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Let’s assume that you can’t install the towel rail yourself. You will need to hire a professional to do the job for you. Depending on which type of towel rail you intend to install will determine whether you need a plumber or an electrician. Both of these professionals seem to be in short supply and charge accordingly for their services, but a plumber will be slightly cheaper than an electrician. The price to hire a professional will vary depending on where you live. London will always cost more than anywhere else.
Let’s assume you are having a wet towel rail and you need a plumber. The cost to buy the towel rail will vary depending on its size and style. Choose one that will suit the décor of your bathroom and has approximately the same heat output as your existing radiator. This will reduce the possibility of increased moisture in the bathroom.
- To buy a simple wet towel rail and have it installed will cost between £300 and £450.
To have an electrical towel rail installed you will need an electrician or have your DIY work inspected by one. For a qualified electrician, the job shouldn’t take more than one day. Costs will vary depending on whether there is already a power supply point in a convenient location or whether a new one has to be installed. If you want quotations from different electricians, make sure that they are all quoting for the same specification work.
- The cost for an electrical towel rail will be approximately as follows:
|One day labour||£200|
|Standard electrical towel rail||£170|
|Materials (cable & timer)||£60|
In addition to the installation, the electrician will also complete the paperwork necessary for Building Control and will issue a test certificate for any new circuits.
To install a dual fuel towel rail, you will need the services of both a plumber and an electrician unless your DIY skills stretch to simple plumbing. If so, all you need is an electrician to install the electrical part of the system.
- To buy and install a dual fuel towel rail will cost somewhere between £500 and £750 depending on the type of rail, what electrical work needs to be done and where you live in the country.
Keeping hand and bath towels dry in a humid bathroom environment can be a difficult task. Often a towel only needs to be dried before it is used next time. A heated towel rail is the perfect bathroom appliance that will heat the room and dry towels and is relatively easy to fit.
A heated towel rail is a kind of radiator designed specifically for drying wet towels and clothes. These heated towel radiators do not look like regular radiators; they consist of a number of horizontal tubes connecting two vertical tubes. Whereas ordinary radiators are usually painted to match the rest of the décor, bathroom towel radiators are often (although not always) unpainted and finished in chrome, stainless steel, aluminium, cast iron or brass. The metal finishing distinguishes the towel rail radiator from other more conventional radiators and shows its purpose at a glance.
Types of Heated Towel Rails
Bathroom heated towel rails come in three basic types
- Wet towel rail. These are connected to the domestic central heating system so that the heat is produced by the main water boiler.
- Electric towel rail. These get their heat from an electric heating element situated within one of the vertical tubes. (the heating element is similar in operation to those found within an electric kettle). The element is electrically connected to a power point and heats up a reservoir of water contained within the towel rail unit. (the connection must comply with the UK Building Regulations).
- Dual fuel towel rail. These are connected to the central heating system as well as having their own electrical heating element within the unit.
How to install a towel radiator
Fitting a towel radiator is very easy for someone with basic plumbing or electrical skills as long as any electrical connections comply with the Electrical Wiring Regulations for Special Installations (a part of the UK Building Regulations).
Most bathrooms are already fitted with some kind of heating, usually a radiator, connected to the central heating system. If so, and you intend to replace this with a heated towel rail, then choose one with the same width and if possible approximately the same surface area. It will then automatically be suitable for the existing central heating system and its pipework.
To replace a radiator with a wet towel rail:
- Ensure the central heating system and pump is turned off.
- Isolate the radiator from the stub feed pipes.
- Disconnect and remove the existing radiator.
- Replace with the new towel rail.
- Open the isolation valves.
- Turn on central heating system and pump to circulate water.
- Bleed the trapped air from within the towel rail.
If you intend on adding an electrical towel rail to a bathroom then obviously you won’t have to remove the existing radiator (unless you install a dual fuel rail). It is more efficient to have both your existing radiator and an electric towel rail in your bathroom but you will have to be guided by your abilities, the available space and whether there is an existing electrical supply point you can wire into.
If you research the Electrical Wiring Regulations, you will find out that electrical appliances within a bathroom must be permanently wired in and have the on-off switch outside the room or controlled by a pull cord type switch. You may already have an electrical supply point within reach that you can use or you may have to ask an electrician to install a power supply for your towel rail. Whichever method you use, make sure the installation complies with the regulations and if the installation location falls within the notifiable location, contact the Building Control Office for advice. It is always our advice to comply with the Electrical Installation Regulations at all times and employ a qualified and competent person to do the work for you.
