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 what is the best way to keep your bathroom warm?

These days, choosing the best way to heat your bathroom isn't as straightforward as deciding between a heated towel rail and a radiator. Several types of bathroom heating are available, all of which cater to various 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, a bathroom tends to have high humidity levels, especially after a member of your household has had a bath or shower, making it the most difficult room in your home to keep moisture free. These factors come together and result in specific heating needs.

The heating needs for your bathroom are likely to be completely different from any other room in your home. Letting your bathroom get too cold will attract damp, which thrives in humid environments. If left unresolved dampness can become a big problem and eventually cause a build-up of mould and bacteria in your bathroom. However, choosing the correct type of heating for your bathroom can help to prevent this.

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 three main types of bathroom heating available to help warm up cold bathrooms. These are:

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

Does the size of the bathroom matter?

In short, yes the size of your bathroom is particularly important when choosing your bathroom heating. You will need to consider the layout of your room and if you choose a heated towel rail or radiator, where this will be positioned in comparison to your shower, bath, and basin, keeping it away from any potential splash zones.

Keep reading to find out more about splash zones.

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 to combat 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.

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.

Types of radiators

If you are leaning towards a radiator to keep your bathroom warm, there are many different styles, shapes, and sizes to consider. Two of the most popular radiator types are traditional column radiators and designer flat panel radiators.

Traditional column radiators

Column radiators have been around for many many years and are still one of the most popular radiator styles. Having changed slightly since they were first introduced way over 100 years ago, they have developed to become wonderfully efficient modern radiators. Available in a range of colours with classic white and anthracite being the most popular you're guaranteed to find a neutral colour to fit in with your bathroom decor.

Now column radiators tend to take up more space than some radiators, therefore making them idea for larger bathrooms but perhaps not those short on wall and floor space.

How effective are panel radiators?

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-around answer to heating your bathroom. 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 are finished in white, anthracite, or with integrated mirrors for a contemporary look. This also removes the need for a bathroom mirror, perfect for a bathroom with little wall space. 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 heated towel rail isn't only useful for keeping your towels toasty and warm but for keeping your whole bathroom warm too. 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, such as an additional radiator.

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 into 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.

View our handy heating calculator here to find the correct heat output for your home.

If you're looking for further information on radiators and heating, you might find the following posts handy - Underfloor Heating Complete Guide - Heating Advice: How to check your radiators - Choosing the Best Radiator for Your Home.

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