A heated towel rail connected a central heating system will usually come on at the same time as the rest of your radiators. A towel rail will emit heat according to the temperature you have set on your thermostat and the BTU output capabilities of the rail.
Though this is the standard method of how heated towel rails switch on and operate at temperature, there are variations which we will explore below.
Standard Heated Towel Rails
A standard heated towel rail works by being plumbed in and connected to your copper pipes, just like your radiators.
Your gas-fired boiler comes on in accordance with your thermostat and timer settings, and hot water flows around the network of pipes in your home to heat the radiators and heated towel rails.
Hot water flows into the bars of the towel rail and heat (measured in BTUs) is emitted into the room.
Thermostatic Radiator Valves
If you want to have extra control over your heating, you can install thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) on your heated towel rails.
Thermostatic Radiator Valves don't control the temperature of your towel rail, instead they control when the heated towel rail switches on or off depending on the heat in the room.
TRVs usually come with settings of between 0 and 5.
- 0 means the towel rail is off and will not come on.
- 1 would mean the towel rail will come on when the room drops below about 10°C (meaning the room would be quite cold before your towel rail comes on)
- 5 would mean the towel rail will come on when the room drops below 30°C (meaning the towel rail is likely to be on all the time)
The best place to set a thermostatic radiator valve in winter is between 2 - 3. This will ensure that your heated towel rail will keep emitting heat at a comfortable temperature without allowing the room to get too cold and, at the other end of the scale, without unnecessarily using energy and overheating the room.
Electric Heated Towel Rails
Electric towel rails are much more straightforward when it comes to powering on or off and adjusting the temperature.
Electric rails are wired into the electrical supply in your home and are therefore much more akin to an electric appliance, switching it on and off as and when you need it.
The heat output of electric heated towel rails is usually measure in Watts (W). The greater the wattage, the more heat the towel rail can emit.
Each electric towel rail contains an element which converts the electricity coming into the rail, causing it to heat up the internal fluid in the bars.
Elements fitted to electric heated towel rails normally come in two types:
- Non-thermostatic/single heat elements - The temperature from the towel rail is not adjustable and will operate at a single heat. (Often around 60°C)
- Thermostatic/variable heat elements - The temperature is adjustable and can be set at various increments. (Often around 47°C - 60°C)
Which you choose depends on your budget and how necessary you feel it is to adjust the heat on your towel rails.
Dual Fuel Heated Towel Rails
Dual fuel heated towel rails are a combination of above. They allow you the choice of having them come on with your other radiators and central heating system, or to switch them on and off with your electricity supply.
An example of when this might be useful is if it is the outside temperature is warm but you have damp towels that need drying.
A dual fuel heated towel rail allows you to switch your heated towel rail on via the electrics for long enough to dry your towels without going to the inconvenience and expense of switching on your whole heating system.
For other times of the year, the rail can come on along with your radiators.
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