28 Feb 2013

A Brief History of Home Water Heaters

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Every time you turn your tap and hot water comes out, or that first blast of shower water hits you in the face with freezing you to death, you should be grateful that you didn’t live in the Bad Old Days. For most of human history, you had two choices — accept a cold-water bath, or spend a ridiculous amount of time heating water over a fire and then pouring it into the tub. You can see why hardly anybody bathed regularly for centuries!

It wasn’t until the 1800s that modern civilization achieved some reliable methods for heating and storing water. Kerosene and other natural gases replaced coal as the primary heating fuel until Edwin Rudd finally come up en electric heating element for water tanks in 1889. And once engineers figured out how to insulate the tank, people had a way to keep hot water on hand and draw small amounts of it at a time as needed. But tankless water heaters — the kind that heat the water on demand, instead of storing pre-heated water — were coming along at around the same time. The first one we know of appeared in 1868, but early models were too dangerous or too slow-working to catch on. Modern tankless systems do a great job, and they save energy too. And believe it or not, solar water heating has been around in since 1896, when Clarence Kemp invented the first batch water heater. Solar heaters fell out of vogue after the 1920s, then picked up again as people started looking for alternatives to fossil fuels.

Is your water heater an antique? If so, don’t just put up with cold baths like our ancestors did — contact Steve’s Plumbing and let us install the latest and greatest in water heating technology!