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Central Heating Day!!

Did you know that today the first of October is "central heating day", when many people switch on their radiators for the winter. Central heating is just another mod-con of contemporary living, but it's done much more than warm us up.

Up and down the country, radiators clank their way back to life after a summer of hibernation.


With energy bills soaring in recent years, and more people aware of energy consumption, many make it a point of principle that their heating stays off until the start of October, which means any nippy late September mornings just have to be endured.


But given how mild the autumn has been so far, others may wait a couple more weeks before the big switch-on.


Only a small fraction of UK homes are without central heating today. In the last compre­hen­sive survey, in 2004, it was 7% of households, and that has probably dropped further since.


Far from being a modern invention, there were forms of central heating systems in ancient Greece, and later the Romans perfected what were called hypocausts to heat public baths and private houses.


In late Victorian Britain, well-to-do houses had a form of central heating. Cragside in Northum­berland, the family home of engineer Lord Armstrong, was a famous example, with ducts built into the floors to carry warm air around the building.


But it was a long time before central heating became widespread and affordable, and fired by a gas boiler.


There were obvious health benefits - warmer homes helped to address winter mortality rates - but the impact was wider than that.


The design of a home changed because its inhabitants started behaving differently, says architect Harry Charrington. Today the average temperature in a home is 22C, compared with 18C in the 1950s, he says, yet people 50 years ago felt just as warm as we do today.


"People don't wear clothing to keep warm any more. One of the social norms is that people can go around in shirt sleeves at home or in the office. So central heating has changed the way people think about clothing.  "Rather than put extra clothes on, they put the heating on. It used to be that if it got cold, you put a jersey on and if it got warm you opened a window. People don't have an expectation that they will have to change the way they behave in cold weather."


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