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Q: History of Heating ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: History of Heating
Category: Science
Asked by: laza-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 10 Jan 2004 02:55 PST
Expires: 09 Feb 2004 02:55 PST
Question ID: 294991

I am interested in finding the history of heating.

How has the basic need of man of keeping warm evolved from the fire to todays'
technology (in chronological order). 

Both domestic and comercial heating types are important.

Images, diagrams, graphs are also important!


Subject: Re: History of Heating
Answered By: kriswrite-ga on 10 Jan 2004 13:05 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello laza~

What an interesting question! :) 

Although it may be surprising, the first central heating dates as far
back as 1st century Rome. ?Roman engineers at the beginning of the
Christian era developed the?hypocaust. The Stoic philosopher and
statesman Seneca wrote that several patrician homes had ?tubes
embedded in the walls for directing and spreading, equally throughout
the house, a soft and regular heat.? The tubes were of terra cotta and
carried the hot exhaust from a basement wood or coal fire.? (?Panati?s
Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things? by Charles Panati, Harper &
Row Publishers, 1987,
) However, this high tech solution to heating was only available to
the very wealthy, and when the Roman Empire fell, the hypocaust
virtually disappeared.

To see how a hypocaust was laid out, go here:  To view
the existing remains of a hypocaust, go here:

Naturally, early people used fire as their primary source of heat (in
addition to warm clothing of various sorts). These fires were of the
?camp fire? sort, and it wasn?t until the 11th century that fireplaces
began to be used?again, by the wealthy, to warm their vast (and cold!)
castles. To see a very basic example of such fireplaces, go here:

In 1642, engineers installed a heating system in one room of the
Louvre (the French fortress) ?that sucked room-temperature air through
passages around a fire, then discharged the heated air back into the
room.? (Source: Panati) Unfortunately, because the air was always
being recycled, it became stale quickly.

In the 18th century, fireplaces really caught on and were used by more
than just the wealthy; the rich put fireplaces in all major rooms,
from bedrooms to parlors, because they heated inefficiently by modern
standards. (Approximately 80% of the heat escaped up the chimney,
according to Charles Panati.) Unless you were within a few feet of
them, they provided little warmth. The use of brick or stone around
the hole itself helped spread the heat a little, and the best
fireplaces had backings of clay and brick several feet deep, in order
to re-direct the heat forward.

Steam heat was next to be used in the 18th century, mostly to heat
large rooms of people in churches, schools, assembly rooms and the
like. The steam was allowed into rooms via pipes.

Largely used in the colonies, a system similar to the Roman hypocaust
was being used in the 18th century. In the basement, a large fire was
kept and pipes lead the heat into various rooms of the home. Again,
the system was used by the well-off.

One of the first heat stoves was created by Ben Franklin. Very much
aware that fireplaces lost a lot of heat through their back and side
walls, he created a freestanding cast iron box, known as the Franklin
stove. He is also said to have been the first person to place a stove
in the center of the room, thereby distributing the heat evenly
throughout it.

?But the original Franklin design was flawed ?? it vented smoke from
the bottom and didn?t draw in air. It was a failure, that was until
Philadelphia?s David Rittenhouse added a long L-shaped stovepipe to
create airflow through the fire and vent smoke up to a wall chimney.
By 1790, the stoves were widely used, improving the lives of early
Americans. Those same stoves continue to be a fixture in American
homes more than 200 years later. But the ?Rittenhouse Stove? name
didn?t stick; they are still called Franklin stoves today.? (?The
Franklin stove,? Iowa Department of Natural Resources, )  To see a picture of
a Franklin stove, go here:

Around the same period, the Germans were inventing something similar.
Their stoves, however, were similar to fireplaces (they sat behind the
wall, and allowed the heat and flame to escape into a fireplace-like
hole) and were called Five-plate or Jamb stoves. To see a picture, go

By the 1760s, a new style of stove, sometimes called ?ten platers?
were being used. These were used both as ovens, and as heating
sources. The smoke passed around the ends of the oven and out a pipe.
To see a picture, go here:  
These led to the ?parlor stoves? of the Victorian era. Such stoves
were used in almost every home, business, and school. They used either
wood or coal. Because they were put in ?public? rooms, they became
fancy. To see some examples, go here: and

In most cases, wood stoves were preferred; wood was plentiful, free
(in many cases), and burned more cleanly than coal. Nonetheless, ?one
half ton of coal produced as much energy as 2 tons of wood,? and if
you lived in the city, coal was easier to obtain than wood. 
(?Milestones in the History of Energy & Its Uses,? ) Coal had been a secondary
source of heat since the 1st century A.D., and in the 18th and 19th
century, coal was more popular than wood in England (because England
had abundant coal mines). (?A Brief History of Energy,? a pdf file: energy_for_keeps_dis_ch1.pdf ) 
Particularly in England, homes were cleverly built to accomdate easier
coal use. Houses had vaults for keeping coal (found in the basement),
which were filled by a pipe that led from the street to the vault. At
the outside of the house, such pipes were covered with an iron plate,
and whoever supplied the home with coal could simply drop the required
amount down the pipe. (?Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian
England? by Kristine Hughes, Writer?s Digest Books, 1998;

Also during the 19th century, many people burned peat, especially in
England and Ireland, where it was plentiful and free. Peat comes in
many varieties, but  basically resembles a type of thick moss. In the
American west of the 19th century, Buffalo chips (again, free and
plentiful) were often used for burning.

The first practical gas stove was made in 1855 by Pettit and Smith.
Nonetheless, gas stoves were less popular than either wood or coal
stoves. (?A Brief History of Gas Supply,? )

The first electric heater was patented in 1892 by R.E. Crompton and
J.H. Dowsing. ?They attached several turns of a high-resistant wire
around a flat rectangular plate of cast iron. The glowing white-orange
wire was set at the center of a metallic reflector that concentrated
heat into a beam?Improved models of the prototype followed rapidly.
Two of note were the 1906 heater of Illinois inventor Albert Marsh,
whose nickel-and-chrome radiating element could achieve white-hot
temperatures without melting; and the 1912 British heated that
replaced the heavy cast-iron plate around which the heating wire was
wrapped with lightweight fireproof clay, resulting in the first really
efficient portable electric heater.? (?Panati?s Extraordinary Origins
of Everyday Things? by Charles Panati, Harper & Row Publishers, 1987,

The first solar heating can be dated to at least 1877 when ?air
blowing over a sun-heated iron was used to heat homes?The first
widespread use of solar power for heating occurred in the 1930's, but
was replaced in the 1940's with low-cost natural gas heaters.? (?Solar

Today, most people heat their homes and businesses with electric, gas,
wood, or solar heat?all of which have long histories of warming up


Keywords Used:
fireplace history

?Franklin stove?

coal stove history

coal stove Victorian

coal stove 19th


wood stove history

wood stove Victorian

wood stove 19th

?history of? gas heat

?history of? electric heat


solar heat history
laza-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: History of Heating
From: lingvistika-ga on 19 Jan 2004 00:17 PST

Trakai Castle near Vilnius, Lithuania claims a 14th century heating
system not unlike that of the Roman hypocaust.

Today the restored castle operates this system with a coal fire in the
lowest levels and the heat rises warming the floors and walls.  I was
very surprised during a winter visit when most large buildings in the
country were frigid that this insular antiquity was warm and toasty.

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