Bathroom Heating Options | An In-Depth Guide
Are you done with standing on an ice-cold floor and shivering through your morning shower? You need some serious bathroom heating options! Explore the most popular solutions to your chilly bathroom problem with this in-depth guide.
In this post, I’ll explore the three main options for bathroom heating, as well as their pros, cons and costs. And, I’ll explain the considerations to take into account when selecting the best bathroom heating options for your room.
Let’s get into it!
Why Is Bathroom Heating Important?
Maintaining a constant comfortable temperature for your bathroom not only keeps you comfortable but also protects your plumbing and fights germs.
An unheated bathroom located on an outer wall of the home can be subject to burst pipes when temperatures drop below zero. As well, mould loves dark and damp places to grow. By heating the bathroom, you chase away moisture, making it harder for mould and dampness to appear.
Lastly, it’s so much more comfortable to use the facilities when your toes are not freezing!
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The Different Bathroom Heating Options
There are three main types of bathroom heating options available for most homes. I’ve created a quick FAQ so you can decide which type is best for your powder room or master suite.
Use the links below to jump to the relevant section:
Take the sting out of midnight visits to the loo by expanding your home heating grid. Radiators are just like the ones that exist throughout the house or apartment. They work by circulating hot water through the unit. The metal of the radiator absorbs the heat from the water and then emits steady heat into the room.
This is an option for homes with a boiler or combi-boiler. You will need a plumber familiar with HVAC systems to add new pipes to your existing heating system. It is best to install a new radiator when you have your walls open during a renovation to be able to run pipes behind the walls. You can do a surface upgrade if demolition is not an option.
Radiators are available as wall panels or traditional floor mounts and can be found in a range of sizes designed to fit into small rooms like a bathroom.
How Much Will A New Radiator Cost?
The radiator itself will typically cost between £100 to £500. Add another £100 to £200 for the labour associated with the installation. If you are updating your bathroom’s decor, it is possible to replace an existing radiator with a new streamlined unit for minimal cost.
How Much Will It Cost Each Month To Operate The New Radiator?
Since the radiator is part of your whole home heating system, you will likely see no change in your monthly heating bill. In some instances, you may see the bill go down as the new radiator improves efficiency for the entire system. If you built an addition for the new bathroom, you will see an increase commensurate with heating costs for other rooms in the house.
Pros for Radiator Heating:
- Works with your existing home heating system
- Units available in the size that you need
- Minimal impact on monthly heating bills
Cons for Radiator Heating:
- Requires a plumber to install
- Easiest to install with open walls or through basement access
- Does not address cold floors
Heated Towel Rails
These units are designed to warm your towels and dry them after your bath. They can be found as either an electric feature or one that is plumbed into your central heating system. Most towel rails include an on-demand switch, so they do not operate when the heat is circulating through the rest of the house.
You can find a towel rail with room for two towels or a floor to ceiling unit with rungs enough to hold towels for the entire family. They are definitely a luxury upgrade to any bathroom design as you will always have a soft warm towel waiting for you when you step out of the shower. They look much like a radiator panel but are not engineered for the same purpose.
Is A Heated Towel Rail Enough To Heat A Bathroom?
The towel rail will help to take the chill out of the air in a small room, but they are not capable of pumping out enough heat to serve as the only source of warmth. They are a good addition for a bathroom that often feels drafty even when the radiator or baseboard is working.
If you want to use it as a heat source, you need to remove all the towels. There are radiators available that feature a built-in heated towel rail. This checks off both the luxury and practicality boxes.
How Much Does A Heated Towel Rail Cost?
A basic unit will run for about £80. Commercial rails sold for gyms and are directly plumbed into the heating system can run as high as £600. The average homeowner will pay around £500 for the unit and installation using a licensed plumber or electrician.
You can find a plug-in towel warmer that stands on the floor for under £50.
How Much Will An Electric Heated Towel Rail Cost To Run Every Month?
This will Depend on the size and KW output of the electrically heated towel rail and how much your energy supplier charges per kWh. As a guide, If you leave your towel rail on 24 hours a day, it may add between 50p – £4 to your daily heating costs or up to £125 a month.
This is based on electric towel rails with a wattage between 120w and 1000w and an average kWh cost of 17p.
Check the towel rails wattage (kW) X by the number of hours it will be on X by the cost per kWh from your energy supplier to get an idea of running costs.
Pros of Heated Towel Rails:
- Step into a toasty warm towel after every bath
- Adds extra heat to a small room
- Doubles as a drying rack for hand-washed garments
- Can be turned on and off to conserve energy
Cons of Heated Towel Rails:
- Does not produce enough heat for a standalone source
- Fairly expensive upgrade for a towel warmer
- Requires professional installation unless you opt for a plug-in unit
Do your toes curl up every time you step into the bathroom? An increasingly popular option for heating bathrooms is underfloor heating. These can be approached as supplemental or whole room heating systems.
