[image reblogged from nypl.org]
We don't normally associate heating systems with ancient Greece, do we? But this was exactly where they originated! The ancient Greeks were a pretty clever bunch and they came up with some amazing inventions in their time. And one of these was a device known as a 'Hypocaust'... They used this bit of kit to keep their cities warm in the colder months and the same idea went on to be used for several hundred years.
The Hypocaust was an essentially a relatively simple device. Powered by furnaces, it would create a supply of hot air. This was then channelled through custom-built spaces beneath the floors of buildings before being released into rooms via an array of piping in the walls. The ancient Koreans came up with a similar idea (an 'Ondol'). The only real difference with this system was that it used the excessive heat generated by stoves.
People have always wanted to keep warm and the Hypocaust became as incredibly popular way of doing this. It remained largely unchanged in its design until the 12th century. At this point, engineers in Syria began to use the very first 'under-floor pipes'. These ran directly between the furnace room and the area being heated. The idea received a very warm (!) reception and was employed in the bath-houses of several different countries.
Quite amazingly, no major changes were made to this heating system until the 1700s. This time it was a group of Russian engineers who were to come up with the next big step forwards. They were experimenting with different ideas for hydrological-based systems. These would go on to become the prototypes for our modern central heating! And somewhere between 1855 and 1857, Franz San Galli of Saint Petersburg created the first proper radiator.
Knowing all of this makes you realize just how many major advances have come about in the world of central heating. If it were not for the ingenuity of these ancient inventors, then we would not have the advanced systems of today. Modern heating designers may not have their names written in the history books, but constant improvements, especially in new areas, are still going on all the time.
The environment has become the main focus for many designers and far more emphasis is now being placed on renewable energy systems. Most customers are very concerned about the state of our planet and manufacturers are doing their best to add environmentally friendly units to their range. Ground-source heating is becoming increasingly popular as are solar-powered systems. Heating systems are continuing to evolve and renewable energy is the next big step. After this stage, who knows what is to come?