Who Invented Central Heating?

It is near impossible to imagine living in today’s world without heat in the home. Heating allows people to live further north than would otherwise be possible. It also has environmental benefits by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Central heating is often taken for granted, but who invented central heating?

The original form of central heating was open fires built into the hearth part of a fireplace. Even this simple, early form of heating required significant changes in architecture. It had the effect of moving vast numbers of peoples’ bedrooms away from their fireplaces. That allows them access to proper sanitation and fresh air ventilation via large formal windows called “lights.”

Until the 17th century, most houses were tiny (two rooms per floor), insubstantial dwellings that were very overcrowded.

So, Who Invented Central Heating?

The credit for the invention of modern central heating goes to:

William Strutt

In 1793, the British engineer William Strutt invented central heating. He built a furnace similar to John Evelyn’s design from almost one hundred years prior. Through an underground passageway, Strutt’s apparatus heated outdoor air. In the early 1800s, Strutt collaborated with Charles Sylvester to create a heating system for a hospital that also cleaned the air inside the building.

History of Central Heating

An early version of the fireplace was the masonry heater. Still, it was not until Henry Wood invented a method for lining these fireplaces with boiler pipes that they could also be used to provide warmth. The first attempts at heating homes via central heating were primitive and unsuccessful. Still, their ideas would form the basis of modern central heating systems.

It was not just people who had problems with the lack of sanitation in 17th-century houses. Whole cities stank due to open sewers and no means of waste disposal or water purification (flushing toilets hadn’t yet been invented). Nature abhors waste, so London’s wealthy elite who could afford good sanitation solved their problem by building large mansions on land out of town. The rest of the population who could not afford to escape the city built dark alleyways between their tiny houses or lived in abject poverty in overcrowded tenements with no sanitation. Wonder what they would think if they knew who invented central heating.

The next stage in central heating was coal-burning stoves that burned coal directly to provide heat and hot water for their owners. These provided a more controlled form of heating than wood-burning fires. Still, they also emitted harmful pollutants into the home (and were practically useless at warming rooms above freezing). They were replaced by iron stoves that used enclosed ovens to burn smoke before entering the house. These grew steadily more sophisticated until they too became obsolete thanks to gas and electricity.

Another significant development was steam heat which used steam as a source of energy. Steam-powered early railroad engines proved to be a more efficient way of distributing heat than gas, oil, or electricity.

However, it wasn’t until 1935 that central heating truly caught on in homes. This was done by Willis Carrier, who invented the air conditioning unit. We now take it for granted and keep our homes and offices cool during the hot summer months.

Types of Central Heating

Central heating was invented in the early seventeenth century, though it became widespread only in the twentieth century. The invention of central heating had a significant effect on people’s lifestyles because they could now live further north than would otherwise be possible. It also had environmental benefits by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Fan Convectors

Fan convectors are pipes that carry hot air to rooms via vents in the wall. These were the first type of central heating system, but they are now outmoded by gas boilers which can provide more heat at less cost.

Hot-water Heating

The second central heating method is hot-water heating, which involves burning fuel to heat water. Hot water is then pumped around radiators throughout the house. It heats the air before returning to the boiler for reheating; this saves money on fuel because only one tank needs to be heated at any time. 

Steam Radiators

Steam radiators work like hot-water radiators except that they also use steam as an energy source (producing low-pressure steam – less than 1psi). These were the most popular central heating systems from around 1850 through to the 1930s.

Hot-water underfloor Heating

There are two types of hot-water underfloor heating: radiant and convection systems. In a convection system, a pump carries water to a boiler. It is then heated and circulated through thin plastic tubing installed on a floor or underneath wall panels.

A radiator warms the air at each end of the circuit before pumping cool water back to the boiler. This method can be more costly but has lower installation costs because there is no need for radiators or piping on walls. In contrast, radiant heat travels through thin metal cables twisted together with thin steel wires to form a cable that is then covered with an insulating material. This design improves heat transfer because the wires are kept close together. Still, it is more expensive to install than convection systems.

Steam Underfloor Heating

Pipes carry steam in a steam underfloor system, and water runs underneath heated floors or wall panels. The steam heats the air while the water is pumped back to be reheated in a central boiler. These systems are even more expensive than radiant floor heating. But they work better for larger spaces; they also require less maintenance because there are no pumps to replace.

Heating Your Home With Central Heating

The invention of central heating had an enormous impact on people’s lives because it allowed them to live comfortably in cold climates without burning vast amounts of fuel. It also made a living in large buildings possible – who would want to live in a high-rise tower block if it wasn’t heated? Furthermore, modern central heating systems do not produce any pollution, which means they have a lower impact on the environment than older forms of heating.

The advent of central heating also affected the design and layout of homes and other buildings. Houses could now be built-in parts of the world where it was previously too cold to live. Owners constructed compartmentalized living spaces by installing several separate boilers, and builders were free to create more open-plan designs because there was no need for fireplaces or chimneys (which can be hazardous).

Now that you know who invented central heating head over to our next article to find out who invented the radiator that goes along with it!