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8 Interesting Heating Facts

Ok, ok - we know that unless you’re in the industry, heating might not seem all that interesting. But we’re here to tell you otherwise! We’re sharing 8 interesting heating facts that might help you to save some money, or maybe even win some money in a quiz one day!

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A woman carrying a pile of books.8 Interesting heating facts… Yep, we did say interesting.

Ok, ok – we know that unless you’re in the industry, heating might not seem all that interesting. But we’re here to tell you otherwise!

At The Heating People, we’re total heat geeks and love everything heating related.

Whilst you might not immediately think of heating as an exciting topic of conversation; we’ve certainly come to rely on it to keep our families warm and safe.

And home heating has come a long way from the campfires of early man.

So, we’re sharing 8 interesting heating facts that might help you to save some money; or maybe even win some in a quiz one day!

Interesting Heating Fact 1: The Romans invented the first central heating system

To borrow a line from Monty Python, “Apart from sanitation; medicine; education; wine; public order; irrigation; roads; a fresh water system; and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

We could add – invented the first central heating system to the list!

Up until this point, we only knew how to heat a single room at a time using a fire.

The Roman Empire invented the first central heating system called a “hypocaust”. The hypocaust was a system that circulated hot air under the floor and surrounding walls – in the absence of radiators!

Roman buildings with a hypocaust were built on pillars and the floors and walls had spaces in them. Fires were lit below the buildings; allowing the heat to flow through the space in the floors and walls; and out through flues in the roof.

The use of flues to ensure that hot air and smoke didn’t leak into the home was quite a feat of engineering; considering the materials used at the time.

As you might imagine; running a hypocaust wasn’t cheap. So only the very well-off could afford to have them in their homes.

But most Romans could still experience the heating system by visiting the hot Roman baths; where walls and floors were heated.

Interesting Heating Fact 2 –  The first radiator was known as ‘the hot-box’

Mr Franz San Galli, a Polish-born, Russian inventor; has been credited with inventing the first heating radiator – famously calling it a ‘hot-box’.

The hot box was made up of large columns of steel with waterways inside. These allowed for hot water to pass through and heat air which in turn heated up the room. This was a revolution in central heating, and was launched in St Petersburg.

But there is some debate about whether the hot box was the very first radiator. Because there were other similar ‘heat distributors’ being developed around the same time.

One of which was the so-called ‘mattress radiator’ from an American inventor called Stephen Gold in 1854.

But these very early radiators paved the way for the ‘Bundy Loop’ designed by Nelson H. Bundy in 1872. The Bundy Loop was a cast iron radiator that had loops which were screwed into a cast iron base; and it also came in a circular version.

Other manufacturers quickly replicated the design, adding their own features. But the Bundy Loop can still be seen in the various different radiators styles seen today.

Interesting Heating Fact 3 – Vaillant invented the first combi boiler

So, the Romans came up with the first central heating system. And the Russians and Americans invented the first radiators. Us Brits must have come up with the first combi boiler, right?

Nope. We’ve got German manufacturer, Vaillant to thank for that!

In 1967 Vaillant invented the first combined heating and hot water boiler – the Combi-Geyser VCW 20.

This was the first time that heating and hot water could be produced from a single, compact unit. Prior to importing the first combi boilers from Europe; us Brits were using open vented central heating systems with stored hot water in a separate cylinder.

The combi boiler is now the most popular type of boiler sold in the UK domestic market. You can read about their pros and cons here.

Interesting Heating Fact 4 – Radiators heat our homes by convection

Despite their misleading name, radiators heat our homes via convection, rather than radiation.

If you remember your school science lessons, you’ll know that heat can be transferred in three ways: by conduction, by convection, and by radiation.

Conduction is the transfer of energy from one molecule to another by direct contact. And incidentally, it’s this process that means that your home suffers heat loss.

This is because the second rule of thermodynamics means that when an object is at a different temperature from another body or its surroundings, heat flows to reach a thermal equilibrium.

So, in other words, the warm air in your home will always move towards the cold air outside. And this is why we do heat loss calculations to find your new boiler!

Convection is the movement of heat by a fluid such as water or air. The fluid (liquid or gas) moves from one location to another, transferring heat along with it.

