Gadgets and Style

Modern Plumbing and Central Heating


previous next

Modern plumbing – from the 1930s - makes a difference, but how does it all work?

Antique tap coated in verdegree (oxidised copper)
Antique tap

As you turn on a water tap, you open a gap which allows the water in the pipe to come out. The water is always trying to push its way out, but it’s stopped by a small piece of rubber called a washer which blocks the top of the pipe. When you turn on the tap, a screw lifts away from the washer. The water pushes the washer up and flows past.

Lavatories, or toilets, flush by sending new water into the bowl to push out the dirty water. Inside a cistern, there is a compartment called a bell. When you press the handle, water inside the bell goes into the bowl, sucking other water into the cistern with it.

Power showers combine a mixing valve with a pump in one complete unit. The valve blends hot and cold gravity fed water supplies to achieve the showering temperature that you desire, whilst the pump boosts the flow of water to give a powerful, refreshing shower.

Antique copper radiator
Antique radiator

One big reason different members of the family can all spend their evenings in different rooms doing their own thing is modern heating.

In the 1940s and 1950s many houses in Britain still had coal fires – and often just in a couple of rooms. In winter, people would congregate in the living room in front of an open fire, or in the kitchen around a hot stove.

Electric fires became a typical household appliance in the 1950s, but most families would only have a limited number. It might have been warm in the living room, but it was still freezing in December in the bedrooms. That’s why kids used hot water bottles.

Central heating changed all that. Central heating is a heating system for buildings installed in all modern homes. The heat is produced in one place and then distributed to the various rooms. Oil or gas is usually burned to heat up water in a boiler. The water is then pumped through pipes to the rooms. There it passes through tubes inside the radiators, which give out the heat.


previous next