Hot water and hot water heating were a modern convenience during the 19th Century. I was fortunate or not so fortunate to live in several houses that had forced hot water heating. Those huge cast iron radiators could burn your fingers, which meant keeping the tiny hands of the children away from them.
Below are two different excerpts regarding basic information on today's hot topic. Sorry couldn't resist.
ONE of the chief improvements in modern house arrangements is bringing a supply of hot water to every floor of the house on which it may be wanted. A boiler is fixed behind the kitchen fire, the flame passing behind it as well as in front. It is provided with a constant supply of water from the main cistern placed higher than the level to which the hot water has to rise. From the boiler a pipe is led to the top of the house, through which the water rises from becoming lighter as it gets heated, and flows back again to the boiler, with branches along its course to the various taps for baths, lavatories, and house-maids' closets. The pipe conveying the water upwards is called the flow pipe, that downward the return. At the highest part of it there is usually a closed iron cistern, strongly made, to resist the pressure of the steam should the water become too hot and boil. This is merely an expansion of the pipe, providing a greater quantity of hot water than the boiler alone would contain. Sometimes this hot water store is provided in a closed cistern or cylinder near the boiler, with a separate flow and return pipe to it, besides that carried through the house to supply the taps, which in this case has no cistern in its course. This plan has the advantage that there is an economy of heat, for a less quantity of hot water is moving a long distance through the house, motion being only another form of heat. The water ought never to be so hot as to boil, for the force of the steam shakes the pipes and loosens the joints. In case it should, escape pipes must be provided for it. To boil the water is needless waste of heat, and, where it contains lime, boiling it deposits the lime in the boiler and pipes in the form of a hard white crust. This thickens the boiler and prevents the fire acting on the water in it, and sometimes chokes the pipes, which is more serious. With limy water, therefore, a large boiler in which the water cannot readily rise to the boiling point is best; and in every case there must be provision for cleaning it. This is best done from the back, if it can be made accessible. The danger of a stoppage in the pipes is that the water in the boiler, not being able to flow, may be turned into steam and burst it. This sometimes occurs from the pipes freezing in some part of their course during the night when the kitchen fire is off. Or the supply-pipe may freeze, or from some other cause the supply may be stopped, in which case the boiler, getting empty, will become red hot; the water when it comes into it again will be turned instantly into steam, and burst it. It is absolutely necessary to protect all pipes from frost; for ice forming in them, from its expansion, bursts them, flooding the house when the thaw comes and allows the water to flow again. They are too often arranged with reckless disregard of this rule. They are placed in outside walls, and carried through attics where the temperature is often below freezing. To guard against frost, the hot and cold water pipes are sometimes placed together; but this cools the former and makes the latter tepid, and is no security, as the hot-water pipes may freeze if the kitchen fire is off. Besides being placed where they will be protected from the external atmosphere—the main supply-pipe well underground out of the reach of frost, and those in the house rather against inside than outside walls—they should be covered, wherever exposed, with soft felt, or some other non-conducting substance. This has also the advantage of keeping up the temperature of the hot-water supply. The cisterns also should be placed where they cannot freeze. It is an advantage when all the places where the water supply is brought are kept each above the other in one part of the house. Any leakage is thus confined to one part, where, not being over principal rooms, it does little harm, and the risk of stoppage in pipes and drains is less than when they are carried level along floors. In town houses with a small surface on each floor, the planning can generally, without inconvenience, be so arranged; but in country houses, which cover more ground, water is wanted at various points all over them, and it may be necessary to trust to good plumber-work to avoid this risk. But even in houses covering a large extent of ground I have sometimes found it possible to arrange the places where water is wanted in one position, each over the other, for the different floors; and where it is necessary to have water supply in several positions throughout the house, these should in each case be over one another.
Source: House Planning ©1880
HEATING DEVICES AS WE FIND THEM. FURNACE ESTIMATES.—
COMBINATION HOT AIR AND HOT WATER. DISH-WARMING
ARRANGEMENTS. HOW TO GET A GOOD HEATING APPARATUS.
