roman bathhouse radiant heating


It’s always fascinating to take a look back at where we’ve come from – and to see how far we have grown from those humble origins. Of course, if we happen to be talking about technology developed by the Ancient Romans, it may be humbling to realize just how closely some of our modern systems still resemble those of primitive cultures. This week we bring you part one in a short series about The History of Residential Heating. Enjoy!


  1. Indoor fireplace hearths discovered in ancient Greece that date back to dating back to  2500 B.C. are the earliest known central heating systems in existence. Other early discoveries include stoves and underfloor systems, also known as radiant heating, used for residential heating purposes.
  1. Around the 13th century, the predecessor to the chimney emerged. The addition of a short flue was popularly added to fireplaces in castles all across Europe.
  1. The raised grate, which introduced circulation to the fireplace, was created by French Inventor Louis Savot in the early 16oos. He also installed a hollow iron bottom and back plate within the hearth, designed to attract and warm the chilly air within the room. The warmed air would then re-enter the room through openings above the mantle piece.
  1. The next major advance in indoor space heating created a source for combustion air by adding a duct to the fireplace that allowed air from the outdoors to be accessed. This addition caused the fireplace to burn more effectively.
  1. The first true chimneys were very large to enable the passage of chimney sweeps. The large size sometimes introduced strong drafts that necessitated the use of room divider screens to protect those in the room from the unpleasant blasts.


  1. Stoves, initially constructed of clay, were more commonly made of masonry by the 15th century, particularly in northern Europe. This version was very large, and often called Russian or Swedish stoves. Over time, ornate decorations with tile coverings were favored on these stoves.
  1. Cast iron stoves also emerged on the scene around this time. At first, they consisted of two connected cast iron hearth firebacks. Eventually, cast iron sections specifically for stove fabrication were designed.

RADIANT HEATING (Underfloor Heating Systems)

  1. Radiant heating systems were first found in the Middle east, as far back as 1300 B.C. King Arzawa of Beycesultan, Turkey had them installed beneath the palace floors.
  1. By 80 B.C. the Romans expanded the practice of radiant heating to include heated walls and warm-air heating systems that fed warmed air into rooms through floor openings. The stone floor was laid upon pillars over a chamber warmed by a fire at one end. The stone floor conducted the warmth of combustion gases passing beneath the underfloor to the other side.
  1. Later, tile flues or hollow tile walls were used to conduct heated combustion gases to eave vents. The fire, previously beneath the floor, was moved outdoors into a separate “furnace” chamber. Eventually, the chamber beneath the floor was replaced with floor ducts between the furnace and the wall flues.

♦ Ancient Roman technology for radiant heating systems was remarkably effective; especially considering the early age in our history. It was also very costly to implement. For that reason, it was used almost exclusively to heat public bathhouses and the homes of wealthy elites.

Be sure to watch for Part 2 in our next blog!

For all your HVAC needs, contact Hometown Comfort Heating &  Cooling.

We love helping our customers live as comfortably as possible. We can take care of all your heating and cooling needs, as well as help you restore your home’s air quality to it’s clean, healthy best. Contact our friendly, helpful team at Hometown Comfort today at (615) 240-7056. We look forward to serving you!

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