Radiation is the transfer of heat by electromagnetic waves. Unlike conduction or convection, heat transfer by radiation doesn’t need any matter to help with the transfer.

If you think about your radiators then, it’s clear that they transfer heat to your rooms by convection.

Your boiler pumps heated water through the pipes in your central heating system, to your radiators. Radiators then transfer the heat from the water to the air in your rooms through convection.

When water in the radiator is heated, the surrounding air is also heated up via convection and this hot air is then moved around the room as the air circulates.

Interesting Heating Fact 5 – Turning up your thermostat won’t heat your home any faster

If you’ve read our blog: 7 Central Heating Myths Debunked, you’ll know that a whopping 52% of people mistakenly believe that turning up their thermostat when they’re cold will make their rooms heat up faster. But as we said, this is a myth!

Thermostats don’t control the speed at which your house heats up, all they do is set the maximum temperature that you want your room to be.

So, if you come home to a really cold house, and then turn your thermostat up to 27 degrees, your rooms will still heat up at precisely the same speed they would have if you’d set the thermostat to 21 degrees.

You’ll just end up overshooting the temperature you actually wanted, and will have wasted energy (and therefore money) overheating your home.

And a bonus thermostat fact… if you turn your thermostat down by just 1 degree, you can save up to 10% on your heating bills.

Interesting Heating Fact 6 – Insulation is vital!

Diagram showing high U-valuesThe key to keeping your home as warm as possible, and your energy bills as low as possible, is insulation!

But unfortunately, according to the Climate Change Committee, our housing stock is one of the oldest and worst insulated in Europe, with 38% of our homes pre-dating 1946.

Poorly insulated homes lose their heat quicker (due to the second rule of thermodynamics that we mentioned earlier!) and it therefore takes more energy and more money to keep them warm.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, the following estimates indicate the proportionate heat loss from a badly insulated house: 25% through the roof; 35% through outside walls; 25% through doors and windows; and 15% can be lost through ground floors.

These figures illustrate how insulation is one of the best investments in your home you can make. Your reduced fuel bills will cover the initial outlay time and time again.

Interesting Heating Fact 7 – Heating and hot water accounts for about 55% of your energy bills

According to the Energy Saving Trust (2020), heating and hot water accounts for approximately 55% of your household’s energy bills.

With the average home’s energy bill being about £1,287 per year (which is set to rise thanks to the gas fuel crisis) it’s easy to see the importance of having an energy efficient boiler.

According to The Energy Saving Trust, you could save as much as £340 a year on your gas bill if you’re trading in an old-style non-condensing boiler for a new condensing one.

And you’ll also reduce your carbon emissions too, which is vital if we’re to meet our national ambition of achieving net zero by 2050. 

If you’re worried about the future of gas boilers, you should check out our related blogs: The Truth about the ‘Boiler Ban’ – spoiler: Yours won’t be evicted! And What are heat pumps?

Interesting Heating Fact 8 – 1 in 5 boiler breakdowns are due to inadequate maintenance

According to Which? 1 in 5 boiler breakdowns is due to inadequate boiler maintenance, or in other words, not booking in for that annual service.

In their 2021 boiler reliability survey, Which? found that only around three in ten boilers that are serviced annually have needed a repair in their first six years. This doubles to around six in ten boilers if the boiler is only serviced every two to five years.

But getting your boiler serviced regularly isn’t just about avoiding breakdowns, it’s about safety too.

Boilers have built in safety features to ensure correct operation, but over time, these can wear down, and leave your boiler in an unsafe condition.

Unsafe gas appliances pose risk of gas leaks; fires and explosions, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Despite this, a survey by the Gas Safe Register found that 24% of homeowners have either never had their boiler serviced or haven’t had it serviced once a year as recommended.

Don’t take the risk! Get your boiler serviced annually by a Gas Safe engineer.

Final thoughts…

We hope you’ve found out something you didn’t know about heating!

If you want tailored advice on improving your home heating, contact us today to book your free survey.

Useful links:

Britannica: The Hypocaust

Vita-Romae: The hypocaust system

The Climate Change Committee report on UK housing stock

Energy Saving Trust: Heating your home

Which? Boiler servicing