The Combi Boiler – A History

It is not only this century and the last, that man has tried to heat their homes and water.

Throughout history mankind has tried to heat their homes, cave men with the fire. Ancient Asians used hearths and stoves to heat water or air, channelled through their floors. While the Romans used hypocausts to heat up their public baths and villas and the Spanish radiated their floors with a system locally known as ‘gloria’, which used hay as a combustible.

During the middle ages, when fireplaces started to become popular, heating systems became virtually unknown. Until in 1777, William Murdoch discovered that gas could be used for light. Then in 1824, the birth of gas cooking emerged, and naturally evolved to be utilized to heat homes and water for bathing. Surprisingly, baths were not used until 1850 when gas jets would heat the bath from underneath.

However, it wasn’t until 1868 when Benjamin Maugham, painter and decorator had the idea of heating water with gas. Although, Maugham didnt realise it, the technology of heating our homes in the 21st century was born. He is generally accepted as the inventor of the Combination ‘Combi’ Boiler, which he called “the Geyser”.

Maugham invention disappointingly, was seen as dangerous and a health hazard as it had no temperature controls so scalding was possible and it had no flue for ventilation, meaning people could be exposed to lethal emissions. He was not an engineer and would make little or no money from he’s invention.

But in 1889, 21 years later a Norwegian Engineer Edwin Ruud came across Maughams ‘Gas Geyser’ prototype and after studying the design plans and making a few improvements, Ruud launched he’s own water heater in the US, after emigrating from Norway. Hes new Ruud Manufacturing company was a huge success and is still running today in Pittsburgh.

Initially, the combination boilers were popular in the US, and was exported to Europe where it was highly popular, however in the UK, many people opted for the traditional system boiler which utilized space in the loft and allowed many people to bathe simultaneously. It is only in the last 10-15 years that combi boilers have started to emerge as the number one boiler system in the UK, attributed with over 50% of all new boiler installations.

With energy prices rising year on year many people have opted for the combi boiler due to its advancement in efficiency, energy cost savings and the ever growing need for more storage space in their homes compared to the inefficient, high running cost and huge storage needs of the traditional system boilers.