Having a towel warmer adds an element of luxury and goes a long way in making your bathroom feeling cosy. And it serves multiple purposes by not only warming and drying towels and other clothing, but provides overall heating for the bathroom. But deciding what towel warmer is best for you can be confusing. There a lots of different brands and models to choose from, ranging vastly in price as well as design and functionality. In this post we attempt to map out the things you need to consider when comparing models and brands, and we list what we think are some of the best towel warmers for the different types and styles.
Towel Warmer Features to consider
Electric vs Hydronic
There are two types of towel warmer – electric and hydronic.
Electric towel warmers operate separately from your heating system, using low-watt electricity to heat elements within the towel rail. Some use a dry element which heats wire installed in the tubes of the rails and others use a wet element, where the heating element heats up a mineral oil, in turn heating up the rail. They can be hard-wired or plugged into the wall. They are typically mounted on a wall but there are also free-standing models. They use very low levels of electricity typically the equivalent of one or two light bulbs. Because of the risk of electric shock, an electric towel is not recommended to be installed within about 6 feet of your tub, shower, or other areas where water is present.
Hydronic towel warmers use hot water or steam to heat the towel rails, the same principle as with radiators. This can be done either by connecting to your home’s hot water plumbing system (open system) or to a specific hydronic heating system (closed system). Hydronic systems are considered more efficient than electric systems, but they are more expensive. A pump forces water through the rails. The installation costs are higher as well and it is recommended they are best installed during a remodel. The final result however is a system that generally outlasts electric models.
Both electric and hydronic models are very efficient. But as you can see there are several things to consider when choosing between the two, but suffice to say an electric towel warmer is generally cheaper and easier to install, while hydronic models are more expensive and more difficult to install but generally are more efficient and last longer.
Plug in or Hardwired (electric towel warmer models)
Electric towel warmers can be hard-wired into your electric system or plugged into an electric socket. A hard-wired model needs to be installed by an electrician so there are installation costs to consider. So it’s a big more of a hassle to install but in the end it looks better as you don’t have to worry about wires around the bathroom. A plug-in system is exactly that – you plug the towel warmer into an electric socket. While these are easier to install, depending on the where the electric sockets are located you may have wires around the bathroom which doesn’t look great, not to mention the added risk of electric shock. If you combine a plug in model with a free-standing model you have some added flexibility in terms of using the towel warmer in different rooms (more about that below).
Wall-mounted, Floor-mounted or Free-standing
Wall-mounted towel warmers are a great idea for bathrooms with limited floor space, and can take the place of conventional towel rails. They are available in both hydronic and electric versions, and can be either plug-in or hardwired. Floor-mounted models are also available in these types, but they do require the floor space.
Free-standing towel warmers are plug-in electric models, and while they may not look as great in a bathroom, the flexibility they provide is useful if you think you may want to use the towel warmers in different rooms.
Some other things to consider:
- Timers and switches – does the towel warmer have a built it in timer/auto-shut off? Although towel warmers are generally very efficient with their use of energy, timers are an option to avoid unnecessary and wasteful usage of electricity and heating. They don’t have to be built-in though, you can also buy separate timers.
- Style and size – What finish or style would fit your bathroom? Most towel warmers you see are chrome but there are also oil-rubbed bronze, antique gold, satin nickel, and others. How many people live in your house/apartment? This will affect the size of the towel warmer and how many towels it needs to hold.
- Temperature settings – Do you want to be able to adjust temperature settings?
- Warranty – warranties usually cover 2-3 years and some of the more expensive models up to 5 years or more.
Best wall-mounted electric towel warmers
Amba Quadro 2402
This towel warmer has 16 horizontal bars, in a 8-8 configuration, and features a modern design with square bars. It is perfect to warm and dry 2 large towels, and due its size it’s good at warming the bathroom and keeping it dry and mildew free. Included is a Digital Heat Controller, which allows you to choose between 9 heat levels. Programmable timers can be added to the unit for extra functionality. This model has a 3 year warranty.
- Dimensions: 20 inch (width) x 42 inch (height)
- Weight: 31 lbs
- Color: polished
- Finish: bronze
- Material: Stainless steel
- Average temp. range 131°F – 167°F
- Standard voltage 115 volts
Amba is well-regarded brand producing high quality products. The number of bars on this towel warmer and its overall size combine to make it ideal for holding 2 large towels at the same time (and perhaps a few smaller articles as well). It also means this model is great at warming up the bathroom as it gives off a lot of heat. We like the fact you can also adjust the temperature settings so you can have a mild warmth emanating from the towel or crank it up to really warm up the bathroom.
It is one of the larger towel warmers so may not fit or look good in smaller bathrooms.
Best Free-standing electric towel warmer
Warmrails Hyde Park
Dimensions: 24 inch (width) x 39 inch (height)
Weight: 10.8 lbs
Color: Chrome finish
Plug-in electric model
Pros: This popular towel warmer is affordable and good value for money at under $100. As a freestanding model it is mobile and flexible, so you can use it in other rooms like hallways, mudrooms and laundry rooms when needed. It only uses a very low 80 watt of power.
Cons: You only get a 1 year warranty which is less than most other towel warmers, but that might be the risk you have to take for an affordable product. Another disadvantage is that it takes roughly 45 minutes to reach it optimum temperature.
Best hydronic towel warmer
Hudson Reed Traditional Hydronic Towel Warmer 25” x 37”
- Dimensions: 25” x 37”
- Number of columns: 3 deep by 8 sections, in white period style
- High quality chrome-plated surround made from 1.25″ (32mm) brass
- 10 Year Warranty
- Fixing Pack Included
- Angled radiator valves included
Pros: This 25” by 37″ towel warmer from Hudson Reed has a design that will perfectly complement your bathroom if it has a traditional look. The towel warmer is manufactured from brass, which has a high quality chrome finish to ensure long lasting durability. We really like Hudson Reed towel warmers because of their classic look and high quality design. This model has a 10 year warranty!
Cons: As with any hydronic towel warmer you need to consider the time and amount it will cost to install it. Make sure you get professionals involved. Note: Hudson Reed towel warmers are designed for forced circulation closed loop systems only.