Plumbed or electric towel radiator

10 Feb 2009
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United Kingdom

I’m installing a towel radiator in a downstairs toilet that is quite cold.

Plumbing in a radiator will require quite a long and complex pipe run.

I know it depends on output and size but just wondered if an electric element in a towel radiator generally provides similar performance to a plumbed in rad and enough heat to heat the room or only enough to warm a towel?


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The heat output for items of the same physical size is pretty much comparable between the two. But in both cases amounts to not much, which is why they are now more often correctly referred to as 'towel warmers'. 'Towel radiator' is really a bit of a misnomer.

As a rule of thumb, a 'towel warmer' will emit about one third of the heat emitted by a radiator of the same size. But that assumes it is uncovered. If covered with fluffy insulating towels the heat output is reduced even further.

Having said that I fitted an electric towel warmer in my in-laws 'seriously tiny' under the stairs WC and if it was left on all day it kept it warm in there. I seem to think that it was rated at about 60W. However, the WC was off a heated hallway.

If you use an online calculator such as the example here. [Scroll down and click on the BTU Calculator tab] you will see how much heat you would require, and would then be able to source a suitable product.
My downstairs cloakroom had a plumbed radiator, as the room was cold even in the summer I replaced it with an electric one. Its thermostatic on the lowest setting, it does a brilliant job. It only gets turned off for about a month midsummer.
I put one in the main bathroom, where there is a large plumbed one. So when central heating is off electric will come on, took a bit of balancing with the thermostat setting. Does a good job.

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