means of making a building comfortably warm relative to a colder outside temperature. Old, primitive methods of heating a building or a room within it include the open fire, the fireplace, and the stove
. In ancient Rome a heating system, called a hypocaust, warmed a building by passing hot gases from a furnace through enclosed passages under the floors and behind the walls before releasing them outside. The principal modern systems that are used to heat a building are classified as warm air, hot water, steam, or electricity. In the warm-air system air, heated in a furnace, rises through warm-air ducts and enters the rooms through outlets, while cooler air in the rooms passes into return ducts that lead back to the furnace. The air circulates through the system by convection, i.e., the tendency of a fluid such as air to rise when warm and sink when cool. In newer buildings the circulation is assisted by a fan. The hot-water system has a boiler for heating the water that is sent through connecting pipes to radiators
and convectors, the latter devices being metal enclosures containing hot-water pipes surrounded by metal fins. The circulation is maintained by pumps or, in older buildings, by convection. In the steam-heating system, steam generated in a boiler is circulated by its own pressure (sometimes aided by a vacuum pump) through radiators. There are many kinds of electric heating systems. In one type current is sent through wires into electric resistors that are contained in convectors in rooms. The resistors convert the current into heat. In a radiant panel heating system a room is warmed by heat emitted from wall, floor, or ceiling panels. They are warmed by the circulation of warm air, hot water, or steam or by an electric current in resistors within or behind the panels. Experiments are being made to utilize solar energy for heating buildings. In many large buildings, such as theaters, public libraries, and municipal buildings, the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning units are combined in one system. In district heating, heat is distributed from a heating plant to buildings in a section (usually commercial) of a city.
See F. Porges, Handbook of Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (1982).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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