Expert insights on choosing the best towel radiator
The towel radiator market, then and now
The towel radiator market has grown significantly over the last 30 years. The product has become much more mainstream, thanks in part to its versatility as both a radiator and towel warmer. Moreover, manufacturers have invested heavily in the industrialisation and mass production of various designs for different tastes. “We see that all markets have embraced the towel radiator, mainly because it’s a practical, versatile product that boosts people’s wellbeing in the bathroom. Especially in a room dedicated to selfcare, people attach importance to the various elements present. Therefore, towel radiators need to be good-looking and match the different ceramic series of the bathroom manufacturers, they need to perform, they need to be durable, and they need to be practical. People look for all of these things. They are facilitated in this by the industrial developments that have taken place over the last couple of decades”, says Julian.
The choices available today are endless. Just think of towel radiators with weld-in vs. weld-on round tubes, flat tubes, square tubes, elliptical tubes, etc. Moreover, there is an increasing array of available colours. “Although most people still go for white, we see a growing movement towards modern colours such as matt black, grey or anthracite. Also in the UK, where there has traditionally been a preference for chrome, they are beginning to move towards painted radiators. Mainly because the physical nature of the chrome product means that heat output is reduced by 30% compared to a painted radiator. So there is a great deal of variety in what end users want from a towel radiator. As a major manufacturer we try to cover all those market needs and demands.”
Differences in towel radiator useJust as design preferences tend to differ from market to market, so does the way in which a towel radiator is used. Julian explains: “In most cultures the towel radiator is the only product in the room, so it’s used to heat the room and to dry the towels. In certain places, however, it is used as an additional product alongside a traditional radiator. And in some markets, such as the Nordics, it’s quite usual to install a towel radiator in addition to electric underfloor heating. This means the electric towel radiator can be much smaller because the underfloor heating already heats the bathroom.”
Hydronic vs. electric towel radiator
To provide a solution for every application, we include both hydronic and electric towel radiators in our portfolio, as well as matching accessories such as hooks, handles, mirrors, etc. What we see, however, is that the hot water market is at least 3 to 4 times bigger than the electric market. “This reflects the fact that, across the globe today, there is more boiler heating than there is electric heating. In new builds where they are putting in a boiler or a heat pump, they will add a hot water towel radiator. Equally, if the property is constructed with only electric heating, they have to find an electric solution. So there is a clear alignment between the nature of the towel radiator and the nature of the heat generation.”
Rather than choosing between a hydronic or an electric towel radiator, Julian points out that the best solution is to have a little bit of both. A product that works on hot water but also has the functionality to work independently from the central heating system. This is possible with our dual fuel towel radiators. These work on a hot water basis when the boiler or heat pump is on during the colder months of the year. In the half season, when the main hot water function is switched off, the electric element in the radiator provides a source of electric heat. Within this range two types of products are available: those that have a factory-fitted electric element and those that allow the installer to add the element at the point of installation.
The towel radiator’s enhanced functionality
The dual energy towel radiator is already a good illustration of how the functionality of a towel radiator has evolved to accommodate the end user. Another example is the blower function that has been developed over the last few years. While the towel radiator continues to heat the towels, the added electric fan provides an instant warm-up possibility. “This is especially useful to boost the temperature when you are using the bathroom and can be switched off as soon as it has done its job. Initially we saw this functionality on electric towel warmers only, but now they are also integrated on hydronic radiators.”
Especially for electric towel radiators we see a continuous development in functionality. As a result, they are now more and more implemented as a stand-alone solution. “In the Netherlands, for example, we see cases where they are installing a heat pump and underfloor heating in the house but they are not pulling the pipes through to the bathroom. There they will typically install an electric towel radiator. This way you create a hybrid installation. The main advantage of the electric bathroom radiator is that it works all year round. You can use it all the time, as opposed to a hydronic towel radiator that will only work when the central heating is on. We see that this influences people’s choice in the new build installations.
