Furnishing

Heating a bathroom: ensure a feel-good temperature first thing in the morning

Arne Schätzle

Who wants to enter an icy cold bathroom in the morning? It’s much nicer to have a pleasantly preheated bathroom where you won’t find yourself shivering in the shower. We present different models of radiator and give you tips on how to heat your bathroom so that you will find it at a comfortable temperature every morning.

A bathtub and washbasin stand in a modern bathroom. There is a hand towel radiator on the wall.
© Getty Images

In this article

Bathroom heating: what are the different possibilities?

It’s good to know that there are several ways to heat a bathroom to the right feel-good temperature. Most homeowners today plan several heaters. A single heater is only suitable if the room should remain at a constant temperature all the time – this is the case for the guest bathroom, for instance, which is only used for going to the toilet and washing your hands.

In a bathroom with a shower and bathtub, on the other hand, it’s useful to have two heaters: one to provide basic heat and one to heat up the room quickly. It’s difficult to do both with one device, because a radiator gives off either permanent, economical heat or fast, energy-intensive heat. That’s why we have put together a list of the most common types of radiator for heating your bathroom to a comfortable temperature.

Towel radiators: the new standard

In many modern bathrooms today, the radiator is no longer simply a white, panel or link-shaped model placed right under the window. A more popular alternative is now the towel radiator. Towel radiators are available as hot water heaters or as electric models. Drying hand towels this way also has hygienic advantages: it reduces the spread of bacteria and germs thanks to the humidity and warmth.

Hot water models must always be fitted by a heating installer, as these radiators are connected to the central heating system.

Electric towel rail heaters are easier to install because they can simply be plugged into a power outlet, just like any other standard household appliance. However, the maintenance costs will be higher because electricity costs more.

One disadvantage of the hot water model is that it takes a while for the heating circuit to get going and for the room to heat up.

On the wall in the bathroom there is a heated towel rail on the left, a toilet in the middle and a glass shower cubicle on the right.

Towel radiators are available in several designs: either as a hot water model or as an electric version.

Fan heaters and radiant heaters: electric heating for emergencies only

A very simple solution, but one that is expensive to maintain, is to set up an electric fan heater or radiant heater. Both require a lot of electricity and are therefore often only used temporarily, for example if the heating system fails. The main advantage of a fan heater is that it distributes warm air quickly throughout the room thanks to the integrated fan.

Infrared heating: like the warmth of the sun

Electric infrared heating generates heat by converting electricity into infrared radiation. Unlike common radiator models, it not only heats up the air, but transfers heat to bodies and objects. Infrared heating in a bathroom therefore produces a noticeably different heating effect, and the distribution of heat is not the same. It is the sort of pleasant warmth that is experienced in an infrared sauna, for instance. The main advantage of this type of heating is that the warmth is felt very quickly when it is switched on.

Another reason for the popularity of infrared heating is its slim, attractive design. Infrared heating systems are also available with glass or natural stone surfaces, for example. However, you should keep in mind that infrared heating usually requires a lot of electricity and produces relatively little energy. In addition, it needs to emit heat without any obstacles. A practical combination for the bathroom is to have underfloor heating to ensure the necessary basic temperature and an infrared radiator to supply additional rapid heat.

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Underfloor heating: uniform heat throughout the room

Underfloor heating is an extremely comfortable solution in the bathroom: the heat rises evenly throughout the room from the warm bathroom tiles. A floor heating system in the bathroom can operate using hot water, or even electricity. This type of system is usually supplemented with a towel radiator.

Like all electric radiators, electric floor heating systems lead to higher costs than hot water models. Retrofitting underfloor heating always requires more effort than installing it in a new building because you have to fully remove the top layer of flooring. This is why retrofitting is a particularly good idea if you are planning to renovate your bathroom anyway. Depending on whether you are fitting a system in a new or existing building, and on whether you opt for electric or hot water underfloor heating, you can expect to pay between 150 and 250 francs per square meter.

Two feet can be seen standing on the tiled floor of a bathroom.

Underfloor heating systems can be connected to the heating circuit or operated electrically.

Radiators: not for continuous use

Electric radiators look like conventional radiators but are powered by electricity from a socket. The current heats the liquid inside the heater – i.e. water or oil. The radiator then releases this stored heat into the surrounding area. The main advantage is that the radiator can be used wherever you like by connecting it to a power outlet. This type of radiator is also relatively inexpensive to purchase. Suitable models are available for as little as around 100 francs; high-quality models can cost around twice as much.

However, the major disadvantage is that operating costs are high as a result of the substantial power consumption. This makes these radiators suitable as additional heating for transitional periods, for example on cool days in spring when the central heating system has already been switched off.

Making radiators smart

If you don’t just want to adjust the temperature in the morning, but during the day as well, programable electronic thermostats are ideal to save you from having to make regular manual adjustments. You can set different temperatures for various times of the day – for example to guarantee a pleasantly warm bathroom in the morning, to reduce the temperature during the day, then to make the room nice and warm again in the evening when it’s the children’s bath time. Electronic thermostats are now also available as part of many smart home systems.

