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8 key dates in the history of the household boiler

Posted on 23rd May 2017 by Alex Heys

Have you ever stopped to think about your boiler, what it actually does, and where it came from? Probably not. But why should you? Boilers are something we take for granted – they’re usually hidden away in a cupboard, minding their own business and it’s only when they stop working that we realise how much we actually rely on them! Unbeknown to many they have a very long, varied and interesting past! Surprisingly, it was the ancient Greeks, who first developed central heating. But it wasn’t until the late 18th century that the methods we use today started to emerge.

Here are some of the key milestones that have led to the development of the domestic boilers that we depend on today:


350 BC-ish: The ancient Greeks developed central heating

It’s said that it was the ancient Greeks who first invented indoor heating. The temple of Ephesus was heated using a Hypocaust, a system that consists of an open space below a floor that is heated by gases, often from a fire. These systems were widely used by the Romans, most commonly to heat their infamous baths!

1300: Earliest recorded use of hot water heating

Jump forward 1,650 years and we come across the earliest recorded use of hot water heating – supposedly in a monastery in Greenland! The building apparently used hot water springs nearby to keep it toasty.

Early 19th century: The heat is on

It wasn’t really until the early 1800’s that developments in household heating and hot water started coming thick and fast. In 1826 James Sharp patented a gas stove, cast iron boilers with sections appeared in 1854, and the radiator was invented by the Russian, Franz San Galli in the late 1850’s. But at this time indoor plumbing was still very rare: you heated your house the same way you heated you water – with a stove or fire.

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  1868: It’s gonna blow!

In 1868 a painter named Benjamin Waddy Maughan invented and patented the first residential water boiler that didn’t rely on solid fuels such as coal or wood. He called it a “Geyser” and it used natural gases for heating the water. This early boiler did not have a flue for the removal of potentially poisonous gas vapours from the home…it was also capable of blowing up your house if you left it on…! Other than that, it worked well and was a useful household addition to those who could afford the hefty price tag. The success of the Geyser was further buoyed by the invention of an automatic water storage and heating tank by the Norwegian mechanical engineer Edwin Ruud in 1889. Ruud went on to popularise the tank-less water heater.

20th century: hot water and warmth for everyone

At the start of the century, early boilers were made from cast iron, but as mains gas started to become common place and households moved away from solid fuels following the Clean Air Act that was introduced in response to the Great Smog of 1952, steel became the popular, and safer, choice.

It wasn’t until the late seventies and early eighties that central heating was regarded as a basic requirement. Up until then, it was only the wealthy that had radiators, everyone else had electric fires or coal fires with back boilers to heat the hot water. It was also in the eighties that combination boilers started to become a popular household choice, beginning to replace the less economical system boilers that require tanks in the loft.

21st century: going green As we entered the 2000s the focus switched to more efficient and greener boiler technology. In 2005, it was decided that all new boilers fitted in England and Wales must be high-efficiency condensing boilers. The ruling was part of an environmental master plan developed to force all homes to become more energy efficient.

2015: Flow launches its MicroCHP boiler! In 2015 we launched our amazing MicroCHP boiler. Not only does it heat your home efficiently and reliably, it also generates electricity at the same time. As a result it reduces your bills and carbon emissions significantly.  The MicroCHP is now being commercialised in the European market only.


2016: The Flow Eco RF arrives

Last year we launched the Flow Eco RF boiler – one of the most reliable and efficient boilers currently available in the UK. It comes with loads of innovative features, for example you can control it from your mobile phone and it has remote diagnostics meaning if it breaks installers can work out what’s gone wrong from their office, reducing the need for costly call outs!

Alex Heys Author: Alex Heys Google+
Head of Marketing and Communications at Flow: A true believer in the power of words and the importance of the experience.


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