Try imagining a world without boilers. Few appliances are as important and as ubiquitous as the
humble boiler. Most of us don’t spare a thought about them, but when they break down you get an
understanding of just how important they are. Ever suffered through a cold shower because you
have no other option? It’s not nice!
But have you ever wondered how boilers came about? Before the mid-19th century we were forced
to heat water using iron cauldrons. Not only is this a costly, time-consuming process, but it has
terrible health implications. Even now, chronic lung conditions triggered by indoor cooking fires
cause more deaths than aids, TB and malaria combined in developing countries.
The breakneck technological innovations of the industrial revolution gave rise to the forerunners of
the boiler in your airing cupboard.
The ‘firetube boiler’ pushed hot gases through metal tubes running through the centre of a tank and
powered steam trains and ships.
While it was a bold technological innovation, these boilers could be horrifically dangerous because
maintaining safe pressure levels was difficult at the time.
Fast forward to 1868, when a painter named Benjamin Waddy Maughan invented the first
instantaneous domestic water heater that didn’t use solid fuel. He named it the ‘geyser’ after the
hot springs in Iceland.
The contraption heated cold water by flowing it through wires that were heated by hot gases from a
burner. The hot water then flowed into a sink or tub.
A Norwegian mechanical engineer named Edwin Ruud built on Maughan’s work and invented the
automatic storage water heater.
Ruud pioneered both residential and commercial water heaters after moving to the US. In 1897,
Ruud filed a patent for the Automatic Water Heater. The innovative consisted of a cast iron shell,
enclosing burners, heating surfaces and thermostat controlling gas-valves. The aim, according to the
patent, was to “maintain the supply of water at the desired temperature at all times”.
His innovation popularised boilers, but the end of the Second World War saw industry skyrocket,
and with it a demand for boilers.
Then came condensing boilers, which condense water vapour present in the exhaust gases, and
recover a portion of the heat which is then used to heat up cold water entering the boiler.
Fast forward to today, and we enjoy the power to tailor our heating using mobile phones. SMART
home heating controls, including NEST, offer us a tailored, cost-efficient service at the touch of a
Whatever happens in the future, Great British Heating will stay at the forefront of the evolving world
of boilers to offer an unbeatable service.