According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, central heating may have been first invented in ancient Greece. However, the Romans became the supreme heating engineers of the ancient world thanks to their hypocaust system. The Romans used hypocausts to heat their famous baths, and in some private houses in the northern provinces

Roman Hypercaust

A Roman Hypocaust Ruins in Rome. Image Credit: Encyclopaedia Britannica

What is a Hypocaust?

In building construction, this refers to the open space below a floor that is heated by gases from a fire or furnace below, allowing passage of hot air to heat the room above.

How Did They Work? 

In many buildings, the quintessential Roman mosaic tile floors were supported by columns below, creating air spaces or ducts. To heat the rooms, charcoal, brushwood, and, in Britain, coal were burned in a central area. The hot gases traveled beneath the floors, warming them in the process. The hypocaust system disappeared with the decline of the Roman Empire, and central heating was not reintroduced until almost 1,500 years later.

Learn more from Encyclopaedia Britannica 

How Do We Use Them Today?

Many modern-day systems have been influenced by the Romans, such as our calendar, water pumps, milestones, bridges, aquaducts, bronze valves, domed buildings, and more. 

Modern-day heating is most influenced by the architecture of the Roman baths, specifically how these were heated. We now use water in our radiant systems, compared to the Romans who used heat generated from their wood furnaces. 

We're also lucky to enjoy a more comfortable temperature on our radiant floors. Have you ever felt the comfort of walking barefoot on a heated floor? Back in time, The Romans would have had to wear sandals to walk on the hottest floors as there was no way to regulate the temperature of the floor. The Roman aquaducts are now our modern day water systems.

Find out more about underfloor heating.