How to replace a radiator with a heated towel rail

How to replace a radiator with a heated towel rail

A chrome heated towel rail being installedA chrome heated towel rail being installed

Heated towel rails are now a well-established fixture in many people's homes. They provide a convenient place to hang, dry and warm towels and they also look very stylish, so it's no wonder they continue to prove so popular. If you are thinking of adding a towel rail into your home, then it's common to wonder if you can actually install one in place of an existing radiator. In this article, we'll look at when it is and isn't recommended to replace a rad with a rail and how you would go about it.

Can you replace a radiator with a heated towel rail?

In theory, you could remove a radiator and fit a heated towel rail in its place in any room of your house. If you have a conventional hot water central heating system with a gas boiler, then your towel rail could simply be plumbed to the pipework and it will start working. The most simple way to do this is to buy a towel rail that has the same pipe centres measurement (distance between the pipes) as your radiator.

Alternatively, electric heated towel rails can be connected to your mains electrical supply and switched on and off when needed. This is great if you don't have gas central heating or if pipes aren't present in the area where you'd like a rail installed.

In practise however, not every room is going to benefit from having a towel rail installed in place of a radiator.

Not in living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms

While it's unlikely that you're going to want a heated towel rail in these rooms, it's still worth pointing out why it's not recommended from a heat-based point of view. The areas of your home where you spend the most time relaxing need to be warmed to a comfortable temperature at the coldest times of the year and you are unlikely to get adequate heat emission from a heated towel rail to heat these rooms.

If you compare a radiator and a heated towel rail of the same dimensions, the radiator will always be able to emit considerably more heat, particularly if it's double-panelled. Due to the differences in design, a panelled radiator will have a greater surface area from which to emit heat than the ladder-bar styling of a heated towel rail. The primary function of a heated towel rail is to heat towels, with pushing heat out into the room very much secondary, so you would need an absolutely huge towel rail to emit the same heat as a radiator of similar proportions.

In areas such as living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms, radiators remain the most heat, cost and space efficient way of heating up the space. Using a heating calculator is a great way of checking to see how much heat you need from your radiators in order to heat the room comfortably. For those with limited horizontal wall space in these living areas, the convenience of vertical radiators should not be overlooked.

Bathrooms, en-suites, kitchens and utility rooms

The most common places to install a heated towel rail are in bathrooms, en-suites and variations thereof. These rooms tend to be smaller and are usually the place where you might have to make a decision to have a radiator or a heated towel rail installed - there's often not room for both.

Because bathrooms tend to get hot on a regular basis due to baths and showers, there is less of a need to heat them with a powerful traditional radiator. Many bathrooms are also interior rooms not connected to an outside wall and so further benefit from residual heat from other rooms. This means that bathrooms lend themselves well to having a towel rail installed in place of a radiator.

We have also seen an increase in people installing heated towel rails in kitchens and utility rooms. With many open plan kitchens there is often room for both a radiator and a useful heated towel rail, but for smaller kitchens, the heat from cooking can often compensate much like hot water in a bathroom does. This can result in a situation where installing a heated towel rail can provide enough heat without the need for a radiator.

Utility rooms are usually spaces where time spent is minimal, perhaps simply to use the washing machine, tumble dryer or a sink, and so don't require the full heat force of a radiator. As many people increasingly like the convenience of a heated towel rail in utility rooms, replacing a rad with a towel rail is certainly a possibility to consider in these areas.

What size heated towel rail should you choose?

If you have made the decision to completely replace a radiator with a heated towel rail, then we'd advise choosing the largest towel rail that space will allow - without being so large that it spoils the aesthetic of the room, of course. A larger towel rail will help to ensure you are maximising the heat that is being emitted into the room, as well as providing more space to hang towels.

You can use the heating calculator to work out how much heat you'll need, but also bear in mind heat from hot water and/or cooking will naturally increase the temperature so you may find you can install a heated towel rail with a lower British Thermal Unit (BTU) count than might be needed in other rooms.

We have a range of tall heated towel rails which are perfect for areas where you need to go upwards in order to ensure you've got enough heat in the room.

How much does it cost to replace a radiator with a heated towel rail?

Before looking at actual numbers, there are several variables involved that may affect the final price you are quoted. These can include:

  • The type of heated towel rail being installed
  • If a qualified electrician is needed (for electric and dual fuel towel rails)
  • If you or your plumber sourced the towel rail
  • How many radiators and towel rails are being removed and installed
  • If pipework needs to be rejigged
  • Whether additional maintenance needs carrying out
  • Where you live in the country

In order to get an accurate price, you'll need to consult Checkatrade or actually contact some professionals in your local area. The below are very rough approximations only and don't account for any price increases as a result of global material shortages.

- Standard installation of a conventional hot water heated towel rail will be around £200 - £300 for labour - around £150 for the towel rail
- Standard installation of an electric heated towel rail - around £200 for labour - around £150 - £200 for towel rail
- Standard installation of a dual fuel heated towel rail - around £300 - £500 for labour - around £150 - £200 for towel rail

How to install a heated towel rail

We would always recommend you engage the services of a professional for replacing a radiator with a heated towel rail unless you have some experience of DIY plumbing jobs. If you are planning to have an electric heated towel rail, you must get a qualified electrician to do the work in order for the job to be legal.

If you are planning to install a heated towel rail onto a conventional central heating system and do have some experience, then you may find the videos below helpful.

Heated towel rails at Trade Radiators

Trade Radiators is the UK’s leading online radiator store, and we’re delighted to also be one of the top stores online for heated towel rails. We have the widest range of towel rails you’ll find online, with models coming in all shapes and sizes.

Whether you’re looking for a no-fuss budget option for the downstairs toilet you’ve just done up, have an open plan kitchen that would benefit from a designer rail, or work in a commercial space and want to save space, we have the right rail.

Take a look at our current heated towel rails and bathroom radiators to find one that works for you.

22 February 2022