Heating Through History

As the harsh cold of winter descends, it makes you wonder how people overcame the biting cold before we had central heating. How did our ancestors keep warm and out of the freezing temperatures of winter?

Going back to the construction of Stonehenge, fire was the only source of heat when the temperature dropped. In the middle of each Neolithic home, fires were the focal point for the family to cook and warm themselves. Of course, for those cold nights – cosy animal furs and skins would have been used as clothing and blankets.

During Roman times, an ingenious method invented was under-floor heating. Harsh winters of the UK may have come as a bit of a nasty shock for wealthy Romans, so the hypocaust system was to be the answer to the problem of their cold villas. The hypocaust was the beginning of a smart central heating system that involved a stove being lit with fire and space being created between the walls and under the floor where the hot air could circulate. As you can imagine, it was a heavy and expensive system and the fuel would have been available for the very richest.

Image credit

Fortunately, our homes are much more comfortable today but if you don’t think your central heating is working properly, it could be a problem with your boiler. For Boiler installation Bristol, contact a company like www.greenerhomesgroup.co.uk/boiler-installations.html

Less well-off Romans were able to retreat to a public bath for heating. With hypocausts making rooms warm, others would have had sauna-type heating. Many Roman bathrooms had both warm and cold areas, along with sudatoriums (sweat rooms) like a sauna. The baths were very popular and played a big role in the cultural life of the entire Roman Empire.

The English are proud of their large number of castles but spare a thought for those citizens who had to put up with the cold medieval stone walls, unglazed windows and small fires to heat the vast rooms! This explains the large woven tapestries that were hung on the wall and on top of the windows to try to protect as much space as possible. Fires would have been lit and kept burning for months, which not only increased the risk of fire but would not be good for ventilation either.

Jump several hundred years into the future, Elizabethan architecture shows great niches where large fireplaces were installed and ornately decorated. This may be the first time that home heating also became a fashion statement. Chimneys were added to the rooms to improve ventilation and fire risk.

Image credit

The Victorian era saw coal became the fuel of choice with several large plants burning up to 30 tons of coal per day to keep buildings warm! A boiler room was required under the house that had a hot water boiler to feed dozens of different fireplaces.

These days the gas used for central heating is piped directly into our homes so that we do not have to suffer the chills of a stone castle or smoky conditions of an open fire kept burning in the middle of the house!