This heater, patented in 1913, was installed beside your storage tank, with plumbing hooked up top and bottom. When you wanted hot water, you turned on the gas and lit it with a match.
Heated water would flow by convection up to the top of the tank, drawing in cold water from the bottom. Hot water would accumulate in the tank from the top down. You would feel the bare tank with your hand. When enough of it was hot, you would turn off the gas and take your bath, wash dishes or whatever.
There were no safety devices at all on early versions of this sort of heater and it was not uncommon for folks to forget the heater had been lit. They would be reminded by steam coming out any tap hot or cold when it was turned on, or by the tank blowing up.
An advantage of this vs. modern tank heaters is that there was no flue in the tank so there was much less heat loss when the heater was not running. One of the most efficient heaters recently made was the Marathon, which was a modernized sidearm heater. Another advantage of this type of heater was that it was easy to replace only the part that went bad. If the tank leaked, you would get a new tank but keep the heater. Try that with a modern heater!Back to Museum