Nothing beats the bliss of getting a hot shower after a long, tiring day. Half the tiredness goes away within minutes. And on days when your house’s heating system doesn’t work properly, all hell breaks loose. Now imagine a world where hot water was seen as a thing of luxury and only rich people had easy access to it. Don’t believe us? Let us tell you the history of modern-day water heaters. But first, check where that beeping sound is coming from. If that’s your water heater beeping, you need to get an appointment with your family plumber.
In the past, people would heat up water on stoves in big containers so that they could bathe. The whole process was slow and exhausting. As a result, people would just run around smelly and would bathe once a week. On days when a family had to wash, the whole would be spent on heating water for everyone.
Given the circumstances, we can’t blame those poor people for preferring to be smelly instead of going through the misery of getting hot water again and again. It is said the perfumes were invented to mask the nasty odors. Whatever the reason was, hot water was not something everyone could brag about.
Classic Water Heaters
Humans had always had curious minds. They eventually got tired of their smelly selves and the hectic job of heating water to have a 10-minute bath. They started to make do with the limited resources they had and kept on inventing new techniques. During the boiler era, storage tanks or range tanks were installed with the stove. This system makes up the basics of a water heater.
Following the laws of physics, the heated water would move into the storage tank while another batch of water was being heated. In this way, the whole process of heating the water fastened up a bit. Some of the oldest forms of boiler heater can still be seen.
Expanding the boiler horizon resulted in a “scuttle-a-day” water heater. It required one bucket “scuttle” of coal to heat the water in the storage tank. One bucket of coal would last a whole day, hence less trouble of reloading the coal. It also had damper controls to adjust the heat, but still, it was not fully automated.
The scuttle-a-day saw its demise after the invention of the side-arm heater. It consisted of a coil beneath which a gas burner was placed. The whole coil-burner apparatus was enclosed in a cast-iron shell. The water would be heated in the coil, which then, by convection, would move to the storage tank. This was much efficient compared to its earlier versions.
The side-arm water heater was economical for people. The separate parts could be replaced without spending money on the whole apparatus. The only problem was that it had an external gas valve that was pulled to light the burner. If anyone forgets to turn it off, it could result in an explosion or gas leakage.
The Appearance of Water Heater
It was 1868 when a painter with a creative mind, Benjamin Waddy Maughan, invented a device that could heat the water inside a house. He created a domestic system that comprises pipes through which cold and hot water could flow freely. Maughan called his invention the geyser.
According to Maughan’s invention, hot water at the bottom would instantly heat up using hot gases, and as this water would be used, cold water would travel downwards. As a result, hot water can be used whenever needed. This invention was fantastic and efficient, but it had one huge drawback. It did not have any exit point for the hot gases. This could potentially be dangerous for everyone in the house.
Maughan’s invention inspired many like-minded people. One of them was a Norwegian mechanical engineer Edwin Rudd. Rudd used the prototype of Maughan’s design and fixed what he lacked. In 1889, Rudd came up with the first automatic heating and storage type gas heater. He formed his own company in 1897, which is operational even today.
From that point on, several companies started their business in manufacturing water heaters. The basic structure of the heaters remained the same with a few design changes. The main innovation came after the war of Pearl Harbor.
During the war, most companies halted the production of domestic water heaters and started making money by supplying boilers for the navy. Once the war was over, the companies came back on track, but some new companies sprang up and introduced electric water heaters this time.
Instead of using gases to heat the water, the electric water heaters used electrical elements. The rest of the process remained the same. These water heaters were more efficient and safe compared to the gas ones. It quickly gained popularity among the masses, and soon companies had to shift to manufacturing electric heaters.
Types of Water Heaters
Over time, water heaters saw their glory. From humble apparatus that was tiring to operate to complex yet fully automatic water heaters. In search of ultimate fuel efficiency and performance, inventors came up with various types of water heaters:
These are the ones we have already discussed. They come with a sizeable water tank that heats and stores water at the same time. Some heaters heat up water instantly, while others may take some time, depending on the design. They are cost-effective and are the most common type of domestic water heaters.
This is a compact type of water heater that comprises super-hot coils. It provides instant hot water on demand, and the supply is near limitless. The only concern about the tank-less type is its cost. They may cost as high as $1,000, while a conventional one is only $500.
3. Heat Pump Water Heater
Also known as hybrid water heaters, the heat pump heaters use up heat from the surroundings to warm up the water. It does not require any external fuel-like gases to do the heating. It takes electricity to function and uses the heat from the ground and air to store hot water.
Although this type is the most fuel-efficient, it will not work in colder regions. Also, it takes up a lot of space to gather enough heat from the ground.
4. Solar Water Heater
The solar water heater uses energy from the sun to heat the water. It consists of collectors and tanks under solar panels and uses the heat from the sun to charge up roof-mounted solar panels, which heats the water in tanks. The installation can be costly, and there is a chance of panels getting hit by lightning but overall, this type of water heater is great for domestic as well as commercial use.
5. Condensing Water Heater
This type of water heater is similar to the conventional one. The only difference is that instead of losing the hot gases by the exit flue, the condensing water heater traps them in a separate compartment and redirects them into a heat exchanger. This way, the heat from these gases is not wasted and is used for heating more water.
Who would have known that a trivial thing like hot water could be a thing of luxury for humans? All praise the great minds behind the invention of water heaters. Without them, we would still be looking for natural hot water springs to take a bath once a month. Now, all we have to do is get off the sofa and be ready to get fresh. Unless you are extremely lazy, there is nothing that could stop you from enjoying a hot shower.