Towel warmers offer a combination of function and fashion.

Towel warmers may be the most misunderstood product of the up-and-coming American radiant market.

“I think most Americans consider them as a fancy amenity as opposed to the functional practicality that Europeans consider them to be both in terms of warming towels and warming the bathroom itself,” says Paul Ross, president, Hydronic Alternatives, Springfield, Mass.

Clearly, there certainly are high fashion towel warmers with high price tags. But there are plenty of models to choose from in the hundred-dollar ranges. Ross markets models that retail for less than $200 and go up to a little more than $300.

We talked to several manufacturers of towel warmers who gave us several concepts they use to explain the benefits of towel warmers:

  • Baseboard Alternative: Let’s set aside the nicety of a warm towel for a moment. Contractors can easily get the firepower they need to warm the bathroom first and foremost. Owen Cantor, vice president of marketing and sales for Runtal North America, Ward Hill, Mass., says 2 feet of baseboard might provide up to 1,200 Btus, but a modest-sized hydronic towel warmer would provide 8,000 Btus.

    “Plus you move the heat from down near the floor, which is the worst place for it to be in the bathroom,” Cantor adds.

    The larger surface area of the towel warmer makes it the better contender to warm a bathroom — plus homeowners get a warm towel to boot. Cantor says even bathrooms with radiant underfloor heat are great candidates for a towel warmer since the larger surface areas taken up by the bathroom fixtures may not leave enough floor space to adequately provide heat.

  • South-of-the Mason-Dixon Line: “You’d be surprised on how many towel warmers we sell in the South,” says Ray Farley, vice president, Myson Inc., Colchester, Vt. “Most people think they’re sold only in colder climates, but they might be even better in the South.”

    The more you think about Farley’s suggestion, the more it makes sense. The air-conditioning is always on in southern states, turning the bathroom into an icebox. What’s more, the towel warmers can make quick work out of drying towels that otherwise could stay damp until even the next morning.

    “It’s a good way to freshen up the towels,” Farley adds.

  • Coordinated Ensemble: In a trend we explained in a recent cover story (“Recession-Proof Remodeling,” July 2003), the days of just having your towels match your shower curtain are long gone.

    Towel warmers might just be the last metal surface of the bathroom to go high fashion. Today’s consumers want all the metal surfaces of the bathroom — from faucets to showerheads and from towel bars to even p-traps — to be the same finish.

    In addition to offering a number of metal finishes, manufacturers also offer a variety of custom colors to virtually match wall color or complement stone or tile surfaces.