Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maughan's Geyser: A Victorian Water Heater

The next time you have a Water Heater Installation going on at your house, or maybe even the next time you use the hot water tap, you might want to say a silent thank you to a 19th century painter in London, England, named Benjamin Maughan. He was the person who invented the first modern water heater in 1868.

It was named the Geyser after the type of hot spring called a geyser. Geysir, the original spring in question, is a gushing, extremely hot spring in Haukadalur, Iceland. The name comes from the Old Norse verb "geysa," which means to gush. Half of the roughly one thousand geysers that exist all over the world are in Yellowstone National Park, so if you ever want to go see one, Yellowstone is probably the best place to go.

Anyway, Maughan's Geyser aimed to gush out hot water, albeit in a much more organized way than the springs in Iceland or Wyoming. A burner at the bottom of the heater heated up gases, which in turn heated
wires that went up to the top of the tank where cold water entered. The cold water was then heated by the wires, and once hot, then flowed into pipes that went to the sink, the tub, or wherever one wanted the hot water to go. In 1872, the Journal of the Society of Arts (volume 20, p. 918) explained how Maughan's Patent Geyser worked:

Geyser in Iceland (Wikimedia Commons)
[The] patent geyser [is] a machine like an ordinary gas-stove in appearance,and to use this machine you have to light a jet of ordinary gas at a burner, and turn the jet in by a small hinged bracket, so that it, in its turn, ignites a myriad of pygmy flames within the utensil. An inverted cone of metal, something like an open umbrella, hangs over the flame, and receives upon its upturned surface a shower of cold water, which is turned on above by a tap. The water first passes through a sieve, then makes its way down among a series of coils of tinned copper wire, and is afterwards collected round the bottom of the hot cone by a kind of gutter, which leads it to the tap below.

Unfortunately, Mr. Maughan had not made any provision for ventilating the gases out of the house, so it definitely wasn't a perfect heater. Later in the Victorian era, other inventors such as Edwin Ruud, an American engineer, built on Maughan's work to create better (and safer) water heaters. And of course today, water heaters are marvels of safety and efficiency; you don't have to tinker with metal cones and geysers, either.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, however all the views and points are my own.

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