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Heated Towel Rail vs Radiator in Bathroom

towel rail heating bathroom

It’s easy to get confused when trying to figure out how to heat your bathroom the best way. Today, I’m discussing the differences between a bathroom radiator and a towel rail, and which is a more suitable choice for bathroom heating. 

Towel warmers are designed to do as the name suggests – heat your towels, but are not optimum for heating the bathroom. Radiators, on the other hand, are designed to keep the temperature in the room constant by “radiating” as much heat as possible into the room.

Are Towel Rails Enough to Heat the Bathroom? 

A frequent inquiry on the usefulness of heated towel rails is whether or not they contribute to the overall temperature in a bathroom. In a nutshell, the answer is yes. On those chilly winter mornings, a small bathroom with a heated towel rail will work, but heating up the bathroom will take longer.

Standard bathroom radiators (or towel radiators) are superior in terms of the amount of heat they deliver to the bathroom. Due to the bigger size and more bars, the entire bathroom will heat up more quickly.

Nevertheless, a bathroom with a heated towel rail is still a warm cosy place to be. Sometimes, with a small bathroom, you don’t need a big blazing hot radiator, a towel warmer or rail is perfect, giving off “just enough” heat while keeping your towels warm.

If your bathroom is large, or not well insulated, in the freezing cold winter months, a towel warmer may not be enough to heat the place. Either way, it will emit heat that will increase the room temperature, you just need to think about bathroom size, location, and insulation – more in this to come. 

Types of Towel Warmer Rails

Towel rails can either be plumbed into the central heating system, or powered by electricity. Both can be used to warm a room from the inside out. 

Learn more about the various types of towel rails and how to choose the one that’s right for your bathroom below.

Plumbed Rail

plumbed bathroom radiator wall

Plumbed rails, often called hydronic rails, get their heat from the boiler of the house’s central heating, and are the most common type of heating source. 

A potential snag is that the thermostat relies on the central heating system for power, so you’ll need to have the heating on in order to use it, rather than just being able to activate the towel warmer on its own.

It may be impossible to use these rails in the summer without subjecting the entire house to excessive heat. Towels can be kept toasty warm even when the heat in your home is turned off if the model you own has a heating element that can be powered by either electricity or water.

Electric towel rail

Electric towel rail

One advantage of an electric-powered towel rail is that it does not require a connection to the main heating system. This means it may be used year-round in isolation, without activating the home’s entire heating system.

Towel warmers of this sort plug into the wall socket or are wired to an isolator switch. Towel warmers that use electricity include a simple on/off switch that allows for manual control. Turn it on before you get in the shower or bath, and it will be nice and toasty with warm draping towels when you emerge.

Bathroom Location and Size

When compared to a comparable bathroom with a window, a windowless bathroom, especially one that is not attached to an exterior wall, will likely maintain a higher temperature. The room could be heated adequately with just a heated towel rail in this instance.

Because warm air rises, toilets located on lower floors are often more comfortable for bathing. Downstairs bathrooms that will be heated exclusively by a heated towel rail should have as large a rail as the available wall space will allow. It will make using the restroom in the winter and during chilly spells a bit more bearable and enjoyable.

Finding a heated towel rail that produces enough BTUs to heat a tiny bathroom is not difficult, provided you have adequate vertical wall space for installation.

However, you may have trouble locating a towel rack that effectively heats your bathroom if it is particularly spacious. In this scenario, you may decide that it’s more practical to install a separate radiator to handle the bulk of the heating, and to use a heated towel rail for added convenience.

However, this may not be an issue if your bathroom is spacious enough to accommodate both a towel rack and a radiator.

Can I replace a radiator with a heated towel rail?

Yes. Towel rails with built-in heating elements are installed similarly to standard radiators and warm up when the central heating system is on.

If you want to know how many BTUs (British Thermal Units) you’ll need to heat your bathroom, you can use a BTU calculator online to get an idea. After you’ve figured this out, you may verify that the BTU capacity of the towel warmer or radiator you’re considering buying is sufficient. Depending on the confines of the available room, you may need more than one item.

If you want to heat a large area, go for a device with a high BTU rating, and if you want to heat a small area, look for a low BTU rating. 

If it’s too huge, it’ll be too hot inside, and if it’s too little, it’ll be too cold. You shouldn’t worry, though, because the plumber will also be able to provide you with advice on the ideal BTUs and products for your needs.