Heating’s moved on from the Stone Age. Or has it?

20th Mar 2017


With “smart” technologies capturing the attention of consumers and heating systems reacting to the environment without the need for human intervention, it would be fair to say how much heating has moved on from the days of Stone Age man and the discovery of fire.

I thought I’d look back at the accepted history of the heating industry. It was the Ancient Greeks, not the Romans, who originally developed central heating, with hot air from fire circulated by flues. The Romans took the technology, known as a hypocaust, and expanded its use from large to smaller buildings. After the collapse of their empire, such intricacies disappeared as solid fuel fires became the norm across Europe.

It was the Russians who first used hot water systems, in the 1700s, in their palaces and the Swedes, around the same time, to heat greenhouses. In the 1800s, hot air systems started to be fitted in public buildings, such as hospitals and even the House of Commons.

Recognising the problem of hot water systems requiring large diameter pipes, in the 1830s the screw thread joint of small bore pipes allowed water at high pressure to circulate from a boiler through buildings. The first of which were installed at the home of the then Governor of the Bank of England, apparently so he could grow grapes. The Russians again came along and invented the radiator (1850s). The Victorians, with their cast iron models, saw modern central heating systems become the basis of what we have today.

But having discovered how to make fire, bearded Stone Age man soon found that the stones surrounding their fire stayed warm long after the flames had subsided. The basis of an electric storage radiator was born and stays with us.

 Best wishes

Mike Foster, CE