They work by installing a network of wires or flexible piping under your tile or laminate floors. They work best with tile floors as the ceramic retains the heat and improves efficiency.
However, If your underfloor heating system suffers from a broken pipe or shorted wire, it can result in pulling up the floor to fix the problem.
‘Wet’ Underfloor Heating System
The wet version requires that a layer of concrete or mud is applied to the floor. A grid is installed over the concrete where the flexible pipes snap into place. Flooring is then laid over the top of the piping system.
The pipes are connected to your home heating system and circulate hot water. You can add the system to an existing zone or create a separate zone just for the bathroom.
You need a plumber familiar with the installation of radiant heating systems to complete this job. Plumbed or wet underfloor heating is a great choice for ground floor bathrooms, as the system does add weight to the flooring system.
‘Dry’ Underfloor Heating System
The dry type of underfloor heating uses flexible mats of wires that are connected to a switch or thermostat. They do not require as much preparation for the subfloor as the wet version. The wires heat up, warming the flooring, and provide a nice even heat.
You can opt for radiant electric heating for the entire bathroom or just add small mats by the bath, in front of the basin, and by the toilet to chase the chill out of the room on winter nights.
Electric systems do not retain heat as long as the wet version and cost more to operate per BTU. However, installation costs are often lower than ‘wet’ systems.
How Much Does It Cost To Install Underfloor Heating In A Bathroom?
The electric system costs about £50/m2 and the water-based system runs about £40/m2 for the materials. Labour rates average about £200 to £300 per person per day, with water systems demanding more time to install.
How Much Does It Cost To Operate Underfloor Heating In A Bathroom?
If you opt for the water system for your home and are replacing radiators, you should not see any significant increase or decrease in your monthly heating bill. Electric heat costs about 40% more than traditional systems to operate, so you will watch your electric bill jump if the underfloor heat is the primary source in the bathroom.
Pros for Underfloor Heating:
- Provides consistent even heat for the room
- Takes no space on the walls
- Toasty toes after every shower and for midnight trips to the loo
- Electric mats can be positioned for a luxury upgrade without heating the entire space
Cons for Underfloor Heating:
- Expensive installation
- Repairs can be costly
- Requires new build or demolition of flooring
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Bathroom Heating Considerations
Besides the type of heating system, you will also want to think about these questions when considering your bathroom heating options.
Size Of The Bathroom
Most bathrooms are not that big, so just where will you put the heater? If you are thinking about an electric unit, it needs to be outside the wet zone. Your wet zones are where you can expect water to splash through regular use of the basin, WC, bath, or shower.
At the same time, you need the heater to be big enough to actually warm the space. In many homes, this is something of a catch-22. If you can’t fit a larger radiator on the wall, adding a heated towel rail or underfloor heating mat may help.
What Size Bathroom Heater Do I Need?
The size (or output) needed for your heating system, (radiator, underfloor, heated towel rail etc…) is measured in BTU.
BTU stands for British Thermo Unit and each radiator or underfloor heating system will include a rating of how many BTUs it can produce. You need one that meets or exceed the BTU calculation for your bathroom.
You can determine your own BTU requirement with the following equation:
Length of room X Width of room X Height of room X 153 = Recommended average BTU for heating
While this calculation gives you a great ballpark BTU figure, your real number may vary based on the insulation rating of your home, the materials used for flooring, walls, and windows, and even the amount of sunlight the room receives. Here is a really handy BTU Calculator from Plumb Nation you can try.
If unsure, work with a licensed heating technician to determine the most accurate BTU rating for your bathroom.
An oversized unit can actually cost you more in monthly utilities as it may overheat the room and then shut off for an extended period of time. Heating is about achieving a comfortable balance.
What Exactly Is BTU?
BTU stands for British Thermo Unit and represents the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. It is used to determine the heating or cooling capacity of boilers, heating systems, and AC units.
Manual Or Thermostatic Controls
If your bathroom is located at the centre of the home and your heating upgrade is for your comfort while using the shower, you may only want a manual control for the new radiator. You could also opt for a digital or smart control able to be operated by a remote or smartphone.
Adding a thermostat to the bathroom is great when you want the room to stay at a comfortable temperature at all times and the new radiator is not part of the main heating zone.
Basic manual control will likely cost less than a digital smart control or thermostatic control. Consider your needs and how you intend to use the bathroom heating option to help make the decision on the type of control you need over it.
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There you have it! An in-depth guide and everything you need to know about your bathroom heating options.
I hope this post has helped outline your bathroom heating options and which type is best for your needs and bathroom.
Happy heater shopping!
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Michael is a KBB designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom installations for over eight years now, and before that, he was an electrician and part of a KBB fitting team. He created The Bathroom Blueprint in early 2020.