In the 1800s, engineers and inventors were fascinated by electricity and could see that it had far reaching potential to change our lives. One of the applications they foresaw for electricity was to provide convenient and reliable heat for the home.
Attributing the birth of the electric heater is an impossible task because its invention is the culmination of research from more than one source.
The earliest electric heaters used bulbs, but because electric heaters also needed a durable, high-resistance wire in order to work, Albert Leroy Marsh who developed the alloy chromel in 1905 deserves a lot of the credit. Chromel, or nichrome as it is now known, was over 300 times stronger than other available alloys at the time and revolutionised electrical engineering. It’s still widely used even today.
Some of the earliest heaters were created by General Electric in the early 1890’s. These first heaters used elongated glass bulbs to output heat. In England the Dowsing Radiant Heat Company produced some of the earliest electric heaters using similar long cylindrical bulbs.
The heaters often had copper backing to help radiate the heat outwards into the room.
The early 1900s saw other British innovations in the field of electric heating and the beginnings of portable technologies. In 1912, Charles Reginald Belling set up his own business out of his shed in Enfield manufacturing electric heaters. Early models of these heaters looked like table lamps with a copper reflective dish at the back to project heat out into the room.
The post-World War II economic boom and surge in consumerism saw electrical appliances proliferate in the home. Electric radiators began to see widespread adoption and by this point portable oil-filled models were also available.
One of the most iconic electric heating appliances had bars of coiled wire that are used as heating elements. When in use, these bars give off a bright orange glow and radiant heat.
They became a popular heating choice from the 1950s because most were portable and could be plugged in anywhere.
Their heat was almost instantaneous and had none of the dangers associated with burning fuels. This didn’t mean they were completely safe though! Early bar heaters were notorious for having inadequate guards around the heating elements and as a result, burns and fires were a real danger.
Though they were not terribly efficient, their popularity lasted for years due to their simple plug-in design. Even today, though they might seem old fashioned by modern standards, but they are still being manufactured, although they have much higher safety standards.
With cold temperatures having arrived you may be tempted to turn on a space heater...but do you know how much it costs to operate? Find out HERE.
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