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Low-cost luxury? Towel warmer could be sublime

Question - I was in a house in Europe that had bathroom towel warmers. It felt great in the morning. My bathroom at home is chilly. Can I install one myself at home and do they cost much to operate? - Ann J.

Answer - Residential towel warmer designs vary from simple towel bar-type units to elegant ornate designs with brushed nickel and real gold-plated trim. I have used one and a heated towel feels wonderful after a shower on a cold winter morning.

Most towel warmers have built-in electric heating elements. Some are simple plug-in designs while others are hardwired. If you have hot water heat, select a design that circulates hot water through the towel warmer itself.

Electric towel warmers use low-wattage heating elements and can save money overall. People often set up the furnace thermostat in the morning because they feel chilly. A toasty warm towel eliminates this uncomfortable chill.

For the most convenience and efficient operation, select a model with a programmable timer. It takes several minutes for a towel warmer to heat up. The timer will start it early so your warm towel is waiting when you step out of the shower. The timer also turns it off if you forget.

The Eurorack towel warmer is the simplest to install. It mounts on the door hinges and is hidden when the door is opened. You just pop out the hinge pins and slip in the bracket. It uses only about 70 watts of electricity.

Domoteck makes a wall-mounted model with a glass shelf for shampoo, soap etc. Warmatowel models allow for several on/off daily cycles to accommodate your entire family's schedule. They also offer floor designs that just plug in.

Another efficient comfort option for a bathroom is a small electric heater. These can be built into the vent fan or mounted flush in the wall. If space is tight, choose a small 3.5-inch high under-cabinet model.

Just like a warm towel in the morning, a small built-in electric bathroom heater can eliminate that chilly feeling and the wasteful "thermostat set up." There is also a new ventless gas bathroom wall heater available that is 99.9 percent efficient and it produces a lot of heat quickly.

If your bathroom vent fan is noisy, replace it with a new one with a built-in heater. Several of the extra-quiet models also have built-in night lights. For a stylish bathroom, choose one with real oak trim or a register-style model that looks like a regular furnace register in the wall.

For a small bathroom, a radiant bulb-type ceiling heater is efficient and effective. For larger rooms, select a higher wattage forced-air model.

Write for (or instant download - Update Bulletin No. 938 - buyer's guide of 16 towel warmer and bathroom heater manufacturers, styles, sizes, comfort features and a sizing chart. Please include $3 and a business-size SAE.

James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244

Question - We have dark beige miniblinds on our windows. My wife says that I should partially close the blinds during the day so the sun warms them. I think we should let the sun shine in. Who is correct? - Bob N.

Answer - This is not much help, but both of you are partially correct. From an overall solar energy standpoint, more of the sun's heat will enter and stay inside your house with the blinds fully opened, so you are correct.

If you sit in a chair or work near the window, your wife may be correct. The sun heats the blinds and they act as a buffer between your body and the cold window glass. This can reduce the chilly feeling you get near a window.