A radiator is something you should only need to buy once every ten years or so. If you’re buying radiators more frequently than that, then your plumbing and pipework needs to be checked out, as you have a heating problem hiding in plain sight. Because it is a product that people need to get less than once in a blue moon, someone shouldn’t expect to be an expert in what to look for or what the terminology involved means. That goes doubly when looking at heated towel rails.

Heated towel rails are now just as popular as radiators in homes, primarily due to them taking up less space and offering a level of accessibility traditional radiators can’t match. While it can become quite useful to have, if you buy the wrong type of towel rail, you’re going to end up hating it.

So how can you avoid making mistakes when buying something you don’t have any knowledge on? You follow these handy tips for buying heated towel rails.

Measurements are more important now

Swapping one radiator for another is traditionally an easy job. You jot down the measurements of the radiator and double-check that the pipe centers match so you can connect things easily. It’s a little bit different with towel rails.

Firstly, measurements are flipped as you’re now working with the height of the wall. A big mistake people make when measuring for vertical rails is forgetting that they need to start measuring from where the pipes stop, as measuring from the floor straight up may have your measurements off by at least six inches.

Secondly, you’ll want to consider wall projection. A typical double panel radiator will have a projection around 120mm from the wall. Towel rails can be anywhere from 50mm-200mm depending on their shape (e.g. curved rails will always have a deeper imprint), so you’ll need to keep an eye on depth if you’re placing a rail somewhere like the hallway or kitchen and don’t want people bumping into it as they walk by.

You can go crazier with color

Radiators can look big on the wall. Radiators which are painted dramatic colours can stand out even more. With so much space between the rails, heated towel rails give you the chance to branch out and add some dramatic splashes of colour without it looking so imposing.

For example, some copper heated towel rails work fantastically in kitchens where you tend to have bare white walls, while blank and dark grey rails are a suitable replacement in bedrooms. If you want to see some unique towel rail colours, I recommend visiting Trade Radiators who have chrome, polished, slate and other colours that help give rails a little personality.

Just make sure you opt for a rail to get painted professionally, as doing it as a little DIY project can prove incredibly tricky; rails tend not to take to paintbrushes well.

You’ll want to choose bigger rails

If you’re swapping out a big radiator for a towel rail, try and get a bigger rail which will match heat output. Even though rails have a larger surface area to work with, they don’t match heat output on a like for like basis, i.e. if you had a 600mm by 600mm radiator, a rail the same size won’t give you the same heat output.

If you have the space, choosing taller rails helps enormously to keep rooms at their optimal temperature.

You’ll want to think about the placement

While you can’t just pop a towel rail anywhere you like (unless you’re buying an electric model) the placement of a rail can help a lot to turn it from a simple heater to a functional item. The clearest example of this would be in the bathroom. If you have the chance, I highly suggest getting rails installed as close to your bath/shower or sink as possible. It gives you somewhere to keep towels warm, as opposed to a functionless rail located on the other side of the room.

If you’re planning on having a big rail in a room and aren’t sure if it will fit in or look right, a slightly odd but effective way of visualising how it could look is to grab a step ladder. Place it against the wall. Even though a step ladder will be much “thicker”, it helps give a better perspective and can help give you an idea of where a rail might look best.

Now find your towel rail

Hopefully, with this advice, buying a towel rail will be much easier. Just remember that as long as you have pipe centers, placement and color all considered, you shouldn’t have any problems.