Design of an early electric heater demonstrates Canadian engineering ingenuity.

Students will see how this 1930s historic artefact demonstrated the ingenuity of Canadian engineers to take common components and combine them into a unique portable heater and aesthetic room element featuring the newest energy source, electricity.

This heater featured twin open coil electric resistance heaters on porcelain tubes, twin light bulbs illuminating chunks of amber glass, and twin fans, self-driven by warm air, for a flickering fire effect. It was seen as a modern fireplace hearth and room heater, compared with an open coal or wood fireplace, with no stacks of wood to be cut or coal scuttles to fill, no smoke, no need to feed the fire, and no chimney.

The designers manufactured this electric hearth in a steel casing, with cast polished bronze front grill, and a large copper heat-reflecting hood for an attractive consumer appliance for town and city residents. Visitors can research and find out how this appliance was marketed 80 years ago -- and how it foretold fireplace inserts that came 50 years later and the closed fireplaces and stoves of the late 1900s, using electricity, natural and propane gas and fuel oils -- and wood and coal as well.

Students will realize that the design of such appliances have changed, but the principle of electric heating has remained the same, with manufacturers showing more innovation in the materials used in 20th century electric appliances. Is 100% of its power used when it reaches end-users? Are there losses along the way?

Electrification of city, town and country began in earnest when Niagara Falls was harnessed for generating hydraulic water-flow-based electricity in 1905. It’s still the cleanest, natural and renewable energy source. Students will want to learn more about how electricity spread far and wide over the 20th century -- and came crashing down in the 1998 Great Ice Storm affecting eastern Ontario, southern Quebec and the Maritimes, and the North American northeast Blackout of 2003.

The result was more comfort, convenience, and pleasure than Canadians may have felt with wood and coal sources of heat.
* Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #2, HD1001H).
* Historical artifact from the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada, T. H. Oliver Collection, Accession No. 2003-084.
* Safety issues with heaters,”

G. Leslie Oliver, Mark Dorlandt Photography.
Ron Shuker, Nigel Heseltine
c. 1930
© 2011, HVACR Heritage Centre Canada. All Rights Reserved.

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