Omnia Mechanical Group

571 Timpson Place Bronx, NY 10455

Phone: 212-534-2500

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The More You Know: The History of Boilers

Most large buildings in New York City have a boiler system to provide heat and often hot water, too. You may take this for granted, but the development of the modern boiler is fairly recent and changed life for city residents in huge ways. Here’s a look at the history of boilers, in which New York figured prominently, much as the city did when electric lights were first used at the end of the 19th century in Manhattan.

What Is a Boiler?

A simple principle

Boilers have become quite complicated over the years. Also, today they are used for multiple applications. At their core, however, they operate on a simple concept. Fluid, usually water, is heated in a closed vessel until it can be used for hot water or as steam for power, heat, and other functions.

Steam is evaporated water, or water in its gas form as opposed to its liquid state. Water in a boiler can be heated by any number of methods, including gas, electricity, oil, or coal. Most commonly in New York City, piped gas is the fuel of choice.

Who Invented the First Boiler?

Early prototypes

Historical records say that early forms of boilers existed in Ancient Greece and in Alexandria, where Egyptians also toyed with the idea. However, it wasn’t until the 17th century that boilers came into the mainstream. Frenchman Denis Papin engineered the first boiler with a safety valve in 1679. After that, boilers became more prevalent. At first, they were used on trains and ships, like the steamboats that chugged up and down the Mississippi River moving goods and passengers.

Boilers for transportation

Although most people probably think of boilers as a source of heat, steam power was first harnessed for transportation. Early boilers, such as the “Scotch marine,” were made of a steel shell and fired by coal or wood, which made clearing soot a frequent concern. The tubes inside the boiler were crude in comparison to today’s boilers, but these first mechanisms set the stage for the Industrial Revolution, both in Europe and in the United States.

Boilers in industry

As the development of the boiler continued, other applications were devised, including uses in various types of manual labor. For example, Englishman Thomas Newcomen’s steam-powered pump changed the mining industry by drawing water from mines, which was otherwise a backbreaking human task. James Watt capitalized on Newcomen’s invention and added a separate condenser that let his boilers run on considerably less fuel and primed the world for today’s steam boiler.

Steam heat boilers

Two inventions in the early 20th century led to the ultimate use of boilers to provide steam heat for homes, workplaces, schools, hospitals, and more. The first was low-pressure steam.

This more modern, functional steam heat isn’t notable merely because it is a convenience; it’s also safer than what was used in the past. Previously, steam boilers operated under extremely high pressure, making them dangerous.

Steam boiler accidents were not uncommon. In 1850, a boiler in the basement of the A.B. Taylor Manufacturing Company exploded, killing 63 people, collapsing the building, and incidentally ruining I.M. Singer’s prototype for what would eventually become the sewing machine as we know it today.

Therefore, the development of the sturdier cast iron boiler, which could house the creation of low-pressure steam, was a major turning point.

The other invention was the use of bent tubes instead of straight ones inside steam boilers. This permitted boilers to be more compact so they could fit into residential properties. Also, the bent tubes handle cold water feeds better.

When Did Boilers Become the Norm in New York City?

Steam systems for everyone

Not surprisingly, New York City was a hub in the development of modern-day boilers since it was so heavily populated and contained many residences and businesses in need of steam power and heat. Two founding fathers of contemporary boiler design were George Babcock and Steven Wilcox. They patented boiler systems as early as 1867, and in 1891, the pair formed the Babcock & Wilcox Company in New York.

In 1907, the Babcock & Wilcox Company merged with the Stirling Boiler Company of Ohio to manufacture a popular boiler that produced large amounts of steam with less fuel and effort than previous models required. As competition in the boiler market began to heat up, new designs replaced these early brick-encased models, and tube technology continued to improve through the late 20th century. Soon, nearly everyone had a boiler in their building.

Today, steam for heat, cleaning, disinfection, and other tasks is the norm in New York City. What was formerly the job of the New York Steam Company, founded in 1882 to provide steam to lower Manhattan, has been taken over by Consolidated Edison (AKA “Con Ed”). Con Edison’s Steam Operations division provides steam to thousands of residential and commercial customers in Manhattan whose buildings do not have their own private boilers.

Many Midtown office buildings, as well as famous public places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, use Con Edison steam. Anyone who has walked the city is familiar with the steam emanating from beneath the street. Residents can be cheered that this steam has replaced the ubiquitous chimneys that used to fill the sky above New York with unhealthy black chimney smoke.

