What’s the history behind car heaters?
Most of us don’t pay it a second mind to switch on our car heaters in winter. All we know is, it’s chilly and we need feeling back in our fingers. But this was not always the case. As you know, at Netstar, we’re very interested in clever gadgets, such as tracking devices, which is why we did research to see where car heaters come from.
Other than investing a lap coat the first car heaters were similar to the heaters in horse-drawn carriages: heated soapstones, hot bricks or lanterns. A lap coat was a large, thick cloth with which the driver and passengers could cover themselves. Hot bricks were a special kind of coal that burned without odour or smoke and shaped like a brick. The soapstones and hot bricks were heated in a fire before the trips. Once they were hot, they’d be placed in an iron box covered with cloth called, the heater drawer. If no more heat were desired, cold water would be poured over the brick or stone.
To answer the lack of continuous heat, inventors turned to the exhaust heater. This device was designed to funnel some of the exhaust heat into the passenger compartments. Unfortunately, there was no way to monitor the heat, and the compartments were constantly too hot. Also, due to all the carbon pumped into the cabin, the car’s interior had to be cleaned more often.
Once engineers started using coolant (originally water) and radiator systems, it was easy to run the hot coolant into the passenger compartment, and into a small radiator under the dashboard. An electric fan then blew the hot air into the compartment. One of the great aspects of the water heater development was that they recognised and introduced ventilation and fresh air into the vehicle.
The idea of heated seats came from SAAB. They wanted to give the driver and passengers a more comfortable ride, who complained about backache. The theory is that more driving pleasure leads to safer driving. These heated seats were also popular amongst the military troops as the extra heat offered more protection from the cold.
The heaters in our cars are a lot more complex, in the sense that we can control the temperature inside, regardless of what’s happening outside. And although the whole system is more complicated than the original water heaters, the basic concept is still the same: heat from the radiator’s coolant system is used to warm the car.
Image source: Lifewire