Huddling around the fire was once a necessity when the cold north wind was howling, and the snow was piling up outside the cave. And as many winter hours were spent gathering around fires, perhaps that is why today we still use a relatively inefficient fireplace as a source of comfort and a place to gather around during the months of winter.
But how did people heat their homes or stores in the years between the fire pit and the modern smart house climate control systems? Where was the warm and inviting gathering place after we moved from the cave to house?
Archeologists have discovered that thousands of years ago, many civilizations were quite advanced in development of home heating systems. Interestingly enough in Europe radiant floor heating gave way to fireplaces and hearths in the Middle Ages, and then the cast iron stove in the 19th century.
The ancient Romans developed a complex system of radiant heating that used clay flues under the floors and in walls to heat the homes of the wealthy and some public buildings. But predating these systems, based on archeological evidence, is the Korean ondol system.
This was a primitive but effective means of home heating that worked surprisingly well even in extreme winter conditions. Strategically placed stones in the floors were linked to the cooking fire hearth. These stones would absorb the heat and radiate it throughout the room.
The modern “rediscovery” of radiant heat is generally credited to architect Frank Lloyd Wright. His architectural stylings evolved into a philosophy he called ‘organic architecture’. According to this theory all components of the building should have an appearance of being unified.
And he felt that a building should equally appear unified with the site. So he used large expanses of glass to blur the line between indoor and outdoor. To give the interior an open flow, he also included ceiling designs with cathedral or vaulted ceilings. As a result, available heating systems were inadequate to heat rooms efficiently, especially in northern climates.
Radiators and coal fired furnaces with blowers as a forced air system linked to vents resulted in the heat being trapped high at the ceiling. Wright designed a system that warmed the floors. This warmed the room and not just the air at the ceiling.
With the 100 degree days of summer behind us, at least until next May or June, thoughts are turning toward winter. For folks from Montana, Michigan or Minnesota temperatures plummeting to the 50s in the Colorado River Valley, and even lower in Kingman, it may seem like a touch of spring.
However, for long term residents of Bullhead City, or Colorado River Valley communities, this is the time to gather around the fire, or to call the experts at AIRzona Comfort Solutions, the areas heating specialists. This is the time to make sure that the climate control system, radiant heating or furnace will be functioning flawlessly this winter.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America