editor and book reviewer in Ventura, Calif. Her work has been featured in dozens of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Bankrate, Multifamily Executive, New Home Source, The Washington Post, and U.S. News & World Report.