298 AD – 306 AD There has been evidence of Romans built large baths with heated water and although these were not individual water heaters, this was a first step towards water heating.
At the height of its power the Roman Empire had conquered most of Europe, including about 1,600 square miles of Britain, its farthest outpost. And in the ruins of Aquae Sulis, the famed spas of Bath, lay the vestige of the rise and fall, and redevelopment of plumbing technique.
By the time the Romans reached Britain in 43 A.D., the curative powers of the hot baths were already part of English legend. Back in 863 B.C., the waters had supposedly healed the leprosy of its Celtic discoverer, Prince Bladud (the father of King Lear, who was to be immortalized by Shakespeare). Bladud founded the city of Bath, and dedicated the springs to the goddess Minerva. The Roman name of Aquae Sulis means “Waters of Minerva.”
Aquae Sulis was at a strategic crossroads for the Roman troops, and the natural hot springs made it a logical setting for the baths of the Emperor Claudius. In addition, the springs produced a constant supply of soothing mineral waters, heated by nature to a temperature of 46.5 C. Important too was that available sources of building stone and lead were close by.
Following Roman custom, Claudius developed Aquae Sulis in the image of the great baths back home, but scaled in size to its smaller location. At that, the complex must have comprised approximately 23 acres.
Fast forward many centuries to London, England, where, in 1868, a painter named Benjamin Waddy Maughan, invented the first instantaneous domestic water heater that didn’t use solid fuel.
Named the ‘geyser’ after an Icelandic gushing hot spring, Maughan’s invention made cold water at the top flow through wires that were heated by hot gases from a burner at the bottom. Hot water then flowed into a sink or tub. The invention was somewhat dangerous because there was no flue to remove heated gases from the bathroom.
Not much more is known about Maughn’s invention; however, his invention influenced the work of a Norwegian mechanical engineer named Edwin Ruud, who, in 1889 was the inventor of the automatic storage water heater.
Ruud emigrated to Pittsburgh where he pioneered the early development of both residential and commercial water heaters.
He founded the Ruud Manufacturing Company which is still in existence today.
1890 to present – Many different designs of water heaters and boilers were invented around the turn of the century, including electric and solar water heaters.
The next blog will introduce us to the modern day water boiler and the differences in terminology, usage and available options..