What is a Dual Fuel Towel Rail?

A dual fuel towel rail is a flexible heating option which allows your towel rail to be heated by two sources of energy; the central heating system and the mains electrics. The improved flexibility of a dual fuel towel rail provides a more economical setup because you can heat up the an individual towel rail without having to turn on the entire central heating system.

How Does A Duel Fuel Towel Radiator Work?

A dual fuel towel rail works by allowing the flow of hot water throughout the radiator with a t-piece, whilst also containing a heating element within the towel rail itself to heat it electronically. When the central heating system is turned on the hot water can flow through the towel rail as usual. However, if you want to turn the towel rail on independently from the rest of the radiators in the house, you can simply turn on the heating element and it’ll heat up the towel rail via the electricity mains.

Many people decide to convert their standard towel rail or radiator into a dual fuel towel rail by purchasing a heating element and a t-piece. So if you already love the towel rail or radiator in your home but you just want some more heating flexibility and added functionality then this might be the option for you!

What’s A Towel Rail Heating Element?

An electrical heating element is an essential part of the dual fuel setup, as it provides the electrical source of heat into the towel rail unit. These nifty heating elements combine style with efficiency, as they fit perfectly within the vertical arm of a towel rail and can be easily controlled with the buttons on the face of the element.

towel rail element 1 edited 1

Some heating elements come with added thermostatic functionality too, so if you want to control the temperature, set schedules or even dry your towel with a short 2-hour burst of heat – it’s all possible with the extensive range of heating elements available on the market today. You can see our top 5 towel rail elements here for more guidance on selecting the right heating element for you and your home.

What’s A T-Piece?

A t-piece might look pretty small and insignificant, but this ‘T’ shaped chrome attachment is critical to the dual fuel setup. Without it, the towel rail would simply be an electric towel rail, as there would be no way for it to be connected to the central heating system.

t piece

Essentially, the t-piece allows the heating element to be inserted up and through the straight edge and into the towel rail itself, whilst the 90 degree section connects to the central heating system, allowing hot water to also flow through the t-piece and into the radiator. 

The Benefits of Dual Fuel Radiators

Dual fuel radiators are different from conventional ones because they use both electricity and the central heating as their source of energy. These types of radiators are very popular among homeowners and businesses alike because they come with a variety of benefits over your standard wet or electric towel rails. Some of the main benefits include;

  1. Energy Savings – Dual fuel towel rails are more cost effective and energy efficient than conventional towel rails because they you can heat up a single towel rail without the need to turn the entire central heating system on. Plus, they keep your bathroom warm and your towels cosy for when you jump out of the shower.
  2. Easy Towel Drying – One of the main features that people love about the dual fuel setup is the ability to quickly and easily dry towels during the summer. You don’t want your central heating on but you also don’t want your towels all damp and smelling of mildew.
  3. Added Functionality – In a growing digital world with automated lighting, doorbells and thermostats the ability to now control your radiators with schedules, temperatures and heating modes is a fascinating feature for those looking to improve their home automation.
  4. Cheaper Than Electric – Electric-only towel rails can become pretty costly, as they’re only ever heated by the mains electrics and don’t benefit from the passive heat that runs through all radiators when the central heating system is turned on.

How Do I Use a Dual Fuel Towel Rail?

There are two ways to use a dual fuel towel rail; by turning on the central heating system or by turning on the electrical heating element itself.

These two heating methods should only be used independently of one another though, as you could run the risk over overheating the electric element, which could lead to the safety switch off disabling the element.

Converting A Radiator Or Towel Rail To Dual Fuel

It’s pretty simple to convert a radiator or towel rail into dual fuel. All you need to do is purchase a t-piece and a suitable electric heating element for the sized towel rail or radiator that you’re installing the heating element into.


You’ll need a qualified electrician to install the heating element, but the t-piece is really easy to fit – simply twist it into the heated towel rail and you’re done! You may also require a plumber to hook up the t-piece to the central heating system via the valves but this will depend on your level of DIY-skill.

electrician fitting fused spur edited

How To Buy A Dual Fuel Towel Rail

Many dual fuel towel radiators come as full ‘kits’ nowadays, where you can purchase the towel rail, heating element and t-piece in one convenient bundle which already has the heating element and the radiator matched up. If you opt for one of these, you’ll know for sure that all the pieces are compatible with one another and the heating output of the electric element will be matched up and suitable for the size of towel rail you’re purchasing.

If, however, you’re purchasing the 3 parts separately then you may just want to consider the below steps:

1. Match The Heating Element To Your Radiator Heat Output

Different sized towel rails will require different sized heating elements in order to be heated sufficiently. All you need to do to find the right size heating element for your towel rail is to find the wattage of your towel rail. If you only have the BTU output to hand, then you can simply divide this number by 3.41 to get the wattage. Not sure what a BTU is? Check out our guide on radiator BTUs.

For example, a 800 BTU towel rail would provide approximately 235 Watts of heat energy, so I would need to find a element with a heat output as close to this as possible – a 300w element should do the trick!

2. Consider The Functionality You’ll Need

Different heating elements come with varying levels of functionality, if you want a simple element which is permanently either on or off, then you won’t require a switch or thermostatic functionality. The element can simply be wired into a fused spur which is then controlled via a wall switch.

thermostat for dual fuel towel rail

If, however, you’d prefer the added functionality of a thermostatic heating element with timers, set schedules and various heating modes then you’d be better suited with a digital or thermostatic heating element.

3. Ensure The Towel Rail Is Dual Fuel Compatible

Most standard towel rails can be converted into the dual fuel setup, although it is worth checking that the total length of the element will be able to fit inside the vertical column of the towel rail or radiator. If, for example, you’re opting for a super-stylish designer towel rail which has a curved profile design, then it’s pretty safe to say that the heating element wouldn’t fit – simply because the element itself is long and straight so it can’t bend around the curved design.

Next Steps…

Next up you’ll want to check out our top list of the best towel rail elements that you can purchase in the UK.

terma moa towel rail element with thermostat5

We’ve done all of the research and testing to bring you the best towel rail elements to keep your towels toasty warm and dry all throughout the year.

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