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Roman Bath
Roman Bath | Photo by

When It’s Hot It’s Hot, But When It’s Not Brrrrr!

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It’s happened to all of us at one time or another and it can be quite shocking. You’re leisurely taking a shower when out of nowhere, wow, the hot water is gone and the cold water is pounding down so hard you scream and start shivering. Yes, this is another case of something we take for granted until we don’t have it.

Shower | Photo by

Someone, way back when, must have gotten the idea that heating water made it more comfortable to clean up and more effective in removing the dirt, grime, etc. That is what I am writing about this time. Let’s take a look at the history of heated water.

I’ll start with my old standby reference source Wikipedia which defines water heating as ” a thermodynamic process that uses an energy source to heat water above its initial temperature. Typical domestic uses of hot water include cooking, cleaning, bathing, and space heating. In industry, hot water and water heated to steam have many uses.”

Roman Bath
Roman Bath | Photo by

According to Curious it might have all begun in “306 AD: Romans had large baths facilitated with heated water, whereas these were not considered as real water heaters, but can be regarded as a pioneer work for water heating.”

Roman Bath Diagram
Roman Bath Diagram | Image by

There seems to be a large gap in time as the development of producing and storing hot water continued. In 1868 “an English painter named Benjamin Waddy Maughan patented the first water heater. This was [the] very first residential water heater, which used natural gasses for heating the water. The heater did not have a flue for the ventilation of gas vapors, so it was unsafe to use in households.” He called his water heater “The Geyser.”

Maughan's Geyser
Maughan’s “Geyser” | Image by

About 20 years later, 1889 to be precise, a Norwegian engineer named Edmund Rudd took Waddy Maughan’s idea to the next level. He completed his work after emigrating to the United States, Pittsburgh, PA to be precise. His water heating system did have a flue to remove the poisonous gasses safely. That allowed the use of the water heaters in households giving the general public the “luxury” of having a hot water heater in their own homes.

Rudd's Water Heater
Edmund Rudd’s Water Heater | Image by

In modern times mass production of electric water heaters grew and other inventions emerged such as the solar water heater and gas water heaters. According to Wikipedia “In 1896 Clarence Kemp of Baltimore enclosed a tank in a wooden box, thus creating the first ‘batch heater’ as they are known today.

Kemp's Solar Water Heater
Clarence Kemp’s Solar Water Heater | Image by

Frank Shuman built the world’s first thermal power station in Maadi, Egypt, using parabolic troughs to power a 60-70 horsepower engine that pumped 6,000 gallons water per minute from the Nile River to adjacent cotton fields.”

Solar Water Heater
Modern Solar Water Heater Unit | Photo by OTOYA-EG.COM

In the 1920s solar water heaters in Florida and Southern California used flat-plate collectors. Interest grew in the 1960s for solar heating, but became more practical after the oil crisis of 1973.

Explodigh Gas Water Heater
Exploding Gas Water Heater Through Roof | Photo by

I remember back in the early 1960s the house my parents and I were living in had the old fashion natural gas water heater that had to be manually lighted and then turned off when we left town for a vacation. The fear was it could overheat and explode. I remember being shown pictures of those old water heaters that exploded and shot like a rocket through the roof spraying boiling hot water as it launched from the basement. That was an extra incentive to remember to turn the gas off before leaving the house.

Now that you know how it all started I’m sure you will not take having hot water so much for granted.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at:

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