The history of central heating

Wed 26th Jun 2013 - 4:48pm Energy and Heating The history of central heating
Benjamin

Benjamin Clarke

Central heating has become an absolute necessity in modern day homes, with over 90% of households in the UK now centrally heated. Because of our cold climate in winter, it is now standard for the vast majority of newly built homes to have central heating.

Although the concept of central heating has come on leaps and bounds in the last 60-70 years, the idea can be traced back to both the Roman Empire and ancient Korea. The Romans invented a system called a ‘hypocaust’ in which there were large gaps below rooms and in the walls which allowed heat from a furnace to heat rooms. It was also this system that heated their famous Roman baths, however after the fall of the Roman Empire, this traditional central heating system was lost and very rarely used.

Ancient Korean Central Heating

In traditional Korean architecture, which can be dated back to well before the birth of Christ, a form of underfloor heating was developed called ‘Ondol’. A fire would be lit in a stove or a furnace and through a complex system of chimneys and passages and would heat the home via a raised stone floor. Interestingly, the warmest part of the floor would be reserved for the guest or the member of the household who had the highest social standing.

The Pioneer Of The Modern Radiator

Fast forward to the 1830s and the idea of steam-powered central heating was developed by Angier March Perkins, a US engineer. Ironically his first central heating system was not designed in order to heat a home and stop it’s inhabitants from being cold. Perkins was actually commissioned to come up with the system by the then Governor of the Bank Of England, who wanted to grow grapes at home! The system designed by Perkins was further refined by a Russian called Franz Karlovitsch San Galli. San Galli made one of the greatest contributions to modern central heating in 1855 when he invented the first cast iron radiator.

Steam power eventually gave way to the first gas-fired water heater that was invented in France in 1925 by the Chaffoteaux Brothers. As Chaffoteaux & Maury, the company took this concept a step further in 1955 by inventing the first boiler that could be installed on a wall in the home and thus paving the way for the modern domestic boiler that we are familiar with today. C&M went on to develop the combi, condenser and electric ignition boilers that can be found in many homes up and down the country.

Developments Into The Future Of Central Heating

Central heating is now an integral part of the building process and is expected as standard by first-time buyers. With the increased cost of gas around the world, the industry expects there to be further developments and technological breakthroughs in the efficiencies of central heating systems. Such heating components as condenser boilers and aluminium radiators are just a couple of ways in which further efficiency has been squeezed out in order to maximise the use of gas and electricity. No doubt the coming years will see further changes to central heating as we know it.



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