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Eskimo Design / Blog  / What’s with radiators coming from hot countries?

What’s with radiators coming from hot countries?

Hot countries? Selling radiators? We live in a country that boasts around 190 million radiators, so what’s with some of those coming from hot countries? Surely, with our erratic climate, we have more of an understanding to brief the design and engineering of a heating product? Well with big drops in temperatures at night, many hot countries that sell radiators are in the perfect position to understand what we need. Particularly having understood the natural progression from steel to aluminium – aluminium performing better because it heats up quickly.
Historically, our fellow designers in other countries were, well, cleverly doing radiators first anyway.
The Romans can be credited with the early form of central heating, thanks to the invention of the hypocaust. A chap named Sergius Orata, a hydraulic engineer and celebrated Roman innovator, we love an innovator, apparently invented this early home heating technique. The hypocaust system was used for heating spaces such as public bath houses and consisted of hot air and smoke from a furnace being circulated through an enclosed area under the floor – an early form of underfloor heating I suppose. The warmth and smoke passed under rooms that required heating and out through flues in the walls. You’d need a ready supply of fuel to keep those fires stoked and a whole lot of attention. But the Romans clearly understood the principles behind heat transfer systems and what forcing heat through the hypocausts would achieve. It wasn’t just the Romans that used the Hypocaust, it was also used to heat Turkish baths during the Ottaman Empire.
Bronze Age Koreans were using a similar setup, even before the Romans probably, known as Ondol, as far back as 1000BC. Found at many archaeological sites throughout present-day North Korea, this traditional type of architecture was very similar to the Roman model, direct heat transfer from wood and smoke to heat the underside of a deep masonry floor. The key difference between the Hypocaust and the Ondol though was that the Ondol used a long winding underfloor flue, which channelled air to keep it moving towards the exit at a faster rate. The hypocaust floor was ‘just’ an open chamber that didn’t direct the smoke or air in any way. The Korean system was arguably more efficient than the Roman’s, as the ondol used heat from the kitchen fire to warm the entire house – effectively doubling the use of the heat source – a very energy conscious approach. The Koreans and Romans were both inspirationally advanced for their time.

Fast forward to the start of the 18th century, it was the turn of Russian engineers to take up the home heating mantle and, faced with months of sub-zero temperatures, they eventually managed to pull together a design for water based central heating. In 1741, some 30 years after Peter the Great had added piped water to his palace home, Benjamin Franklin over in the U.S, created a metal-lined fireplace that transferred more heat to a room than any that had gone before it. This clever design wasn’t entirely new, as something similar was being employed around 100 years before in Germany, but Franklin took it to a different level, creating a system that allowed fuel to burn at a far greater efficiency, with a baffle right behind the fire directing heat and fumes on a longer path. Directing the fire’s exhausts on a longer path meant that you had more time to extract heat from the fumes – the longer it took for the fumes to escape, the longer you benefitted from the heat they gave off. This system stuck around and remained popular for a long time, but over the other side of the pond, something different was heating up.

In England, once the technology for maintaining steam generation became possible, a steady stream of systems making use of steam heating began to appear. The idea had first been proposed at the end of the 18th century by a chap named William Cook, but didn’t actually become a reality till steam engine pioneers Matthew Boulton and James Watt had steam heating systems installed in their own properties in the 1790’s – at the time, Watt even attempted a primitive radiator, constructed from soldered copper sheeting. Steam heating progressed slowly at first, being confined to heating a few mills and factories in England. In the USA, a number of steam systems were installed after 1810 that used exhaust steam from a high-pressure steam engine – effectively making them free to use. These found their way into a number of large buildings, including the White House and The Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Residential steam systems didn’t begin to take hold until the late 1840’s when a Connecticut stove maker, Stephen Gold began experimenting with steam and the first ‘radiators’ began to make an impression.

Who are we to wonder why any other countries are supplying radiators? Great form & functionality in the heating product marketplace is something that we all desire. One just has to sniff out the best. So, in a competitive heating market, Eskimo celebrate our global love of designing and making radiators. We still design & make the World’s best radiators and towel warmers of-course, but there’s plenty of room for everyone else, after all, us humans love choice. That’s why radiators come from hot countries too.

research ref: John Lawless 2016

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