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Winter Warming World Of Heating

Dec 25, 2007
Like most people, I often struggle to get into work when the world outside is a big blanket of grim darkness and sparkling cold frost. What makes it worse is when I can clearly see my own breath; this is when you know it is very cold and most likely to be a long day into work. It is at times like these that I wished I could drive and enjoy the heating from my car. Better still if only the ground had floor heating, a very unlikely prospect I imagine.

However, in the midst of my self-woes and complaints about the British winter weather, it makes me wonder about what people did before the invention of central heating. Even if they used fireplaces, it certainly must have been very cold even in your humble abode. Before cars people had to travel great distances that I am almost certain did not have central heating. Central, fan, electric and floor heating are a luxury compared to the life we had lived prior to our technologically advanced society now.

History

The Roman Empire is recorded to have used central heating in the cities around 100AD, using a system called the hypocaust. The hypocaust, literally meaning 'heat from below', conducted air heated by furnaces through empty spaces, under the floors and through pipes in the walls. The hypocaust was most commonly used for public baths and private houses. Keeping the hypocaust running was labour intensive and very expensive requiring constant attention, so only the wealthy were able to afford to have one in their homes.

Traditional Korean homes used the Ondol, (also known as the Gudle) that was very similar to the Roman hypocaust, but differs in that it circulates heated air used mainly for cooking and floor heating, whereas the hypocaust was used to heat public baths. This consisted of a furnace or stove, situated underneath the floor, heated floor under-layed by smoke passages and vertical chimneys to allow a draft. Traditional Ondols used rice paddy straw and agricultural crop waste to keep the heat running. Now modern day Ondols use circulated air and heated water for under-floor heating.

Engineers from Russia, around 1700, had begun developing hydrological based central heating; an example of this is evident in The Summer Palace (1710 - 1714) of Peter the Great in Saint Petersburg. Later in the year in Sweden of 1716, water was used to distribute heat in most buildings. Steam heating systems were then developed and installed in England during the 1830s, by Angier March Perkins.

Modern Heating Systems

Modern day heating consists of either water, electric, gas fired, hydronic or steam system heating. Heating systems that use water system use the following components for central heating: gas supply lines, boiler, pump (to circulate water in a closed area) and radiator (most commonly used in most buildings and almost all households in the UK). Electric heaters convert electricity into heating and are more expensive.

Hydronic heating systems circulate heated water, whereas steam heaters use steam as a heating medium as opposed to water. Hydronic systems are also used for floor heating, using a boiler and a pump to distribute hot water in plastic pipes installed in concrete slabs. These systems are also used with an anti-freeze system which would come in very useful during times of snow and ice along walkways, parking lots and streets.

These days' people have become very aware of the environmental issues with using central heating. Much of the heat used is wasted, as single rooms that do not need heating waste a lot of energy. Energy efficiency attempts have come across in the form of architects designing low-energy buildings, water based combustion central heating offers more energy efficiency and wet under-floor heating which allows easy usage for future technological advances in pumps and solar combi-systems.

So whenever you get up to go to work and find yourself complaining about the cold weather, think yourself lucky that we live in a period where heating is not a problem to obtain, more affordable and is no longer labour intensive to distribute. It is as easy as switching it on and fiddling with the thermostat, which makes a change from gathering wood using it all day and tending to it day and night making sure you maintain a consistent circulation of heat.
About the Author
Anna Stenning has recently installed floor heating in her home and is trying to be more enviormentally friendly. If you would like to find out more about heating systems log on to http://www.floorheatingonline.com/.
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