Bathrooms can be rooms that are either hot or very cold – unless you have a good radiator. 

Because of this, choosing the right radiator should be seen as a key part of your bathroom design, rather than as an afterthought. 

With this in mind, here is a brief guide to choosing the right radiator for your bathroom.

Decide whether you need a standard radiator, a towel radiator or both

Standard radiators were designed to heat whole bathrooms whereas towel radiators were, as their name suggests, designed to heat towels, however, these days it’s probably best to forget about what their respective inventor’s original aims were and to focus on how they work and hence what purpose they can serve.

The key difference between standard radiators and towel radiators is that the former work off the central heating, whereas the latter work off electrical elements or are “dual fuel” meaning that they connect to the central heating but are also capable of working independently of it. 

This clearly provides more flexibility, but the price of this flexibility is a lower output of heat since towel radiators are intended to be used to heat towels, rather than to heat whole bathrooms.

What this basically means in practice is that if you have a small bathroom, particularly a well-insulated small bathroom, you may well find that a towel radiator is all you need to heat it and that you would benefit from the flexibility of a dual-fuel towel radiator.

Since it would work in tandem with your central heating during the cooler months but still give you the option of having a quick blast of heat in your bathroom when it’s too warm to put on your whole central heating for a quick shower, but not quite warm enough to take a shower without some form of extra heat, such as early mornings in summer.

If you’re thinking of going down this route then remember that the more of your towel radiator you cover with towels, the less the air will be able to circulate to heat the room, hence if you’re planning to use a towel radiator for general heating, you’ll need to make sure to get one which is big enough to manage the job.

Once you start looking at larger bathrooms then you are almost certainly going to need the sort of heat only a standard radiator can provide, although you may like to use a towel radiator as well for extra flexibility.

Alternatively, you could look at underfloor heating and a towel radiator.  The largest bathrooms may well need two forms of heating to ensure that the whole space is covered as necessary, so again either a standard radiator and a towel radiator or underfloor heating and a towel radiator.

In this situation, you could look at smaller towel radiators, since it’s essentially only going to be your “Plan B”, providing support to your main radiator (or underfloor heating system).

So, let’s assume that you could take your choice of a standard radiator or a towel radiator and that the whole range of traditional radiatorsdesigner radiators, and towel radiators is yours to choose from.  How do you go about making your choice?

As a rule of thumb, the less space you have, the more likely it is that you would be best to choose a towel radiator.  Basically, if you have to choose between squeezing in a standard radiator and fitting in a towel radiator comfortably, then overall, you’d probably be best with the latter. 

When thinking about this, remember to consider total dimensions, or, to put it another way, all standard radiators have slimmed down.

If you’re looking for something which will really hug the wall (regardless of whether it’s freestanding or wall mounted), thereby freeing up that valuable floor space, then a towel radiator is probably the way to go. 

Aesthetically, towel rails will fit seamlessly into pretty much any form of bathroom design, except for ultra-period looks, which have special requirements.

Now let’s assume that you’re looking at a radiator and you have to choose between a traditional radiator and a designer radiator.  How do you make your choice? 

The answer to this question, again, relates more to your intentions rather than naming conventions.  In short, if you want a radiator to blend seamlessly into the background to let other design elements claim the attention.

You’d probably be better with a traditional radiator and if, by contrast, you want your radiator to make a style statement, then you’d probably be better off with a designer radiator.

The key point to understand is that these days, the term “traditional radiator” is generally used to refer to a particular style of radiator, which has been around for decades and has remained popular for many reasons.

Most of which relate to the ease with which it can be manufactured and the fact that it is so efficient and so versatile.  In spite of its name, its clean lines and sleek appearance mean that it can fit perfectly into modern bathroom designs.

Designer radiators come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and finishes (literally) and are essentially wall art that serves a practical purpose. 

They vary from being fairly discreet and therefore adaptable, to being big, bold statement pieces, which grab the attention of the room and become its focus. 

Which sort is best for your bathroom depends on your plans for it.  If you’re the kind of person who likes to “set and forget” as much as possible, then you might want to go for one of the bolder designs to add some dynamism and edge to your bathroom with minimal effort on your part. 

If, however, you want to have more flexibility to update your look as you wish, then it would probably be best to opt for one of the more restrained styles, more similar to a traditional radiator

It would still be a statement, but a gentler one.

Opting out of radiators

For years, the radiator has been the standard source of heating and they’re certainly a vast improvement on old-fashioned coal fires (at least in terms of practicality), but technology is always developing and it’s worth taking a look at more modern options to see if they would best suit your needs. 

Underfloor heating can go anywhere in a home, but it is arguably best suited to bathrooms, partly because they are so small and partly because that’s where people are most likely to have bare feet. 

While this is far from the cheapest option, if you have the budget, it could be well worth considering.