My friend moved to a flat in UK a few months ago, and his electricity bill is soaring. There is no gas in the flat, only electric heating.

One curious thing I noticed is that the towel rail (similar to the one in the picture below) cannot be turned off: there is no switch on it, and there is no accessible plug. I did not see a specific switch related only to the towel rail, although I may have missed it.

Example of a towel rail

All towel rails I've seen before had either a button or switch on them, or at least you could easily unplug them from the wall.

Is this the way UK towel rails are supposed to work?

Otherwise, should I try unscrewing the plug cap to see if I can access an actual plug underneath it? Or is there another way to do it (and I simply missed it)?

  • 1
    Be sure to turn off the circuit breaker that feeds that device before you go opening anything up. – cathode Apr 14 '15 at 7:21
  • Does the flat have any electical furnace of some sort? Just maybe, there is central heating with some electrical water heater so that towel rail is not to be controlled (strange, cuz even then it should have a valve). – Marek Oleszczuk Jul 13 '15 at 20:18

There is probably a switch just outside the bathroom.

If this is rented accommodation your friend would have to ask the landlord's permission to get any changes made.

There won't be an "actual plug" underneath the cover. That's just a fixed-wiring outlet called a fused connection unit (FCU).

You might be able to add a pull-switch (cord to ceiling-mounted switch). This would probably be safest.

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You could probably replace the FCU with a switched version (SFCU) if the outlet is outside the zones specified in the regs. It has to be at least a specified distance from the bath, sink etc.

switched outlet

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You may be able to get IP44 rated SFCUs.


I eventually found out that the only way to turn it off is via the central circuit breaker panel, which has a "heater" switch. This switch is separate from the ones which control the water boiler and the cooking plates.

During winter, it is therefore impossible to turn off just the towel rail while keeping the rest of the heaters on. At least during summer you can turn it off.

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