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Remodeling 101: Towel Warmers

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Remodeling 101: Towel Warmers

February 3, 2015

To add to the list of luxuries worth considering in your remodel: the heated towel bar. Most commonly called towel warmers, these appliances easily integrate into bathrooms of all sizes and sorts, no remodel required.

Runtal Towel Warmer Design

Above: Swiss company Runtal offers a wide range of towel-warmer designs, including this coat-hanger shape.

Why consider a towel warmer?

Who doesn’t enjoy being cloaked in warmth after a shower or bath? And beyond the spa comforts, heated towel bars offer these benefits:

  • They reduce mildew by drying towels more rapidly, keeping them fresher.
  • Act as a supplemental heater in your bathroom, providing a soft ambient warmth that reduces mold-inducing dampness.
  • Gently dry delicate clothing and swimwear.
  • Accelerate drying of wet outerwear, such as coats and gloves–making towel warmers worth considering for mudrooms and laundry rooms.

Drummonds Freestanding Compact Bathtub

Above: A wall-mounted towel warmer (similar to Waterwork’s Universal Towel Warmer) in a diminutive bath with a Drummonds Cast Iron Tub. Photograph courtesy of Drummonds.

How do towel warmers work?

There are two basic types: electric and hydronic. Both systems heat the towel rail from the inside out, are highly efficient, and have low energy consumption. As an added feature, many towel warmers are equipped with auto shut-off timers and thermostats.

Sussex Bathroom with Towel Warmer

Above: A wall-mounted towel warmer is at the ready in a renovated rectory from our post Springtime in Sussex.

Electric towel warmers are self-contained units that operate independently from your heating system. They contain electric-powered, low-watt elements within the towel rail. Some use a “dry” element that heats wire installed in the tubes of the towel bars, while others use a “wet” element to heat oil or water inside the towel rail. Both types of electric towel warmers can be operated with an on/off switch or with a timer.

Hydronic towel warmers are connected to either hot-water plumbing or radiant-heating systems. Like a radiator, the hot water runs through the towel bars, providing even and consistent warmth.

Are towel warmers tricky to install?

The complexity of installing towel warmers depends on the heating source and mounting style. Some simply plug in like a toaster, while others require professional installation and connection to your home’s plumbing or electrical systems. Electric towel warmers are available as either hardwired or plug-in units. Hydronic towel warmers are best installed during a remodel.

Freestanding Towel Warmer

Above: Freestanding towel warmers offer the most flexibility in placement and the most ease in installation. All models are electric and most are of the plug-in variety. They can be moved to a laundry room for drying delicates, and to the back door to heat up winter scarves and coats before you heat out into the cold. Photograph of a freestanding towel warmer from Mr. Steam.

Are there different configurations?

Towel warmers are available in three mounting styles: wall-hung, floor-mounted, and freestanding. All three are available in hardwired or plug-in electric versions. Because they’re connected to plumbing, hydronic towel warmers must be mounted to the wall or floor. A wide variety of styles and sizes are available for everything from powder rooms to bustling family baths.

Towel Warmer in Modern SF Bath

Above: A great choice for space-constrained baths, wall-mounted towel warmers are an easy replacement for standard towel bars and shelves. This modern wall unit in a bathroom remodel in San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill by Moroso Construction is an easy-to-install electric plug-in model.

Myson Lekoro Towel Warmer Shelf

Above: Shelf-style towel warmers are a great choice for small spaces. Myson’s Lekoro Classic Electric Towel Warmer in polished chrome is only 18 inches wide; $1,150 at eFaucets. For more options, see Toasty Towels, Courtesy of Warming Shelves.

Towel Warmer Bar in UK House

Above: Floor-mounted towel warmers (braced to the wall on top) pair well with freestanding tubs. Photograph courtesy of Light Locations.

How much do towel warmers cost?

Prices range from $40 to $4,000, depending on installation requirements (mounting type and heating source), size, style, and make. A surprising number of options are available in the $150 to $300 range, but high-end, architect-designed models can run ten or more times higher. For sources, take a look at Hudson Reed, Quality Bath, Home & Stone, and Only Towel Warmers, all of which have a wide range on offer.

Only Towel Warmers Amba Swivel Jack Towel Warmer

Above: Towels slide easily onto the bars of the Amba Swivel Jack Plug-In Towel Warmer; $169.95 at Only Towel Warmers.

Soho House Berlin Bathroom with Towel Warmers

Above: Bath-side heated towel rails warm a bath at the Soho House Berlin. For more, see Steal This Look: Soho House Berlin Bath.

Vola Chrome Built-In Heated Towel Warmer

Above: On the other end of the spectrum, the Vola Stainless Steel Towel Warmer for hydronic heating systems is $4,166.25 at Quality Bath.

Considering bathroom enhancements? Take a look at:

Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose the hardware items for your bathroom in our Remodeling 101 Guide: Bath Hardware.

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