The heating problem for the small house was for our ancestors a very simple mechanical device, consisting, as we all know, of either the fireplace or the stove. The former method still has a charm which we are not willing to dispense with, although we do not depend upon its efficiency to do the actual work of warming, but install some more complicated system, such as a steam-heating plant, to perform the practical work. A fireplace has a sentimental and intellectual warmth that no radiator can supply.
Even the stove has a certain fascination for many, recalling cold wintry nights when the family sat about the red-hot casting, the women knitting and the men burning their shoe-leather and smoking. Some advocates of the stove are so energetic in their arguments concerning the efficiency of this method of heating that one almost doubts the defects which lead inventors to manufacture other devices. But the housewife knows the labor of shovelling coal into three or four stoves, knows the great clouds of hot, fine ashes which rise into the atmosphere and settle upon the shelves, the tops of picture-frames, and the polished surface of the piano.
And the inventor saw the tired, worn look of the housewife, removed the stove to the cellar and installed tin pipes from this central heater to the various rooms, and then waited for applause and purchasers. It seemed so simple, but it did not solve the problem entirely, for when the wind blew from the north into the windows, it pressed out the warm air from the exposed rooms, forced it down the pipes up through which it was supposed to come, and then rushed it up the flues on the south or warm side of the house, overheating this part and leaving the cold rooms of the house unheated. The drum of the furnace over which the air passed to receive its warmth from the burning coal would leak every time fresh fuel was added, for the odor of coal-gas became very evident throughout the house. Moreover, the heat was very dry and unpleasant, so that water-jars had to be set about to moisten the air.
Warm Air Turnace with Pipes.
Steam Heat - One-pipe.
Steam Heat - Two-pipes.
Hot Water Heating.
Then came the inventor again with a new device, a steam-boiler, pipes to distribute the steam, and radiators to give off the heat in the steam to the room. Here at last was a method of heating which would supply warmth in the cold parts of the house, even under the windows, through which the chilliest air penetrated. But the sizes of the radiators were calculated to heat the house to 70 degrees when it was zero outside, although the average winter day was much warmer than this. In this way the occupants of the house were cooked with an excess of heat during moderate weather, for there was no way to regulate the amount of heat given off from the radiator; it either was filled with steam, giving off its maximum quantity of heat, or else it was empty and cold.
To meet this difficulty presented by the steam-heated radiator, the hot-water system was developed. Instead of distributing heat with the medium of steam which under low pressure was fixed at one temperature, heat was circulated by hot water from the central boiler. The temperature of this water could be regulated for mild weather by lowering the fire. However, since the hottest water was cooler than steam, it required larger radiators and more piping, so that the initial cost of a hot-water plant was more than that of a steam system.
In order to overcome the disadvantages of the inflexible steam-radiator, inventors finally developed the so-called "vapor-vacuum" system of steam-heating. In this equipment the air was driven from the entire length of pipes and from the radiators by the pressure of the rising steam from the boiler, and forced through a special ejector which closed when the steam came in contact with it, preventing the return of air into the interior. Thus when the pipes and radiators were filled with steam (there being no air left), no pressure was set up to resist the circulation of the water vapor, and when the hot steam condensed in a radiator to a thimbleful of water, more steam was drawn in to take its place, for no air could enter the pipes. In this way the quantity of steam delivered to the radiators could be regulated by a special valve with a varying number of ports, and by turning the valve to a certain position enough steam would be permitted to enter the radiator to keep it half full, or by shifting the valve to another point enough steam would enter to fill the radiator to three-quarters of its capacity. In fact, the requisite amount of steam could be admitted to the radiator to balance the speed of condensation and retain whatever level of steam in it was desirable. Thus the steam system became at once a flexible system of heating, and could meet the changing requirements of the weather.
A further development of the hot-water system then came about. In this device the radiators were made to contain water, but the heat was circulated through the pipes by means of steam. This steam was poured over the surface of the water in the radiator and transferred its heat to it. According to the quantity of steam poured over the water, the latter could be heated to various temperatures. Of course the water in the radiator was the medium for distributing the heat outward from the radiator itself.
Simplified diagram of Vapor-vacuum system.
Still another improvement was made upon the hot-water system by introducing the principle of the closed expansion tank. In the ordinary system the water is allowed to expand at the top through an expansion tank, so that the actual pressure on the water of the system is atmospheric. Under this pressure the temperature of the water cannot be raised to more than 212 degrees Fahrenheit, for beyond this it boils and changes to steam. However, in the closed-tank system a so-called heat-generator is added on the line leading to the expansion tank, which, by means of a column of mercury, is capable of adding 10 pounds more pressure than the atmosphere to the water in the system, and thus raising the boiling-point to about 240 degrees. This generator is so designed, however, that, although it adds this greater pressure to the water, yet the natural expansion of the water in the system is permitted through it in case of emergency. By permitting the raising of the temperature of the water, the size of radiators can be cut down 50 per cent, which, of course, reduces the quantity of water needed and permits a quicker heating of the system when the fire is started. Thus a saving of fuel is accomplished and the disadvantage of the ordinary hot-water system is eliminated; namely, the long time required to get hot water in the radiators after the fire is started in the morning from its banked condition of the previous night.
However, the genius of the inventor was not at rest on the problem of warm-air heating, for he discovered that he could abolish the flues, which he once thought were essential, and use but one register and one flue. This is called the pipeless furnace. A register is employed which has an outer and inner section. The outer section permits the cold air from the house to pass down through it and over the drum of the furnace. The inner section of the register permits this hot air to escape upward and through the house by-natural distribution. Thus the hot air rises from, and the cool air settles back into, the furnace without utilizing flues. The circulation of this system was found to be superior to the older method as ordinarily installed, and very much cheaper to install. In fact, it is the cheapest of all systems of heating.
It is especially adapted to the small, low-cost house.
To reduce the cost of hot-water heating and make it also available for this class of small house, the manufacturers produced another type of water heating-plant. In this device the water-heater was installed in one of the rooms of the house, like a stove, but the exterior was designed to serve as a hot-water radiator for the room in which it was placed. From this heater pipes were taken off to distribute heat to other radiators, located in adjoining rooms. The principle remains the same as the former system; the only difference lies in the reduction of cost by eliminating the boiler from the cellar and utilizing it to heat the room in which it was placed.
Hot Water Heating -Boiler in Dining Room.
Other attempts to improve the mechanics of heating have been more along the line of perfecting the operation of valves or the utilization of other fuels than coal. Gas-radiators have been tried, but they are so expensive to operate in most parts of the country that they are not always suited to the needs of the small house. Electric heaters, too, are not within the pocketbook of the average person owning the small house. Fuel oil-burners also have been devised to take the place of the coal-grate. Wherever oil is cheap enough to permit their use they are great labor-savers, since they eliminate all the shovelling of coal and handling of ashes. These will be discussed later.
Briefly, then, the available systems for the heating of the small house are:
Hot-air. - a. Furnace with flues.
b. Furnace without flues. Steam. - a. Ordinary gravity system. One-pipe. Two-pipe. b. Vapor-vacuum system. Hot-water. - a. Ordinary open-tank system.
b. Closed-tank system.
c. Special open-tank system with boiler used as radiator.
d. Patent system using water in radiators but steam for circulation.