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Geyser era

How did people get hot water before the electric geyser was introduced? They simply heated it with firewood and even today it is the most common approach in all rural areas. How do we heat water for drinking? The burning gas stove ensures we get healthy warm water to drink. The above examples are only to say that heating is not solely dependent upon electric geysers.

The idea of wood fired hot water still continues, often called in Karnataka as Gujarath boiler, an idea that possibly originated from industrial boilers. It consists of an oven with a small mouth and a water pipe with cold water inlet at the bottom. This water pipe rises upwards, initially with wider diameter like 12 inches and later narrowing, reaching up to the last terrace without any other joints. From this highest point, the pipe comes down to the bathrooms as may be needed, creating a completely sealed pipe system. It is important that the system works like one unit, with no openings except for one inlet and outlets.

Any combustible material like home garden wastes, coconut peels, dried twigs, leaves, paper and old trash, most of which can be found in any city, can be used as a replacement for firewood in the oven. The cold water filled in the pipe gets heated up, rises up thanks to differential weight of cold and hot water and reaches the terrace level while fresh cold water flows to get heated up. From the terrace level, the hot water flows down into bath taps by gravity. As we use the hot water, the outflow is replaced by fresh inflow of water and after a few people taking bath, there may be no more hot water left, suggesting we fire it again. Gujarat boilers are among the easy solutions providing life-long service with a water column, simple operation and short firing period with very little running costs.


Cooking gas cylinders have revolutionised not only the kitchen but also the bathroom. Popularly called as gas geysers, these battery operated geysers are very economical and convenient. Just like in a gas stove, an inbuilt lighter starts a fire inside the geyser, heating up the water in the small storage tank inside to provide hot water instantly. As hot water flows out, cold water gets in for further heating.

There have been rumours about them as being unsafe which has no proof, especially when the gas cylinder is kept outside the house. Operationally, it’s same as the kitchen stove, but for the periodic need to replace batteries which light up the spark. The unsafe ones are the water drums with exposed electric coil immersed inside to heat water.

With our modern lifestyle already in place, there are no single and perfect solutions to our needs today. Exploring the alternatives is hence mandatory if we have look for greener futures.

(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 5:56:13 AM |

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