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Can a towel rail heat a bathroom?

First invented in the 1980s, the heated towel rail was originally introduced in luxury, high-end hotels. They are now a staple in many homes with many people opting to use them in bathrooms, ensuites and even kitchens.

Available in a range of styles and sizes, a heated towel rail might be a great addition to your bathroom to provide you with warm, dry towels. But can they heat your bathroom? In this blog, we will explore the pros and cons of installing a heated towel rail to help you make the best decision for your home.

How does a towel rail work

What are the benefits of a heated towel rail?

Are heated towel rails cost-efficient?

Is a heated towel rail as good as a radiator?

Is a towel rail suitable for my bathroom?

What size towel rail do I need?

When shopping around for a radiator or heated towel rail, you might notice they specify a British Thermal Unit (BTU), but can also sometimes be rated in watts (W). The BTU will determine what size radiator you’ll need based on the size of the room. Put simply, the higher the BTU, the greater the heat output.

It will also depend on other factors such as the location of the room and which way it faces. North-facing rooms are typically colder than south-facing rooms as they receive less direct sunlight.

The types of windows you have installed and the insulation you have will also affect the temperature of the room and its efficiency to retain heat. For example, bathrooms with double or triple-glazed windows will retain more heat than those with single-glazed windows. Similarly, a bathroom with insulated walls will retain more heat than one without insulation. This means less energy will be required to heat the room and maintain a warmer temperature.

There are lots of useful BTU calculators available online that take these factors into account.

How does a towel rail work?

There are three types of heated towel rails available on the market. The type you’ll need will mainly depend on the type of central heating system you have.

Plumbed towel rail

If you have a gas-powered central heating system then a plumbed ‘standard’ heated towel rail is a suitable option for you. Using your home’s central heating, a heated towel rail works in the same way as a traditional radiator. If you’re replacing an existing conventional radiator it’s likely you’ll already have the correct pipework in place. If you are unsure, contact your local Glow-worm installer to check.

Electric heated towel rail

Electric heated towel rails run solely off your mains electricity and are suitable for properties with an electrical central heating system. If you have a gas-powered central heating system, you can also opt for this type. If you don’t already have the correct pipework in place for a radiator running from your home's central heating system in your bathroom, an electric heated towel rail can be a great solution as it works independently of your gas central heating.

Dual-fueled heated towel rail

If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, a dual-fuel heated towel rail could be the perfect option for you. They use both the mains electricity and central heating supply. This option can be particularly useful in the summer when your central heating is off or lowered but you would still like a cosy, warm towel after a relaxing bath or shower.

What are the benefits of a heated towel rail?

By nature, bathrooms are prone to dampness and humidity. In addition to keeping the space well-ventilated with an extractor fan or opening windows, keeping your bathroom at 16°C will help to reduce condensation. Providing the heated towel rail is sufficient for the size of the bathroom, it can help keep your towels dry and your bathroom at the perfect temperature.

Installing a heated towel rail can be a great solution for warming smaller bathrooms and ensuites without taking up valuable space. They come in a variety of sizes and orientations and can be installed higher up the wall, giving you more floor space. As the name suggests, they also provide you with a practical solution to hang and store your towels whilst keeping them warm and dry.

Heated towel rails come in a variety of styles and finishes and can be a more modern alternative to a traditional radiator. A new towel rail could be the perfect addition to a newly renovated bathroom or simply to smarten up your space.



Are heated towel rails cost-efficient?

When weighing up the pros and cons of a heated towel rail versus a traditional radiator, one factor you’re likely considering is their cost to run. Their efficiency will depend mainly on choosing the right size, type and position in the room. Due to their reduced surface area, heated towel rails can heat up faster than traditional radiators. This means you might not need it on for as long as a traditional radiator which could be a cost-effective solution.

Additionally, if you have gas-powered central heating and opt for an electric or dual-fueled heated towel rail, this will give you the option to turn on the rail when the other radiators in your home are switched off. This could help you save money by having the option to only heat one area of your house.

If you’re mostly concerned about keeping your towels dry, OnlyRadiators suggests that a heated towel rail near a window can be more cost-effective than running a tumble dryer. However, if your primary goal is to heat a bathroom, it’s important to remember that placing your towels on the rail will reduce its efficiency to heat the room as the air circulation will be restricted.

Is a heated towel rail as good as a radiator?

With many types and styles available on the market, a heated towel rail can be a great alternative to a traditional radiator. However, it’s important to note, standard radiators have more surface area so they will provide a higher heat output than a heated towel rail so if your bathroom is on the larger side, this is something you should consider.

If you’re looking for flexibility when heating your bathroom, opting for an electric heated towel rail can be a great solution. It will allow you to provide quick bursts of heat without the need to turn on your whole central heating system. This can be particularly useful in the summer months if you just wish to heat your bathroom, or dry your towels. Another benefit is that they tend to warm up quickly, meaning you won’t need them on for as long which could save you money on your bills.

With both radiators and heated towel rails, their efficiency to heat a space will be dependent on how much air can circulate freely around them. This circulation will be reduced if lots of towels and items of clothing are placed on it.

Is a heated towel rail suitable for my bathroom?

Ultimately this will depend on your primary intention of the heated towel rail and the size of your bathroom. If you’re hoping to store multiple towels on it all the time, then this will restrict its efficiency to provide adequate heat for the space. If you keep the towels you store on there to a minimum, the towel rail should have no problem heating the space.

If your bathroom or ensuite is on the smaller side and heated towel rail can be a great option to heat the space. However, If your bathroom is quite large, you might struggle to find a towel rail that can sufficiently heat the space. If this is the case and your space allows for it, you might want to consider installing both. This will allow you to keep your towels warm and dry whilst allowing your radiator to work on keeping the space warm.

How Glow-worm can help you keep your home warm and comfortable

For more practical heating tips for other spaces around your home, read our Practical Heating Tips article.