Everyone old enough to read this will almost certainly have had that “coming out of the shower or bath into a cold room” experience at least once in their lives. It’s miserable and there are three steps to combatting it. The first is to sort out your bathroom flooring so that you step onto a mat (or even a rug) and then either into a pair of slippers or onto a warmer surface like linoleum or cork tiling. The second is to ensure that there is an appropriate level of heating for the size of room and the time of year and the third is to wrap yourself quickly in a nice, warm robe or towel. Towel radiators can help with the second point and deal with the third. With that in mind, here is a guide to help you choose one.
Ordinary radiators are usually connected to your central heating system (although even then there are a few exceptions such as oil-filled radiators). This makes complete sense in just about every area of the home - except the bathroom. There are two reasons for this. The first is that bathrooms tend to be the coldest rooms in a home due to the fact that they are often covered largely in very conductive surfaces such as ceramic tiling, which become very cold very quickly when the heating is off, plus the fact that there is generally limited access for sunlight and its warmth, due to the need to ensure privacy for bathroom users. The second is that it’s much more of a challenge to add extra heating to bathrooms than it is to add it in other rooms due to the fact that bathrooms are, by definition, places where there is a lot of water, which rules out many common domestic heaters. Connecting a towel radiator to the central heating makes it economical to run, but it also means that if you turn off your central heating, you turn off your towel radiator, which can be a bit of a nuisance given that if there’s one room in your house you could probably use extra heating, it’s likely to be your bathroom. One way to get around this is to run your central heating but turn every other radiator in the house off at the valve, but this has the potential to be highly inconvenient. Another approach is to opt for electrically-heated elements, but these can be more expensive to use all year round and it can be galling to have to pay doubly to heat your bathroom when you’re running your central heating in any case. Because of this, many people opt for dual-fuel towel radiators, which can be connected to central heating systems but also have electric elements as a back up for during the summer months.
In the UK, the capacity of towel radiators is measured in British Thermal Units, BTU. To get a ballpark idea of the minimum capacity required to heat your bathroom adequately, take the measurements of your room (height*width*depth) in metres to get its cubic volume, then multiply this by 400 to get the BTU capacity you will require for an average bathroom, by which we mean a fairly modern home with good insulation, where the bathroom only has one outside wall and one small to medium-sized window with double glazing. We’d advise against shading these requirements down, even if you think you reasonably could, but you may want to think about shading them up, for example if you live in an older house where insulation is less effective. This calculation also assumes that most of the surface of the towel radiator is going to be uncovered so that the air can circulate, bringing the head with it. If you think it’s more likely that everyone’s going to hang their towels on the towel radiator at the same time all the time, then you should definitely think about increasing the capacity to compensate.
In principle, you want to site your towel radiator in the coldest part of your bathroom to ensure maximum efficiency of heat circulation. In practice, this is only really an issue in some older homes with poor insulation. If you’re in this situation and you’re unable to bring your insulation up to modern standards, then we’d suggest that you do whatever you reasonably can to put at least one of your main radiator and/or your towel radiator into this part of the room since we suspect you’re probably going to want all the heat output you can get. If, however, you’re in a modern house with decent insulation, then we’d be more inclined to look at the existing plumbing rather than worry about determining which exact place in the bathroom gets the least heat. Basically, if you can site your towel radiator where there is already plumbing in place for it, then you’ll save yourself both money and hassle. We’d therefore suggest that this should be the first point you should check and that you should only site your towel radiator elsewhere if this is really important to the overall design of your bathroom. When looking at siting locations, remember that in addition to accounting for the size of whatever towel radiator you ultimately choose, you will also need to think about the thickness of the radiator itself plus the towels you plan to hang on it.
In most bathrooms, you will be able to choose between free-standing towel radiators and wall-mounted towel radiators. If you’re planning on putting the towel radiator up against a load-bearing wall then this will be purely a matter of personal taste. If, however, you want to put your towel radiator up against a partition wall, then we’d suggest you check that the wall can actually handle the weight before you set your heart on a wall-mounted radiator. If you can choose between either then wall-mounted towel radiators can help make a small bathroom look a bit bigger by keeping the floor space clear and encouraging the eye to look further up. On the other hand, by definition, they do take up wall space, which may be a minor issue in a small bathroom, which it would be impractical to put in wall-mounted storage, but possibly somewhat more of an issue in medium-sized and larger rooms where the wall space can be used to house cabinets (or even decoration). You may also find that your existing plumbing connections are at ground level and hence opting for a wall-mounted towel radiator would involve the extra expense and inconvenience of extending the piping.
While towel radiators do come in a variety of different styles and finishes, we’d suggest you bear in mind that towel radiators are long-term appliances and choose a design you can live with over the long term and which will adapt to updates in your decor, whether it’s making your bathroom more modern or more traditional. With that in mind, we’d point out that these days your choice of finish will typically be between painting and chrome plating. If you’re looking for optimum efficiency then painting is the way to go since chrome plating is highly insulating and therefore absorbs some of the heat generated by the towel radiator. Painting also gives you the option of updating your colour later on if you feel like a change (and putting it back how it was if you change your mind back again). Chrome, on the other hand, does have a sleek and chic stylishness some people absolutely love and as long as the plating is of a high quality (as it is with all the towel radiators we sell here at Poshh), it will resist corrosion and look good over the long term.
Usually you buy towel radiators and the associated valves separately, which gives you the opportunity to pick a valve which fits your taste and the style of your bathroom. We’d suggest you consider the benefits of buying a thermostatic valve, which can maintain the temperature of the towel radiator at a specified level and therefore make your towel radiator a bit more energy efficient. Thermostatic valves do cost a bit more than the standard alternatives, but they recoup their upfront price over time in the shape of lower running costs.
Admittedly we’re being slightly tongue-in-cheek here but only just. If you use a towel radiator then, effectively, your towels will become a display so you may want to think about upgrading them. You could go for the all-white look as they do in spas where peace and tranquility are paramount. Alternatively, you could go for pops of colour and use your towels as art (why not?). Whichever route you choose, think about comfort. Since you’ve recognized the importance of being able to step out of a bath or shower and wrap yourself up immediately in a warm towel, why not take it a step further and invest in some really high-quality, fluffy, snuggly towels for the ultimate showering or bathing experience.