As humans moved up from the tropics and warm climates of the Middle East and Africa into the cool and more temperate climate of Europe they had to adapt to the cold. They built warm housing and learned to heat their homes against the cold.
Early Europe Heating
Early in European history homes were simple and were heated simply. Houses of sod, wood and hide would have a large open fire pit built into the centre of each long house. Above the fire there would be an arrangement of roofing materials and holes to let most of the smoke out. It was smoky and the large hole in the roof that let the smoke out also let some weather in.
Romans Introduce Heating
Around the first century B.C.E. The Romans began to develop hypocaust heating systems. These are sophisticated ways of heating a home with hot air moving under the floor. They were used to heat hot bath houses, homes and other public and private buildings.
Warmer rooms would be nearer the furnace and ceramic box tiles were used to control the flow of heat. The furnaces required constant care and feeding. The expense of these systems meant that the hypocausts were only used in the public houses and the homes of the very wealthy.
Back to Fire Places
After the fall of the Roman Empire, there was no true central heating in Europe. People used fire pits and fire places up until the 1800s.
In 1793 on of the earliest central hot air furnaces was built in a mill building in Derby. A large stove brought in air from outside and heated it. The heated air was then allowed to flow through large ducts through the mill, heating it up.
In 1807 Derby’s Royal Infirmary adapted the design to hospital use. The design pumped fresh heated air to the patients and pulled old air away into a glass dome at the center of the system. Steam and hot water heating were first used in greenhouses. A high pressure steam system was first built into textile factories and homes around 1807 and 1815. By the 19th century the more efficient steam heat had replaced hot air heating systems.
Hot Water Heating Systems Introduced
In 1832, the first successful high pressure hot water heating systems were in use. These early systems were so well designed that many of them were in service for nearly 200 years in churches and factories. By 1855 the use of the radiator had been set in motion. Today, the system remains much the same.
Heating in Europe Today
Today Europe still leads in the development of heating systems. More economical steam and hot water heaters are paired with very efficient insulation materials and building techniques to create homes and buildings that barely lose any heat energy. European countries are also using so-called Passive House technology.
These are homes that either have no central heating system or have only a minimal system in place for extreme temperatures. Instead, the houses are well designed to capture the sun’s radiant heat in the winter and hold it to maintain a constant temperate living condition all year long.