Towel Radiator Controls: How to Turn Them On or Off


More commonly known as a heated towel rail, heated towel radiators have become increasingly popular to warm towels and heat bathrooms. However, many people use them without knowing how to use them properly, including how to use the controls.

Keep reading to find out how to turn your heated towel rails on and off.

What is a towel radiator?

A towel radiator, also known as a heated towel rail, is a system that warms your towels so that you have a nice cosy towel to use when you step out of the bath or shower. It is also used to dry your towels and can be used to warm a bathroom.

These radiators are linked to your central heating system and work in a similar way - warm water is fed through the system, warming your towels as it moves.

Heated towel radiators are mainly installed in bathrooms but are starting to be installed elsewhere in homes for that extra touch of luxury. For example, some stylish designs are installed in living rooms as hanging spaces for blankets.

Can you heat a bathroom with towel radiators?

It is definitely possible to heat bathrooms with a heated towel rail, especially if your bathroom is on the smaller side. Larger bathrooms may require an additional heat source to stay warm.

Most UK bathrooms in houses with heating will have a radiator installed already. If you have a bigger bathroom and want to increase the heating options, you could consider adding an electric towel rail to the room in addition to the radiator.

How to use your towel radiator controls

Depending on the type, you can control a heated towel rail in several ways. If you have a heated towel rail linked to your central heating, you will have radiator valves to control the temperature. There are many different styles, so you'll need to ensure you get the right type for your set-up if you're doing the installation yourself.

We've summarised the three main types below:

  • Manual radiator valves:

Most similar to typical bathroom faucets, manual valves work by twisting the top to adjust the towel rail's temperature. These valves are usually smaller than other types of valves due to their simplicity. Manual valves will either turn the radiator on or off - they do not allow you to adjust the temperature.

  • Thermostatic radiator valves:

TRV radiator valves are designed to keep the towel rail heated to a specific temperature that you set. They do this by using a sensor made of wax or containing a heat-sensitive liquid that expands once the radiator has reached the chosen temperature. This seals off the hot intake pipe and regulates the temperature.

The sensor is electric in some newer models, but the wax or heat-sensitive liquid versions are still more common.

  • Lockshield radiator control valves:

This type of valve is always the second valve in the pair, whether you have manual or thermostatic valves. The role of the lockshield valve is to regulate water flow and measure pressure as it flows through the radiator. While lockshield valves are included with all heated towel rails, these valves are particularly important for vertical rails with bigger pressure requirements.

Using the valves to control your heated towel radiators

The lockshield control valves normally aren't touched, unless you need to stop water flow to your radiator. Manual or thermostatic valves control the temperature of the radiators. To reduce the heat and switch off the unit, turn the manual or TRV valve clockwise. If you want to increase the heat output or turn the unit on, you'll turn the valve anti-clockwise.

Which fuel is best for heated towel rails?

Before choosing a heated towel rail, you'll need to decide on its fuel source. Different fuel sources have pros and cons to consider. The two main options are electric or central heating, and you'll need to understand both to decide the best option for your household.

Central heating towel radiators

A heated towel rail linked to your boiler and central heating system functions just like the other radiators in your home. These rails turn on and off with your central heating, but most rails will come with a thermostatic radiator valve, allowing you to adjust the temperature as needed.

Electric heated towel rails

An electric towel rail depends on the electric system for power. These models are great if your home doesn't have central heating or if your system is of a smaller capacity. You can also adjust their temperature and have a timer added, allowing you to run them only when needed.

Other factors to consider


When choosing a heated towel rail for your bathroom, you must investigate the running costs incurred for each type to decide what will suit your home the best.

Adding a heated towel rail is likely unnecessary if you have a small bathroom and a radiator is already in it. Many homes with central heating often already have a radiator in the bathroom.

If you'd prefer to have towel rails installed rather than keeping the radiator, it can save money in the long run. The heated towel rail can be installed in the same space as the radiator, reducing plumbing costs and saving space in your bathroom.

It must be noted that because an electric towel rail won't be able to take the place of the central heating radiator, it won't have the same savings. Replacing an electric radiator or towel rail is a different story though.

FAQs about towel radiator controls

How do you turn off a heated towel radiator?

This depends on the system you have installed. On an electrically heated towel rail, you'll likely be able to switch it off using the control panel or at the wall.

For towel radiators linked to your central heating system, these will switch on and off in sync with your central heating. Alternatively, you can turn the manual valve or thermostatic valve clockwise to adjust the heat and switch the unit off.

What are the two valves on a towel radiator for?

On your heated towel radiators, you'll find two different valves. There will be a lockshield valve and a manual wheel head valve or a thermostatic radiator valve. The lockshield radiator valve controls the hot water inflow and helps monitor how the heated towel rail interacts with the rest of the central heating system.

The manual or thermostatic valve controls the heat output of the towel rail and the outflow of water back into the central heating system. You can adjust the wheel on this valve to increase or decrease the temperature of your towel radiators.

Why is my towel rail not getting hot?

There are a few reasons your towel rail may not be heating properly. If your central heating is off and the rail is linked to the heating system, it won't be able to heat. Alternatively, the valves on the unit may not be open sufficiently.

If they are open, there could be a valve pin that is stuck or the valves may have seized due to infrequent use. Over time, dust, paint and mineral build-up from the water can block the valves.

In need of a new towel radiator?

In need of a new radiator

If your heated towel rail is still giving you problems, it might be time to get a technician in to look at the problem. They'll be able to advise you if a simple repair is needed or if you should rather opt to replace the rail entirely.

PlumbNation is known for its wide stock range and can provide all necessary replacement parts if they're needed, along with our extensive range of plumbing supplies.

We can also assist in purchasing a completely new towel rail if that is the best option for your situation. Get in touch with us to speak to our knowledgeable staff about all the radiators and towel rails we have available to find the one that is best for you!