The thermostats are managed by a small control unit, which you can usually operate by smartphone. This means that the temperature can be programmed not only in the bathroom, but also in the entire house or apartment by setting individual room profiles. You can preheat the bathroom for 6:00 a.m. every morning, and turn up the temperature in the dining room ready for your family breakfast at 7:00 a.m.

A man’s hand is operating the temperature control of a heating system mounted on the wall.

You can keep a constant eye on the temperature in the bathroom thanks to smart controllers and thermostats.

Heating a bathroom properly

In order to heat your bathroom with the least amount of energy, the following principle applies: you don’t need to increase the temperature in the bathroom to sauna level. While 21 °C is considered a comfortable temperature in living rooms, it should be 23 °C in the bathroom. Each extra degree leads to a perceptible increase in heating costs.

At night, on the other hand, feel free to lower the temperature to save energy. To ensure that you still have a comfortable temperature in the bathroom first thing in the morning, it’s best to use electronic thermostats that will increase the temperature in plenty of time. According to a study, it’s possible to make energy savings of five to twelve percent in a single-family house by lowering the temperature to around 17 degrees at night.

If you don’t have a smart controller and continue to adjust temperatures manually: set the radiator thermostat in the bathroom to level 3.5, which corresponds to a room temperature of about 22 °C. At night you can set the thermostat to level 2, which is equivalent to a room temperature of about 16 °C. Setting the heater to the highest level for a short time in a cool bathroom doesn’t heat the room as quickly as possible, but simply increases the maximum room temperature (unnecessarily) to as much as 28 °C.

Instead of adjusting the nighttime temperature manually by thermostat, you can also achieve the same effect by turning down the entire heating system at night. This means reducing the heating water temperature of the heating system overnight. This will allow you to achieve a lower energy consumption. A nightly reduction of 3 to 8 degrees makes it possible to save heating energy, especially in less well-insulated buildings.

Save on heating costs – despite having a nice warm bathroom

Finding the ideal heat setting, lowering the temperature at night and installing a smart heating controller are not the only ways to save heating costs in the bathroom. We offer some additional advice:

  • Make sure that your radiators can emit heat freely and unobstructed. Any kind of cladding or object will absorb heat that should actually reach the room. You can remove towels from the radiator as soon as they are dry.
  • Vent the radiator at least once at the beginning of the heating period. If there is air in it, the system will need more energy to heat the room.
  • Thorough cleaning of the radiator at the start of the heating season is recommended. Use a strong hair dryer or slightly compressed air to remove dust and stubborn dirt from the radiator.
  • Airing the room is important, especially after using the shower. But if it’s cold outside, the window should not be left tilted open for too long, because this will cause the walls to cool down slowly, but by a great deal. Heating up the room afterwards will then take longer and consume a lot of energy. Instead, you should only air the room for five to ten minutes to allow supersaturated moist air to escape.
  • If your bathroom has roller shutters, make good use of them, especially in the cold season. This will provide extra insulation for the bathroom.
  • If heat frequently seems to escape and you have to heat the room a lot to warm it up, the window seals may be defective. Inexpensive seals from DIY stores or specialist retailers are often sufficient to improve thermal insulation.
  • If having a warm bathroom is particularly important for you, you should consider a warm wooden floor as an alternative to tiles – in the long run, this is definitely cheaper than underfloor heating.

The most important questions and answers at a glance

Do I need an additional bathroom heater in my bathroom?

A single heating system is only suitable for bathrooms where the temperature should remain constant all the time. In a bathroom with a shower and bathtub, it’s useful to have two heaters: one to provide basic heat and one for rapid heating.

Is an electric radiator advisable in the bathroom?

An electric radiator is easier to install, but more expensive to maintain.

Can I use a fan heater in the bathroom?

Fan heaters or radiant heaters in a bathroom require a lot of electricity and are therefore not practical as a permanent solution.

How does infrared heating work in the bathroom?

An infrared heating system in the bathroom produces a noticeably different form of heat. The warmth is felt very quickly when the heating is switched on.

Can I retrofit underfloor heating in the bathroom?

Retrofitting underfloor heating always requires more effort than installing it in a new building and is therefore more expensive. In the long term, however, the conversion work can be worthwhile.

Can I operate radiators in the bathroom?

You can easily connect a radiator to the power outlet, even in the bathroom.

One of the major disadvantages is that you will run up very high operating costs in the long term.

What temperature should it be in my bathroom?

The temperature in a bathroom should be 23 °C. Higher temperatures are not necessary and only result in higher heating costs.

What temperature should I let my bathroom cool down to at night?

By lowering the temperature to around 17 degrees at night, you can make energy savings of five to twelve percent.

Conclusion: obtain a comfortable temperature with the right radiator

The old method of turning up the heating in the bathroom first thing in the morning then waiting for it to warm up enough is now outdated, thank goodness. You can adjust the temperature in the bathroom much more accurately with today’s modern range of bathroom radiators. Whether you opt for underfloor heating, infrared heating or a heated towel rail – with the right radiator you can ensure that your bathroom is at the right temperature for you every morning.

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