Bathroom heating is vital for making stepping out of a bath or shower on a cold day more tolerable but it also has the more practical reason of preventing the room from being too cold as this will add to the creation of damp.
These days you can opt for towel radiators, electric heaters, underfloor heating or panel heating.
You will need to take into consideration the size of your bathroom to ensure you pick the correct heating solution that will provide adequate heat.
WHAT ARE RADIATORS MADE FROM?
Bathroom radiators are usually made from steel (either mild or stainless) or aluminium. Cast iron radiators can look amazing and work well in a traditional style bathroom but they are not very energy efficient.
Aluminium radiators are light weight so they can be hung on partition walls, they heat up quickly (due to their high level of heat conductivity) making them more energy efficient but you are going to pay more for the benefits.
Stainless steel radiators are a popular choice as they have anti rust properties and require little to no maintenance.
Radiators which are over 20 years old are over 50% less efficient than those produced today.
DIFFERENT BATHROOM HEATING OPTIONS
Radiators - You can choose vertical, horizontal or freestanding radiators, single or double radiators with the latter providing more heat and ideal for larger bathrooms.
Horizontal radiators work best if you have pipework that comes through your floor, they are good for placing beneath windows but can take up quite a bit of space.
Vertical radiators look more modern and make the most of your wall space - they also come in slimmer, space saving versions which are better for small cloakrooms or en suites.
Heated Towel Rails - People often wonder if a heated towel rail can be used to heat a bathroom and the answer is yes, as long as your room isn't too big otherwise you might require an additional source of heat.
They can be both a design feature and practical storage/heat solution with the added bonus of keeping your towels nice, fluffy and warm.
You will need plenty of wall space if you want to install a towel rail as they tend to take up quite a bit of room but they are a good solution in smaller bathrooms as they are fixed vertically to the wall instead of taking up valuable floor space.
When thinking about buying a new heater towel rail you will need to decide how you are going to connect it - via your central heating system or using a heating element. The main downside to using central heated rails is that they only work when the heating is on which means you would have to turn the entire system on and close all of the other radiator valves except the bathroom towel rail in the summer months.
Underfloor heating is arguably the most luxurious type of bathroom heating. It is a space saving alternative to radiators and can be placed beneath any type of flooring though some flooring conducts heat more efficiently than others. Tiles and stone transfer heat quickly because they have a high thermal conductivity so they make the best type of flooring for underfloor heating.
With underfloor heating no part of your bathroom will be left cold and you can heat your bathroom to your preferred temperature. It is a great way to keep a room dry and free from damp issues particularly in wetrooms. Who doesn't want to avoid stepping out of the shower onto cold tiles on a chilly day?
There are two types of underground heating available - the dry and the wet system:
The dry heating system or electric underground heating uses a series of electrical heating wires or heating mats connected to the mains supply to heat the floor. It is cheaper and quicker to install than a wet system but more expensive to run. It is more ideally suited to smaller renovations or in a single room. It can be preferable to install in existing rooms as it does not significantly increase the floor height.
The thermostats available can be basic on/off or more advantaged digital ones with programmable timers and WiFi connectivity.
A wet heating system or water underfloor heating uses heating pipes to pump hot water in underfloor circuits. It is more suitable for larger projects and new builds. It is more expensive and takes longer to install but this cost is offset by lower running costs.
Underfloor heating uses less energy than your central heating systems as they run at lower temperatures than radiators whilst producing the same amount of warmth. Running costs will of course vary depending on your home's construction, insulation and how you control your heating. Although underfloor heating can take longer to heat up once turned on than radiators, the room will stay warm for longer after the system is switched off. A few hours on in the morning should keep it warm for most of the day.
Assuming that the underfloor heating was installed correctly, it shouldn't require maintenance as there are no moving parts in an underfloor heating system and you don't have to worry about cleaning dust and grime away like you would with standard radiators. Another benefit are that there is no hot, metal that can burn and with no nooks to collect dust, it can be beneficial to allergy sufferers. You don't have to worry about getting radiators to match your bathroom design either and you free up wall space.
Electric radiators could be a money saving option as they have a simply on/off switch which gives heat on demand instead of having to wait for the heat to build up like conventional heaters. They run by tapping into your home's mains electricity.
Electric radiators have a range of energy saving features that can cut down on your heating bills and energy usage from programmable timers, remote/WiFi controlled, energy monitors and temperature limiters.
To safely install an electric heater into your bathroom it must be hardwired into the wall by a qualified electrician and you have to select a model with a suitable IP rating for the zone in which it is to be installed. You can read more about IP ratings here.
You will read about BTU ratings when looking to buy a radiator. British Thermal Unit (BTU) measures how much heat the radiator produces which is important in deciding which heater to opt for. A larger bathroom will require a heater with a higher BTU rating.
WHERE TO INSTALL?
Typically you should install a radiator on the coldest wall of your bathroom, ideally the wall with a window. Failing that, any external wall of the room is best to ensure that the heater performs efficiently and you get a good distribution of heat.
MANUAL VS THERMOSTATIC HEATING
Manual heating basically means you control the temperature of the bathroom by turning the valve on and off - the main drawback to this is that you have to keep an eye on it yourself so if you're not careful the room can get too hot or cold. It is therefore better used in rooms that aren't used that often or where the temperature doesn't drop too drastically in the winter.
Thermostatic heating is a better option for rooms that are in more frequent use or ones where the temperature drops significantly as there is a built in temperature sensor - a Thermostatic Radiator Valve (TRV) to maintain the temperature of the room.