Towel-warming racks vary in size, design, heat production and price, but they operate on common principles. Racks usually feature horizontal rods -- for hanging towels, of course -- suspended between vertical rods. Some chic designs, however, feature twisting, looping or serpentine shapes. The hollow rods, often made of heavy-duty steel, sometimes feature finishes such as bronze, chrome, gold or nickel. Heat generated by the electric elements -- or via hot water, in the case of hydronic warmers -- runs through the rods, warming the towels as they hang.
Electric towel-warming racks often rely on dry heating elements, which generate warmth by running electricity through wirelike filaments to warm the hanging rods. In some models, electric elements heat mineral oil inside the rods to warm them. The heating elements usually don't require lots of electricity to operate; the wattage is similar to that of a standard light bulb.
Electric towel-warming racks come in two basic types: externally powered, plug-in models or built-in, hardwired models. Portable, freestanding plug-in models simply plug in to a standard wall outlet -- usually 120 volts -- via a connected cord. Hardwired models, which require professional installation, connect directly to your home's electrical system and are floor- or wall-mounted.
The Hydronic Option
Like hardwired electric models, floor- or wall-mounted hydronic towel-warming racks are built in to your bathroom, kitchen or spa. Open-system hydronic racks connect directly to your home's hot water supply to run heated water through the metal casings. Close-system racks get their hot water from external, rack-specific hydronic heating systems.