A Guide to Bathroom Heating

There are few things better than a warm bathroom, especially when you step out of a warm shower or bath in the colder months. But how should you warm your bathroom?

Choosing your bathroom heating has become a much more difficult decision than settling for a heated towel rail or humble radiator. There are several types of bathroom heating available, all of which cater to a variety of styles and floor plans.

Read on to learn more about the types of bathroom heating and what you need to know before installation…

Why is bathroom heating important?

The bathroom is one of the most unique rooms in your home, and as such, it has different requirements for keeping warm. Similar to a kitchen, there is a high amount of heat and humidity, but it is much damper and smaller than other spaces. These factors come together and result in specific heating needs.

As a result, homeowners may need to purchase a completely different heater just for their bathroom, which can be heated through their central heating or electricity supply. The choice of bathroom heaters, however, can be overwhelming.

You cannot let your bathroom get too cold, as this will attract damp - which thrives in humid environments. Damp can lead to a build-up of mould in your bathroom, particularly on the walls or tiles, if not ventilated or heated properly. Bathroom heating, however, is only part of the answer to preventing mould from forming. Heat retention and efficiency also mean that you will cut down your energy use, saving money.

Read more: How to Remove Bathroom Mould

Most importantly, choosing your bathroom heater comes down to which fits your space and budget requirements.

How to heat a cold bathroom

There are four types of bathroom heating available to help warm up cold bathrooms. These are:

  • Panel heaters
  • Towel radiators and rails
  • Electric heaters
  • Underfloor heating

Some of these heaters may only be suitable depending on the size, shape, style and usage of your bathroom.

Does the size of the bathroom matter?

Yes, size is very important when picking your bathroom heating. You will need to consider the layout of your room and how a heater could interact with the basin, mirrors, doors, as well as your bathtub and shower. You don’t want everything to be cluttered, leaving little wall space.

While many options are ideal when space is at a premium, not all bathroom heaters will be suitable for use in smaller areas without causing inconvenience.

For a larger bathroom, you will need to consider how effective the heater will be across the entire space. For instance, ask yourself or a plumber whether a heater’s output will cover the whole bathroom. This is important, not just for warmth, but combatting potential damp.

A major point to remember is that a bathroom is split into different zones - four in total. These zones are based on the risk level of water getting close to or touching an electrical supply. This would cause damage to the installation but more importantly poses a risk of electric shock. Each zone will dictate which equipment, if any, can be fitted there.

The four zones are:

  • Zone 0: is the area inside the bath or shower basin which can hold water - i.e. your bath or shower.
  • Zone 1: the area directly above Zone 0 - your bath or shower - limited vertically to 2.25m above the bottom of the bath or shower. Zone 1 does not include Zone 0.
  • Zone 2: is the same height as Zone 1 - 2.25m - extended to 0.6m around the bath or shower, vertically and horizontally.
  • Zone 3: this is where no water is likely to be used at all

Find out more on our IP Ratings & Zones For Bathrooms Explained page.

How effective are panel heaters?

For a modern yet effective solution to your heating, panel radiators provide a truly designer look. Available in a range of sizes, they’re an all-round answer to heating your bathroom without installing standard-looking radiators. Panel heaters can be vertical or horizontal, with most bathroom designs being vertical to take up as little space as possible. They fit directly into your central heating without any problems, particularly if replacing an old heater.

Many flat panel radiators are manufactured from steel, providing a robust and reliable material. Many of these heaters, like at Plumbworld, are finished in white, anthracite or with integrated mirrors for a contemporary look and removes the need for a bathroom mirror. The benefit of a flat panel radiator, besides great looks, is a high heat output which ensures your bathroom, large or small, remains warm.

Can a towel rail heat a bathroom?

Yes! A traditional stalwart that works universally in all bathroom sizes, a heated towel rail, or ladder radiator, is more practical than a standard heater. Most heated towel rails will provide plentiful heat to warm your bathroom. Not only will they keep your towels and clothing warm and dry, but also make a stylish addition to any space, with various finishes available. A large bathroom may, however, require another source of heat to warm the entire area.

Heated towel rails are one of the most popular options in modern bathrooms, as they’re more streamlined than standard radiators - wall-mounted and less intrusive on space. You may need plenty of wall space, as most are designed to take up a significant area, but a range of sizes are available. They also make an excellent space-saving solution for smaller bathrooms, the majority are fixed vertically.

Read more: Guide to Buying a Heated Towel Rail

Electric Bathroom Heaters

Most bathroom heaters operate by tapping into your home's hot water supply - your central heating. However, there is an alternative way of heating your bathroom - electricity. Electric towel rails are run using your home's mains electricity, which, compared to standard heating, could potentially save you a considerable amount of money.

Like lighting or an extractor fan, electric heaters come with a simple on-off switch, allowing for the heat to be instant and on-demand. This is particularly useful compared to conventional radiators where you may have to wait for it to warm-up or heat the room prior to using it - which is wasteful and potentially expensive.


Is underfloor bathroom heating worth it?

Underfloor heating is considered one of the more upmarket sources of heating for your bathroom and has continually grown in popularity. There are two types of underfloor heating; the ‘dry system’, which uses electrical wiring, or the ‘wet system’, which uses hot water to heat the floor via piping - fed from your central heating. Each system provides complete and consistent floor heating.

Read more: Underfloor Heating Complete Guide


It may remove that shock of the cold floor when you step out of a shower, but underfloor heating also gently warms the room, just like a radiator. A streamlined option - so no space-intrusive column radiator, underfloor heating is an excellent choice for larger spaces where heat output may be limited with a conventional radiator. However, depending on the size and layout of your bathroom, underfloor heating can be installed in smaller spaces, too.

What are the costs and heating efficiencies?

No matter how flexible your budget is, installing costs will always vary, so it’s worth considering all of the heating options before making a final decision.

Energy efficiency is an important factor when choosing your bathroom heating. Saving money on a purchase, installation and running costs could influence expenses later on. For example, underfloor is often more expensive to install, but consumption can be much lower than standard radiators, more so if it is a ‘dry system’ - electrically powered.

Underfloor heating prices can cost in the thousands, especially for a ‘wet system’ including insulation. This is due to the water and the resulting heat coming from your boiler, requiring a plumber to extend your home’s pipes. For efficiency, underfloor heating is considered one of the best, because lower temperatures are needed but result in even heat distribution.


An electric radiator will have a lower cost compared to water-operated radiators and rails - from a boiler - as they will, literally, be plugged into the mains. Be aware that when fitting a new radiator which runs off a boiler, it can cost more if the piping needs replacing or extending if you have to buy a larger radiator.

What is the BTU rating?

The BTU (British Thermal Unit) rating measures how much heat a radiator will produce. This is a vitally important point to consider when buying a radiator for your bathroom, particularly when considering its size. Larger bathrooms will, naturally, require a heater with a higher BTU rating so that its output will cover the entire space.

If you follow these steps, you’ll find the perfect heating for your bathroom, no matter its size.

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Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more bathroom advice…

What Lights Can You Use in a Bathroom? A Guide | Everything You Need to Know About Bathroom Ventilation | Guide to Buying Heated Towel Rails For Your Bathroom