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Heated towel rail, Heated towel warmer, Radiators

Hydronic towel warmer vs electric towel rail

Walk into a store that sells heated towel warmers and you’ll soon find out that there are two main types, hydronic and electric models. What’s the difference and which is best for you? Let’s take a look so you can make a considered choice.

Hydronic heated towel rails

Hydronic is simply a heating or cooling system that involves transferring heat using a circulating fluid. 

In the case of a heated towel rail, fluid is placed into the rails and is warmed by a heating element. This heats up the rails and, voilà, your towels are dried and warmed.

Some hydronic towel rails connect to a central hydronic heating system, which is used to heat the entire house and use boilers. These are less common Australia, but you will find them used in many countries with colder climates.

Other hydronic towel rails – which are more common in this country – come with the unit pre-filled with liquid and sealed. These units are connected to the mains electricity, either by being hardwired or by plugging into a 240 volt power point. 

One of the benefits of a hydronic heated towel rail is that they can provide an additional heat-source to a bathroom. 

Electric heated towel rails

Electric heated towel rails use what is called a dry element that is inside the rails. This dry element is connected to the mains electricity. Like the more common hydronic system, this can either be by hardwiring or by plugging into a 240 volt power point. 

Turning on a heated towel rail results in the air inside the rails being heated, which in turn heats the rails. This result in towels being dried and warmed. What a luxury! 

Electric heated towel rails generally (we did say generally!) don’t provide any or much additional heat for your bathroom.

electric heated towel rails

Hydronic towel warmer vs electric – which heated towel rail is better?

As we mentioned, some hydronic towel rails connect to a central hydronic heating system. If you have a hydronic heating system in your home, a hydronic towel rail is definitely worth considering. Their main negative is that heat up time for the towel rail is dependent on whether the boiler is already running. If it is, great, but if it’s not it’s going to take quite some time to get your towel dry or warm.

However, if you don’t have a hydronic heating system, cross this one off the list straight away. To install a system from scratch is expensive and not something you’ll likely contemplate. Certainly not to just dry your towels.

So let’s limit our discussion to hydronic towel rails that are pre-filled, versus electric towel rails. What are the other pros and cons of both systems?

As we highlighted above, one of the benefits of a hydronic heated towel rail is that it will provide some heat to your bathroom. It’s not likely to be enough as a single-source heater in the middle of winter, but the extra heat will make your bathroom extra warm and inviting on cold days. 

However, hydronic towel rails are slower to heat up. It will take around an hour to get your towel rail to optimum temperature, while your electric towel rail will get there in about half the time or less. So, if you’re switching your towel rail on and off depending on whether you’re using it, and not pre-programming using a timer, the electric model is definitely a better option.

Electric models also generally win on energy efficiency. Running costs are really cheap and typically are less than 30 cents a day, although of course this depends on how long you leave your unit on for. 

The other thing to note is that electric towel warmers are usually less expensive to purchase.

which heated towel rail is better?

Gordon provides the best of both worlds

So, in summary, for most people the electric heated towel rail will win out. It’s cheaper to buy, affordable to install, cheap to run and quick to heat up. The only real reason to consider a liquid-filled towel warmer is if you’d like some additional heat in your bathroom…Or is it?

While most electric heated towel rails don’t add additional heat to a bathroom, Eskimo’s Gordon range does. Possibly not as much as either of the hydronic models, but enough to take the chill off most bathrooms. You’ll certainly feel and appreciate the difference on a cold winter morning.

In addition, Gordon can be used to hang up to four large towels and bath mats, unlike most models that can struggle to hold two. Gordon can dry towels much faster than most towel rails, is super energy-efficient, thanks in part to its all-aluminium design, and looks fantastic. 

Find out more about the Gordon electric heated towel rail by visiting one of our Showrooms or visiting our product page.


Penny Evans

My passion for interior design and architecture can be traced back to my pre-professional days. Always on the look out for new and innovative products which take the project to a whole new and unexpected level. I like getting people excited about things I'm excited about right now, and that's anything that brings some flair and colour to what may otherwise be a mundane solution.

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