If you intend to install a dual fuel towel radiator, you must replace the existing radiator and wire the element to a supply point at the same time.
What are the benefits of a heated towel rail
Heated towel rails are designed specifically for drying towels and clothing rather than just heating a room (they do this as well by the way), they are useful to have in cool and cold climates to keep your bathroom warm and dry. Without some way to dry damp towels, you will find that germs and mould will grow until your bathroom is full of fungal spores. If you don’t have a heated towel rail then the only other way to dry towels and clothes when the weather is not suitable for drying outside is to use a tumble drier, with the added electricity costs.
How do they work
Heated towel rails can be connected to the central heating system; connected to the electricity supply or connected to both.
Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages:
Central heating towel rail.
- The main advantages are that the heat comes from the central heating system; is controlled by the central heating thermostat and timer; there are no additional energy costs as the central heating is operational anyway; the existing central heating radiator is easily changed to a heated towel rail.
- The main disadvantage is that the heated towel rail only uses the heat when the central heating is turned on. The central heating isn’t normally used in the summer, the towel rail is therefore also not turned on; this type cannot be used if the house does not have central heating; the towel rail temperature is governed by the central heating temperature.
Electrically heated towel rail.
- The main advantages are that the towel rail is completely independent of the central heating system; can provide heat to the bathroom even if the house does not have central heating; can be used in the summer when the central heating is turned off; has its own timer, independent of the central heating timer control; the heat output is independent of the central heating temperature.
- The main disadvantages are that it is more expensive to fit than the ‘wet’ type; additional energy costs on top of the central heating charges.
Dual fuel towel rail.
- The main advantages are that you can use the rail whether the central heating system when it is turned on or off; the best of both systems.
- The main disadvantages are that it requires both a plumber and an electrician to install so is more expensive to install; it is more expensive to buy than either of the single fuel types.
DIY or professional installation?
As stated earlier, to install a heated towel rail needs either a plumber, an electrician or both depending on the type of towel rail chosen.
You don’t need advanced plumbing skills to remove an existing central heating radiator and replace it with a ‘wet’ towel rail. All you need is an understanding of how the central heating system operates. If however, you are adding an extra radiator to the existing central heating system in the bathroom or you are replacing the existing radiator with one that has a much larger heat output than the original, you will need more advanced plumbing skills. A properly installed central heating system has a boiler whose heat output is perfectly balanced with the number of radiators (and their heat output) in the circuit. If there are any alterations apart from simply replacing ‘like for like’ then the plumber needs to do some advanced calculations to ensure the boiler is capable of supplying all the radiators. Another thing that is often overlooked is the general maintenance needed on a wet central heating system. The water inside the system is recirculated over and over again and eventually, a build-up of sludge occurs that will slowly reduce the pipe and radiator bore allowing less water flow. Every central heating system needs regular flushing to prevent clogging up. If the radiator is to be replaced by a plumber than ask him or her to flush out the system at the same time. It will work out cheaper to have the maintenance work done while the plumber is already working on the system.
The electrical towel rail does not need any plumbing skills but it does need an understanding of electricity and will need to be checked by a qualified electrician, who will issue a certificate. The amount of electrical knowledge needed will depend on the amount of electrical work that needs to be done. If there is a handy power supply already within reach that can be changed to one complying with the Building Regulations, it can be a DIY job as long as it is subsequently checked. If a new power point needs to be brought in however, a much higher level of knowledge is needed and a qualified electrician should do the job. If you in any doubt as to what the requirements are, contact a qualified electrician or the Building Control office who will advise you.
Fitting a heated towel rail in your bathroom will be a useful addition to anyone’s heating system. Which type of towel rail you choose, is something that only you can answer. You must make a decision based on your priorities, what type of heating you already have in the bathroom and what (if any) DIY skills you have. Once you have determined the best type for your circumstances, then either choose a professional or do it yourself. Remember that your installation must comply with the UK Building Regulations so if you are in any doubt choose a professional to do the work. You certainly won’t regret installing a heated towel rail in your bathroom.