Boiler technology continues to evolve. Conventional atmospheric burners, which use air from the atmosphere in the combustion process, are being replaced by power blowers that force air into the boiler burner with a mechanical blower. Also, new safety features are available that didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago, and today’s boilers are more efficient.

Call Calray Boilers for New Boiler Installation, Boiler Repair, and Maintenance

New York City’s hyper-local blue-chip boiler experts

If your boiler is a few decades old, it might be time to take advantage of a newer model that gives you fewer headaches and costs less to run. And, until an old boiler is replaced, regular maintenance is more important than ever to prevent boiler failure. Call us at 212-722-5506, or use our easy online form to schedule an appointment for us to look at your boiler.


Our Privacy Policy

Omnia Mechanical Group(the “Company”) strives to ensure the highest standards for property listings and customer information privacy. Please review the following statement to learn about our company practices and policies. Please be aware that our Privacy Policy is subject to change at any time.

1. Purpose.

This Privacy Policy (“the Policy”) provides information on how the Company uses your personal information. By agreeing to the Policy, you agree to our collection and use of your personal information as described in the Policy. This Privacy Policy is effective for all new users of Sanitaryplumbing.com.

2. Personal Information.

You can browse some areas of Antler.nyc (“the Website”) without being a registered user. However, certain activities do require registration. (You consent to the transfer and storage of your information by registering with Antler.nyc). We may collect and store the following personal information:

  • Name, email, address, telephone number, and (depending on the service used), move-in dates;
  • Transactional information (such as lease terms, lease parties);
  • Computer sign-on data, statistics on page views, and traffic to and from the Website; and
  • Other information, including IP address and other web log information.

3. Use of Information.

Our primary purpose in collecting personal information is to provide you with a safe and user-friendly experience. For example, the Company may use your personal information to:

  • Improve our services and the Website’s content and layout;
  • Provide the services and necessary customer support you request;
  • Resolve disputes, collect fees, and troubleshoot problems;
  • Track and record customer satisfaction with our services;
  • Protect the Company against error and fraud;
  • Inform you of special promotions and announcements;
  • Enforce our agreements, terms, conditions, and policies; and
  • As otherwise described to you at the time of collection.

We may occasionally ask you to complete optional surveys. These surveys are used to improve and customize your experience with Sanitaryplumbing.com.

The Company always provides you the ability to opt-out of further communication such as promotions and surveys; see the Opt-Out section below.

The Company does not share any of your personal information with outside organizations, companies, individuals, etc. The only exception to this standard is if such a disclosure is reasonably necessary to respond to any and all legal processes.

4. Links to Other Sites.

The Website may have links to other websites that may collect personally identifiable information about you. The Company is not responsible for the privacy practices of the content of those linked websites.

5. Safety & Security Precautions.

The Website has strict security measures in place to protect you and your information from fraud. Once your information is provided to Antler Pump & Motor Corporation, we strive to ensure the confidentiality of your identity and information.

6. Opt-Out.

The Company provides you with the opportunity to opt-out of receiving promotional and other non-essential, marketing-related communications from Antler Pump & Motor Corporation. If you would like to opt-out of these select communications, please see any of the Company’s email communications and follow the directions indicated.

7. Account Protection.

Your password ensures the security of your account. When choosing a password, the Company suggests using various characters. It is highly recommended that you do not disclose your Sanitaryplumbing.com password to anyone. (If you do disclose your password or your personal information with others, you are responsible for all actions taken in the name of your account.) If the security of your password is compromised for any reason, please contact the Company immediately.

8. Accuracy of Information

The Company does not guarantee the accuracy of information for any and all of its properties on the Website, and is not responsible for any errors or misrepresentations (made by Renters, the Client, or otherwise).

9. Cookies

The Company may place a small cookie on your computer’s hard drive. This allows us to personalize your use on the Website. In order to maximize the functionality and usability of the Website, you must set your browser’s preferences to allow both permanent and temporary cookies.

10. Changing Your Personal Information.

Should your personal information change, please immediately update your information on the Website. This will ensure the accuracy of our records. The Company does retain personal information from closed accounts in order to comply with law and collect and disburse any fees owed.

11. Third Parties

This Privacy Policy addresses only the use of information we collect from you. Since Antler.nyc does not control the privacy policies of third parties, you are subject to the privacy policies of those third parties. It is advisable that you consult with the management of third parties before you disclose your personal information to others.

12. General

We may amend this Privacy Policy at any time by posting the amended terms on the Website. All amended terms are immediately effective after they are initially posted on the Website.

13. Privacy Policy Questions & Concerns

Questions and/or concerns regarding the Policy should be emailed to the following email address: info@omniagroup.nyc.