Why Underfloor Heating Is Anything But New

Many people might think the idea of having underfloor heating is a new and novel idea, the product of modern innovations in energy-efficient technology as engineers, architects and energy firms seek new ways of heating properties.

However, the reality is very different. In fact, underfloor heating is part of the answer to that age-old question: “What did the Romans do for us?”

While everyone knows about straight roads, pubs, the actual founding of London – along with other major cities like Manchester – and a big wall across the northern edge of the empire, not everyone knows so much about the Roman hypercaust system.

There is evidence of this in many of the Roman buildings found in London and elsewhere in Britain. It did not use the sophisticated methods of ground-sourced heat or district heating systems in use today. Instead, it consisted of a cavity below the floor of the living area in which a fire was lit, with the floors above held up on pillars and the heat below rising upwards.

In addition, flues were built into the walls so that the air would keep flowing and ensure the system was efficient and provided lots of comfort.

Examples of this can be seen all over the empire, although it must have been more useful in British winters than in the mild climate of Rome itself.

Indeed, many examples of hypercausts can be seen in the officer quarters at forts along Hadrian’s Wall, such as at Housesteads. Considering construction on the wall began in AD 122, exactly 1,900 years ago, it’s fair to say that the Romans were ahead of their time.

Of course, today’s underfloor heating can take advantage of things the Romans did not have, like district heating systems, or even the Bunhill Energy Centre, which recycles heat generated by London Underground into homes located above the network.

Even so, it may be fascinating to know who thought of the idea of underfloor heating first.

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