Going forward, the radiators’ functionality will continue to develop because people want to have more control. Not just when they are in their home but also remote.
Towel radiators & Ecodesign
In addition to market demands, the Ecodesign Directive is also an influencing factor in the enhanced functionality of towel radiators today. This policy framework put forward by the EU has been highly active over the last 10 years in increasing the performance level of electric products. By encouraging the integration of features such as standby mode, presence detection, open window detection, adaptive start and self-learning functionality, they promote more sustainable products as well as responsible energy consumption in the home.
More and more attention is also given to the efficiency of the products through the accuracy of the controls. For example, the Ecodesign Directive poses that electric products need a control box with a standby as well as an inactive mode. “Having accurate controls is very important to guarantee energy efficiency.” The less accurate the controls are, the less you can control the energy consumption of the product. Moreover, the EU is quite clear, if a product doesn’t meet the requirements, it simply cannot carry the CE mark. This kind of certification is important, for the protection of the consumer and for manufactures to differentiate between higher performing products and less performing products.
Julian adds: “Going forward, the radiators’ functionality will continue to develop because people want to have more control. Not just when they are in their home but also remote. We can easily imagine the arrival of more and more smart online features in these products. At Purmo we are already jumping into the world of smart controls with our new Unisenza Plus range and the Unisenza Plus app. Behind the scenes we are also working on a solution that will open up the world of towel radiators to this possibility. The introduction of smart towel radiators with smart controls will allow users to control their radiators and towel warmer with the same application.”
Towel radiators align with regional differences
Another notable trend in electric radiators is the increasing importance of regional differences in regulation and configuration preferences. “For example, in France class 2 insulation is applied, whereas in countries such as Germany and Austria it’s more prevalent to use a class 1 type product. The electrical connection is different and we as a manufacturer have to be able to offer all these different solutions.
The markets also continue to evolve. For instance, we have supplied our Yali Ramo electric radiators with the class 2 French standards for years, and now we are being asked to provide them with the class 1 and with a plug on the end. At Purmo we adopt a flexible attitude and adjust our production so that we can localise the product according to the specific wishes of the customer. Moreover, we certify most of our products over and above the CE marking, with local standards such as NF in France, ÖVE in Austria and local variants in Sweden and Germany.”
It’s about picking the right product with the right looks for the right application to deliver the right performance.
The right towel radiator for the job
At the point of specification, these specific demands are of course important. However, it’s even more important to ensure that the towel radiator is sized correctly. To do this the heat loss and the size of the bathroom need to be taken into account. Julian comments: “Every situation has a different set of parameters but the towel radiator needs to be able to deliver the required heat output and to fit in the room. To provide a solution for every bathroom, small or large, we offer a wide range of sizes in our range of hydronic and electric towel radiators. Regardless of the situation, we have the solution and technology to fit.”
Julian also points out the importance of selecting a radiator that is fit for the environment it’s placed in. “Architects and specifiers need to ask the right questions when they are specifying the products. Special environments require special treatments. If you want to use a towel warmer in a swimming pool, for example, you can, but you need to galvanise it. It is a common mistake to think that products are tested and certified and therefore will resist against anything. It is important to follow the prescriptions and to use and maintain the product as it is intended. You shouldn’t, for example, put water laden towels or wet swimming costumes on your towel radiator day after day or clean it with a cleaning agent that contains traces of acid or alkaline. Once the radiator’s painted finish is damaged or cracked by such actions, it will start to corrode.”
Additionally, there are guidelines as to where best to position the towel radiator in the bathroom. Our recommendations are included in the product installation manual and can be found in our article that addresses the question of how bathroom humidity affects radiator installation.
Like with any radiator installation, there are quite a lot of factors to consider when choosing the best towel radiator. As Julian sums it up: “It’s about picking the right product with the right looks for the right application to deliver the right performance. But also for it to be used in a way that is compatible with the original specification of the product.”
Discover our complete range of towel radiators: