Why that Old Steam Radiator Heats Up SO HOT!!!

Have you ever been in a building – an old home, apartment building, school, or other building of the sort – where the ancient, cast-iron radiator in whatever room you happen to be in at the time, heats up to the point where the heat is seemingly unbearable and, literally, forces you to open up a window?

Ever wonder why the system was designed this way?

Getting past the notion that there are more modern-day systems which allow temperatures to be controlled by zone (heck, even room by room if one wanted to pay to have their heating system laid out like that), why were these archaic systems designed like this in the first place???

Believe it or not, it was quite intentional and related to a similar situation as the most recent worldly pandemic that we have all painstakingly been making our way through.

Theories of how to control the spread of the previous pandemic in 1918 and 1919 led to the design of these systems, which a great number of us can still hear loudly clanging and blasting out tremendous amounts of heat to this day.

With recent events bringing much of the concepts of circulating air in buildings, etc. to the forefront, the idea as to why these radiator systems were developed is difficult to ignore.

In theorizing that air from outside when brought into buildings would help in combating airborne pathogens, the Board of Health in New York City at the time ordered that all windows should remain open, even throughout the Winter.

With this being the case, engineers quickly devised heating systems that would blast out heat to the extreme measures including being able to heat a building while its windows were open on the coldest day of the year.

As crazy as it may sound, all these years later, on a cold winter day when the heat is on in one of these buildings and folks inside are forced to open the windows because it becomes so balmy, they are duplicating an action that engineers from just over 100 years ago were hoping to occur.

During the times of the previous pandemic, fresh air became to be looked at as even more of a necessity than up until that point – even throughout Winter – and concerted efforts through heating system design continued to be made to influence people (without them even realizing it) to open their windows while their heat was on.

There are obviously pros and cons with anything, but the design of these older systems blasting out the intense heat that they do, certainly made me tip my cap to these engineers of old when stumbling across an article reviewing this all as well as the reasoning behind it.


The elementary schools I grew up learning in definitely had these systems in place and I vividly remember the windows being open on freezing Winter days.

While this particular example of engineering may have caused many folks over the years to wonder why heating systems like this were developed and still in existence in this fashion, in the days of COVID with school districts, etc. nationwide trying to figure out how to better ventilate their buildings, particularly in Winter, this old school method of forcing in fresh airflow while at the same time keeping the building warm may in actuality be nothing short of pure genius.

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