Did You Know?
Romans Produced Hot Water, more than 1800 Years ago!

Hundreds of slaves working through the night burnt tonnes of wood in 50 brick ovens to ensure the water was hot 24 hours a day. One of these ancient ovens that helped supply 15 gallons (70 litres) of water a second through tunnels underground.

One of the brick ovens that kept hot water pumping into the ancient baths of Caracalla (pictured) 1,800 years ago is now on display for the first time.

The steamy secret to how the Romans ran a piping hot bath: Slaves burnt tonnes of wood in 50 brick ovens that kept water in the ancient Baths of Caracalla warm 24 hours a day

  • Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy, were built under Emperor Caracalla in 216AD

  • At time, supplied 15 gallons of water a second and accommodated 5,000 people

  • Directors have opened a section of tunnels with oven heating baths for first time

In the modern world, most of us wouldn't give a second thought to the source of the hot water running through our taps.

And neither did the 5,000 Romans using the Baths of Caracalla everyday more than 1,800 years ago - but if they had, the steamy secret was being kept right under their feet.  


Hundreds of slaves working through the night burnt tonnes of wood in 50 brick ovens to ensure the water was hot 24 hours a day, reports the Times

Now one of these ancient ovens that helped supply 15 gallons (70 litres) of water a second through tunnels underground is going on display for the first time.  

Director Marina Piranomonte told the Times: 'This is the technological heart of the baths. Everyone should see it — not just academics with torches.' 


The Terme di Caracalla was built in 216AD while Emperor Caracalla ruled, and remained in use cleaning 5,000 Romans every day until 537AD when it was closed.

It was closed after the Ostrogoths destroyed the aqueducts supplying water to the baths.

Contemporary descriptions of the grand structure mention marble columns, floors, mosaics of glass and hundreds of statues.

Unfortunately, the marble was eventually stripped away but the site is still one of the best preserved ancient spa complexes left.

The pools were kept at 40C (104F) by nearly two miles worth of lead pipes underground - which may have got into the water.


Old boiler: The world's first central heating system on display as -- Ancient boilers from Pompeii, the partially-buried Roman settlement near Naples in southern Italy.

Ancient Roman boiler from Pompeii. It was used to produce hot water while resting on an iron tripod.

Bathtubs, boilers and the world's first underfloor heating


Recreated Pompeii villa gives rare insight into Roman life a Roman villa had technological innovations like a boiler that warms bathwater Pompeii.

The exhibition "Pompei: The Art of Living" at Musee Maillol in Paris has been set up as a Roman villa, built around a garden atrium, offering a composite look at the decor of a Pompeian domus.

Ancient boilers found from Pompeii, the partially-buried Roman settlement near Naples in southern Italy.

The First American Automatic Tankless Water Heaters

Before the invention of the water heater, hot water was time-consuming luxury. Anyone wanting a hot bath had to heat the water in small batches over an open fire or a stove and transfer them one bucket at a time to a bathtub.
First Instantaneous Water Heater
In 1868, a British decorative painter named Benjamin Waddy Maughan patented the first instantaneous water heater for household use.
Maughan's Geyser
Called the "gas geyser" Maughan's invention employed natural gas to heat the water as it flowed into the bathtub.
The guyser didn't have a flue for venting gas vapors, so it
was dangerous to use.
First Automatic Storage Water Heater
Maughan's design inspired mechanical
engineer Edwin Ruud, a Norwegian
immigrant to the United States, who
patented his automatic storage water
heater in 1889.
Ruud's Invention
Ruud's water heater was a gas-heated,
cast iron appliance with a copper heat
exchanger. When the bather opened a
water faucet, an actuator valve turned
on the heater's burners.
Ruud's Success
In 1897, Rudd opened a company in '
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania devoted
to making domestic and
commercial water heaters.
The Ruud Manufacturing Company
became an industry leader in water
heating products and is the oldest 
American water heater company.


Water heaters have become a ubiquitous part of the modern housing in the industrialized world. However, prior to the industrialization, water heaters were a luxury. Electric water heaters became available during the Industrial Revolution.



Who invented the first electric water heater was non other than Norwegian-American engineer Edwin Ruud in 1889.


Storage Tank Water Heaters

The storage tank heater, still the most common type of water heater still in use in the united states, heats a supply of water and stores it for later use. Newspaper advertisements in 1945 suggest that an "automatic gas or electric water heater" could help keep a constant flow of hot water to the home.


Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters, are commonly used in Europe and much of Asia, they use a series of tubes running through electric elements to heat only the amount of water needed for a particular purpose. the first electric tankless water heater was invented by Stiebel-Eltron in 1929.


Dating from about 1895, this royal British water heater is gas fired. It was installed in the bathroom next to the bathtub. Shower were virtually non-existen. To Operate, you light the pilot, turn on the water, thenturn on it's gas valve.

Be Careful

Temperture is adjusted by putting in the right amount of cold water. When shutting the water heater off you had to be very careful not to shut off the water before turning off the gas. If you did forget, the heater would quickly be ruined, probably melted down!


Shepherd's Crook

The heater works by mixing hot gases and water, which although very efficient, wasn't particularly clean. British heaters had an interesting safety devise built in that you can see on the side of it. The "shepherd's crook" actually makes an air gap in the water supply. This prevents any tainted water from the heater from possibly getting back into the water supply, (a rather modern concept). The slightly tainted hot water was to be used only for bathing. This heater burns roughly 100,000 BTU per hour.


by Sharon J. Rehana



In 1889, George Eastman began selling his Kodak flexible roll film for the first time; the World’s Fair opened in Paris with the completed Eiffel Tower; Daniel Stover and William Hance patented a bicycle with the back-pedal brake; and Edwin Rudd, a Norwegian mechanical engineer and inventor who immigrated to the U.S., was awarded a patent for his design of a tankless water heater.  It had a cast iron body with a copper heat exchanger, and his patent was on a gas actuator valve, which turned on the burner when a water faucet was opened.  


Things have changed since then.  Today, tankless water heaters are used throughout most of the world, and have gained significant popularity in North America.  They last longer than tanked heaters, provide hot water when and for as long as it’s needed, and will save consumers money each month because they reduce the amount of energy used.   




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