Can electric radiators be used in bathrooms?

Electric radiators can be used in bathrooms. In fact, it can make a lot of sense to do so. With that said, there are several important safety considerations relating to electric radiators in bathrooms.

The basics of electricity and water

One of the first science lessons most children learn is that electricity and water don’t mix. This is absolutely true. It is, however, also true that electricity can be used where there is water. There just needs to be a clear separation (waterproofing) between the electricity and the water. 

This is how appliances such as kettles, washing machines and dishwashers can be used safely. It’s also how electrical appliances can be used safely in environments such as bathrooms.  

Going forward, this fact is going to be more important as the world is going to have to move away from gas. This means that, in the future, you will need to use an electric radiator in your bathroom. You will also need to use either an electric shower or a shower that is connected to an electric heating system. 

Understanding electric radiators in bathrooms 

In terms of surface area, very little of an electric radiator is actually electric. The only parts of an electric radiator that do have electricity pass through them are the heating element and the connection to the mains. This can be either a hardwired connection or a plug. 

These two parts will have some level of waterproofing. This will be shown by an ingress protection rating, more commonly known as an IPX rating. The IPX rating indicates how close to water sources (e.g., sinks) the radiator can be fitted. For convenience, the manufacturer may also indicate what zone of a bathroom the radiator can be used in. 

Once you know this, you can then look at other aspects of installing an electric radiator. For example, you can look at whether any given wall can hold the load. 

IPX ratings 

IPX ratings consist of two numbers. The first number rates the item’s degree of protection against solid objects. It can be between 0 and 6. The second number rates the item’s degree of protection against liquid. It can be between 0 and 8. (In theory, it can go up to 9 but 9 is so rare it is generally ignored). 

For electric radiators to be used in bathrooms, you generally want a minimum IPX rating of 4. This indicates that an item is protected against water splashing from any angle. This is sufficient if the radiator is going to be installed well away from the wet areas (e.g., the sink). Technically, these are known as zones 2 and 3. 

Bathroom zones 

Bathroom zones are a convenient way of describing where electrical devices can be installed.  

Zones are numbered from 0-1. Zones designated 0 are the wet area in bathrooms e.g. sinks, baths and showers. Zones designated 1 are the areas directly above them. Zones designated 2 stretch 0.6m from the edge of any zone designated 1. Any other space in your bathroom is designated as zone 3. 

Electricals with IPX 4 are suitable for use in zones 2 and 3. If you want to install an electric radiator in zones 0 or 1, then it needs a minimum IPX rating of 7. This means it is protected against the effects of temporary submersion in water (30 minutes at 3 feet/1 meter). 

Choosing the right wall for your electric radiator 

Your IPX rating and your bathroom zones will indicate where it is safe for you to install your electric radiator. Most bathrooms are, literally, the smallest rooms in the house. This means that it’s highly likely that there will be only one wall you can use for the radiator. In fact, there’s a strong chance that there will be a limited area on that wall you can use for your radiator. 

If, however, you do have a choice, then, generally, your best option is to use a stud wall. Other types of walls are usually suitable. They can, however, make for more challenging installations. For example, masonry walls are likely to be much more difficult to drill into. 

Installing your electric radiator 

If you are using a plug-in radiator, then, in principle, you can do everything yourself. In practice, if you need to adjust/add cabling then it can be advisable to call in a proper electrician. Even if you can legally make the adjustments, having paperwork showing that a professional has done it may be helpful in the event of any future insurance claim. 

If you are using a hardwired electric radiator, then you can mount it to the wall yourself. The actual electric connection must, however, be made by a qualified electrician. If you’re going to mount the radiator to the wall yourself, then make sure that you check the correct technique for drilling into it and what fixings you’ll need. 

If you’re mounting the radiator on a stud wall, try to mount it using the studs or noggins. If you’re not sure where these are then a stud-finder app on your phone will generally do the trick. Alternatively, you can buy a proper wall scanner.  

You’ll also need to be sure to avoid any electrical cabling in the wall. If you have any doubts about this, then you must get a professional to check it for you. In fact, it would probably be better just to have a professional install the radiator for you. 

Going smart with electric radiators 

If you are buying an electric radiator, it’s advisable to check whether or not it’s a smart electric radiator. Currently, there’s a very strong chance that it is. If it isn’t, however, then you can probably retrofit it with a smart thermostat to make it a smart radiator. 

The advantage of doing this is that it gives you even more flexibility in how you use your radiator. In particular, it allows you to control it remotely. So, for example, if you need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, you can turn on your radiator from your bed. That way, the bathroom will have time to warm up before you open the door.

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