Monday, 24 December 2018

Help! Santa can’t get in!

Santa comes down the chimney
Throughout the land this evening, children are going to be wondering “how will Santa get in?”.

Almost every picture you see of Santa delivering presents shows him coming down the chimney with his sack (you don’t often see one of him going back up!). But most modern houses don’t have a chimney. So how can Santa get in?

Rest assured. The same magic that allows him to get around every home in the world in just a single night means that the absence of a chimney causes him no problems at all.

But why doesn’t your house have a chimney?

Up until some time after the First World War, most homes constructed in the UK were built with the traditional open fire – and therefore with a chimney. But from the 1930s onwards, more and more homes were built with central heating.

Even then, the houses may well have had chimneys. Many early central heating systems burned coal and therefore still needed a chimney – though it would have been difficult for Santa to use.

From the 1960s onwards, we saw a switch to oil-fired or gas-fired central heating (which needed a flue – but not a proper chimney) or electric heating (which doesn’t even need a flue).

Of course, central heating is not a great innovation. The ancient Greeks had it – the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (near the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey) used what was basically the chimney from a fire outside the building running horizontally under the floors to heat the rooms.

The Romans had a similar system for heating their villas with the flues from the fire running not just under floors but through the walls.

The collapse of the Roman Empire, though, brought an end to the use of central heating in Europe.

The earliest central heating system in more modern times was probably the one used in a mill building in Derby, designed in 1793 by William Strutt. It had a large stove that heated air brought from the outside through an underground passage. The air was distributed through the building by large central ducts.

The majority of houses built by Larkfleet Homes now use gas-fired central heating. Even where we are building in locations far from a gas main – meaning there is no gas on tap – we will often fit central heating that runs from bottled gas. Sometimes we will even use electric central heating with a ‘heat pump’ – like a refrigerator running in reverse, it draws heat from the air or ground outside the house and brings it indoors.

Our gas-fired central heating uses a combination boiler, (or combi-boiler) which produces hot water not just to circulate around all the radiators fitted in your home but also for washing and bathing.

Combi-boilers are very efficient, and therefore help to keep your fuel bills down.

You also make savings because the boiler heats only the water that you use. Older boiler systems used to heat a tank of hot water (usually up in the loft) and once you had used all the hot water in the tank you had to wait for it to heat up again. Of course, if you didn’t actually use the water, all the energy put into heating it up was wasted.

We reckon Santa probably uses a combi-boiler to keep himself and the elves warm in his North Pole workshops. Or maybe he just uses magic – and a woolly vest!