The History of Radiators

  • April 28, 2017
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Over the last few weeks we have been bringing you the history of our loved, and well used bathrooms. Each week we have focused on a different bathroom item, today we take a look at the radiator.

Moving Heat Throughout Buildings

Although it not classed as a radiator as such, cavemen had the common sense to light a fire within their caves to keep warm in colder months – this [probably] still counts as the first heating system. The first recognised heating system was created (like many things ahead of their time) by the Ancient Romans, they used a Hypocaust which circulated hot air and smoke from a charcoal furnace into enclosed spaces. These were used in the flooring of bathhouses and needed constant attention to supply the fuel. In the 18th Century, Russian engineers battled sub-zero temperatures by creating a water based heating system which consisted of solid fuel burning boilers where the heat ran through passages made of porcelain, providing a longer period of heat than the charcoal furnaces. In the 1790s, steam systems were created by Matthew Boulton and James Watt. Boulton and Watt were responsible for developing steam engines and created a heating system that utilised the exhaust steam from a high pressure steam engine, this technique was used throughout their homes and mostly in factories and mills. Watt even tried to feed the heat into a soldered copper sheeting but mostly it continued to run through pipes in the floors and walls.

Physical Radiators

Not a radiator as we know it today, but Benjamin Franklin adapted the standard fireplace creating one made of metal, with a panel that helped direct fumes from the fire and a flue to move the heat around. The Franklin Stove boosted heat more efficiently and across a longer path. 1854 produced the first radiator that we can relate to today. Stephen Gold constructed the Mattress Radiator which was two iron sheets riveted together, this design was used for over 50 years. Radiators then became elaborate, and in wealthy homes were often grand designs.

The radiator that became world famous (and still is to this day) was invented in 1872. The Bundy Loop was made of cast iron loops that screwed into the base. This was a steam system radiator which took the world by storm. Due to it’s popularity, The Bundy Loop made the Victorian era extremely important in the advancement of domestic heating.

Towards the end of the 19th Century radiators fluctuated in and out of interior design fashion. Depending on the decade, houses would box them in to hide them away, or proudly display their radiators as a statement piece within the room.

Modern Day Radiators

In 1970 the creation of the steel radiator made installation the norm in all households. Nowadays, they could be powered by oil, gas, steam or hot water but every house has a central heating system, and we’re spoilt with the choice of designs we can choose from.

Roman Hypocaust System Franklin Stove Mattress Radiator Bundy Loop Radiator

Covered Radiator

Statement Radiator

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