Just imagine yourself soaking in a hot bath, fragrant with scented oils, the room gently lit. The room is filled with soft furnishings and smooth marbles that invite your touch. Then, you step slowly from the water and wrap yourself in a warm, cotton bath sheet. Mmmmm"¦ bathing doesn't get much better than that!
"The people who really like a luxurious bath, love heated towel bars!" exclaims Carolyn Allman, interior designer with C. Allman Design Group in Medford. "That's all our fantasy, to step out of a bath in the cold of winter and grab a hot towel."
The origin of the heated towel bar is unknown, but this upscale amenity has long been found in fine European hotels, where the units may be connected to the steam heating system. Heated towels have come a long way here in the United States, where early adopters might have made do with a towel thrown over a radiator.
"Historically, heated towel racks have been $1,000 and up, so it's been the more affluent homeowner who've been putting them in," says Jim Cheshire, showroom manager at Budge-McHugh Supply Company in downtown Medford. With units now more affordable, starting at $300-$400, Cheshire sees homeowners installing heated towel bars in all of their bathrooms.
Today's heated towel bars use the home's hot water system (hydronic), or are electric with heated oil warming the metal of the towel bar. The most popular heated towel bar is oil-filled and electric, permanently wired right into the wall, according to Cheshire. "With a timer," he points out, "so you can set it to go on, say 7 in the morning ..." What a way to start your work day! They're also efficient. Cheshire says that thermostatically-controlled heated towel bars can cost just pennies a day.
The permanently mounted, electric units can be installed in a couple of hours with a simple circuit for $200-$300, says John Elbon with Pacific Electrical Contractors. A plumber generally installs hydronic units at the same time a water-heated, radiant floor system is installed.
The more bars per foot, the tighter your heat range will be so your towels will be warmer, more quickly, notes Cheshire. "They're going to range in price from about $400 to over $4,000 depending on the amenities and size and finishes," he adds. A portable, plug-in, oil-filled towel rack is also available for about $700, and can be moved from bathroom to bathroom.
Denise Snyder of Ferguson's in downtown Medford says there's a heated towel bar for every decor: "You can get them in polished brass, chrome or brushed nickel." There's even a European line with flat, wooden-looking slats available in a palette of over 100 colors, from primary to pastel and natural.
Heated towel bars aren't just for bathrooms. They are also useful in mudrooms and laundry rooms. "There are some that are available with shelves either permanently mounted on them, or they can be added and taken off as needed," explains Cheshire. "So you can put gloves, mitts, shoes, things like that [on them]. You come in from a nice Oregon rainy day and can take your cap and scarf off and dry things out."
A final note of caution while you're dreaming: heated towel bars can reach 150 degrees and may not be safe in homes with small children. You might want to install wall units out of harm's way rather than buy a floor model that plugs in, or wait until the kids are a bit older.