Should you buy a heated towel rack? Everything you need to know

Mother wrapping child up in towel after a bath

Tianna Nadalin

Posted June 17, 2022


When it comes to must-have bathroom accessories, a heated towel rail might be at the top of your list in winter. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right heated towel rail for your bathroom or ensuite.

Imagine stepping out of the shower on a frosty winter’s night, grabbing a towel and wrapping yourself up in a sheet of warmth. This is just the kind of cosy comfort a heated towel rack can add to your life. Say goodbye to soggy bathmats; these game-changing heating accessories are basically the bathroom equivalent of a big warm hug.  

Whether you’ve got a large bathroom or a small ensuite, heated towel rails come in a range of styles and sizes to suit every space and budget. And the best bit? The toasty heating tool can be a surprisingly energy efficient solution to your damp towel dilemma. 

So, if you’re planning a bathroom renovation or simply looking to make winter more comfortable, here’s what you need to know about heated towel racks, plus expert tips for choosing the right option for your bathroom. 

bathroom with heated towel rack

Heated towel rails can be a solution to quickly drying damp towels. Image: Getty.


How do heated towel rails work? 

A heated towel rail is a bathroom upgrade that’s more than a one-trick pony. As well as keeping your towels toasty before use, a heated towel rail can also help them dry between uses, which is especially helpful during the cooler winter months. 

Depending on the style of rack, Head of RACV Trades Kieran Davies, says heated towel rails generally warm up to about 50C and run on the lowest wattage possible, making them a relatively cost-effective appliance to run.   

How long do heated towel rails take to warm up? 

Most electric towel rails heat up and cool down quickly. Some towel rails can heat up in as little as a few minutes and reach maximum temperatures within about half an hour. If you hang a wet towel straight out of the washing machine, it can dry within a few hours on a heated towel rack, negating the need to switch on a clothes dryer.  

How hot to heated towel rails get? 

This varies by type and brand but, on average, most heated towel rails are designed to reach temperatures of between 40 and 60 degrees Celsius. They can, however, get even hotter than this is if there is a towel draped over them. Depending on the maximum temperature of your unit, heated towel rails may be hot to touch so it is important to exercise caution, especially if you have young children in the house. 

Do heated towel rails use a lot of energy?

The amount of energy heated towel rails use differs from brand to brand. Most heated towel rails consume 100 to 200 watts of electricity per hour. Some use as little as 60 watts. How much energy it uses will depend on the size and style of the towel rail. 

“If you have a large 200-watt heated towel rail running all day, at 35 cents per kilowatt-hour, the total running cost would be around $1.68,” Davies says. “This is comparable to having a few old-style incandescent light bulbs switched on or a couple of modern LED TVs.”

If you only run a heated towel rail for a few hours per day (say four, which is about how long it takes to dry a sopping wet towel straight out of the washing machine), that cost goes down to around $0.40 cents per day. 

“That’s a lot less than the cost of using a clothes dryer to dry and warm your towels,” Davies says.

 

tradie insalling a towel rack

Qualified electricians can hardwire an electric heated towel rail into your bathroom or ensuite. 


What type of heated towel rail is best?

There are three main types of heated towel rails. Which one is best for you will depend on your space, style and budget. 

  1. Electric: This type of towel warmer can be hardwired by a qualified electrician, which means it connects straight to your power source, or plugged in to an existing power point depending on the design. It requires no plumbing and can be operated from a regular switch. Electric towel rails use a thermostatic dry element to maintain an even optimum temperature of between 40-60 degrees Celsius, depending on the size, voltage and brand. As these are operated via a regular on/off switch, you can choose to run them for as long or as little time as you’d like. Some even come with timers to further improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness. 
  2. Hydronic: Unlike electric towel rails, hydronic racks are designed to not only heat your towels, but also add a little ambient heat to the whole room. These can heat up to about 55 degrees, with the heat produced by pumping hot water through the rails. As boilers are required, how long they take to heat up is dependent on if the boiler is already running / water is already hot. They are only viable if you already have an existing hydronic heating system in your home. “Water retains heat really well so once you’ve heated the unit up it will stay warm,” Davies says. “The only downside is they can take a long time to heat up.”
  3. Liquid filled: As the name suggests, these towel warmers are filled with anti-corrosion fluid and use an electric element heat the liquid. They take about an hour to reach optimum temperature of about 55 degrees. These are a great solution for anyone who prefers the subtle heat of hydronic systems to the dry heat of electric filaments. 

All heated towel rails sold in Australia must meet Australian Safety Standards. If you are purchasing from online retailers, by sure to check that the unit has an IP rating. This is called an ingress protection rating and it rates the appliance based on its level of protection against the ingress of water and other fluids. The higher the second number, the greater protection it provides from water ingress; an important consideration when installing in wet areas. Most towel rails have an IP55 rating, which means they are protected from dust, low pressure water jets and spray.

 

towel hanging on a heated towel rack

There are number of factors to consider when choosing the best place for a heated towel rail in your bathroom. Image: Getty.


How do you install heated towel rails?

Heated towel rails have hardwired and plug-in options and can also be wall-mounted or freestanding. For plug in solutions that require only a power point, it’s important the check the manufacturer’s specifications about where these can be used. For anything that requires hardwiring, the electrical connection must be completed by a qualified electrician.  

Where is the best place to put a heated towel rail?

This can depend on a couple of things – the bathroom space you have available, the voltage of the unit you are looking to install, the manufacturer’s specifications (such as minimum height above floor level) and any building code regulations that need to be observed to meet safety standards. 

 

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