FOR the present, people who build must take things as they find them, and use heating and ventilating apparatus as regularly manufactured. Experiments are uncertain. The theory of the proper heating and ventilating of a house as set forth in previous chapter is correct. The fulfilment of the ideas in dwelling-house heating remains to be practically worked out. It is not the business of the architect, or the housewife, or the owner of the house, to work out these mechanical details. It will be done in time by competent mechanical experts.
In the estimates subsequently given, the furnace is the only means considered for general heating. However, this does not indicate a prejudice in favor of that particular method. The furnace is considered and figured upon as the ordinary method of heating houses of moderate cost. It is the least expensive plant to be used for general heating. Indirect radiation from hot water or steam is to be preferred to a furnace. A combination of a hot-air furnace with hot water, or steam, is used with fair success. In this case, a hot-water coil is placed in an ordinary furnace, which connects with hot-water radiators in a conservatory or other room for the purpose of contributing a uniform degree of heat to that room. The water supply is a tank, located well above the level of the radiators, and connecting through an inlet pipe with the coil in the furnace. The proper means of supplying this tank with water is through a ball-cock or float-cock, the float of which opens the valve when the water gets low in the tank. Thus the supply is as constant as the source. A hot-water radiator of this kind may be used in connection with a device for warming dishes or keeping food warm. The heat is gentle, uniform, and constant. This is a general advantage of all hot-water heating.
Aside from the automatic arrangements for controlling the steam or water pressure in the heating apparatus, and thus measurably controlling the temperature in the building, other more positive automatic arrangements are provided which undertake to maintain any fixed temperature. These are proprietary devices, patented and advertised.
Complaints are made of the general inefficiency of everything under the sun: hence, furnaces and other heating apparatus come in for their share. An architect is sometimes asked how he would heat a certain building. He answers, " Hot water, steam, or furnace." — "Oh, I wouldn't have steam. My uncle had a steam plant in his house, and they nearly froze to death all last winter; and they burned over a ton of coal a week." The same things are said, and truly, of every kind of heating apparatus made, when we consider them in general classes. General complaints of a similar nature are made of everything. In regard to the steam plant or hot-water apparatus, or anything else of which this thing may have been said, one may first acknowledge its truthfulness, and then consider what it all means. Something is at fault. It may be that the whole design of the apparatus is faulty. The design may be right, and the construction bad. Everything else may be right, but the apparatus too small; or there may be some little defect which has to do with the placing of the apparatus in the house. Sometimes, when everything is in good form, the apparatus does not receive proper attention: hence trouble.
It may be asked how one is to get a good heating apparatus for a dwelling-house. The first thing to be determined is, the particular kind to be used: whether hot-water, steam, or hot-air furnace. There are many manufacturers of the various apparatus, who are regularly in the business. To these may be submitted plans of the building, and a request for estimates and suggestions. It is the experience of an architect that one who is putting money regularly in the manufacture or production of anything will not waste his energies for a great length of time on a bad thing, if he knows it. The evidence that an establishment has been putting up good furnaces or other heating apparatus is long-continued business success. If the owner of a house writes to an old-established, wealthy concern, and sends his plans, he is as certain to get a reliable proposition as he can be of anything. A local agent of an establishment of this kind may misrepresent, unintentionally or otherwise. The surest way is to go to headquarters. The local agent does not always know exactly what should be done. A competent architect can settle all these matters for an owner. However, if an architect says there are only one or Avo furnaces or heating apparatus which are all right, he is either ignorant or dishonest. There are many different kinds which will give fair satisfaction.
The idea in this chapter is to take things as we find them, and suggest what may be done. The theories outlined in the previous chapter may be correct, but they do not amount to anything to a man who is building to-day. The only purpose of this chapter is to suggest to those who are building that they go to a first-class house, pay a fair price, and get the best possible apparatus regularly in the market.
Source: Convenient Houses ©1889