The First Automatic Tankless Water Heaters


Before the invention of the water heater, hot water was time-consuming luxury. Anyone wanting a hot bath had to heat the water in small batches over an open fire or a stove and transfer them one bucket at a time to a bathtub.

First Instantaneous Water Heater

In 1868, a British decorative painter named Benjamin Waddy Maughan patented the first instantaneous water heater for household use.

Maughan's Geyser

Called the "gas geyser" Maughan's invention employed natural gas to heat the water as it flowed into the bathtub. The guyser didn't have a flue for venting gas vapors, so it was dangerous to use.

First Automatic Storage Water Heater

Maughan's design inspired mechanical engineer Edwin Ruud, a Norwegian immigrant to the United States, who patented his automatic storage water heater in 1889.

Ruud's Invention

Ruud's water heater was a gas-heated, cast iron appliance with a copper heat exchanger. When the bather opened a water faucet, an actuator valve turned on the heater's burners.

Ruud's Success

In 1897, Rudd opened a company in 'Pittsburg, Pennsylvania devoted to making domestic and commercial water heaters. The Ruud Manufacturing Company became an industry leader in water heating products and is the oldest American water heater company.


Water heaters have become a ubiquitous part of the modern housing in the industrialized world. However, prior to the industrialization, water heaters were a luxury. Electric water heaters became available during the Industrial Revolution.


Who invented the first electric water heater was non other than Norwegian-American engineer Edwin Ruud in 1889.

Storage Tank Water Heaters

The storage tank heater, still the most common type of water heater still in use in the united states, heats a supply of water and stores it for later use. Newspaper advertisements in 1945 suggest that an "automatic gas or electric water heater" could help keep a constant flow of hot water to the home.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters, are commonly used in Europe and much of Asia, they use a series of tubes running through electric elements to heat only the amount of water needed for a particular purpose. the first electric tankless water heater was invented by Stiebel-Eltron in 1929.


Dating from about 1895, this royal British water heater is gas fired. It was installed in the bathroom next to the bathtub. Shower were virtually non-existen. To Operate, you light the pilot, turn on the water, thenturn on it's gas valve.

Be Careful

Temperture is adjusted by putting in the right amount of cold water. When shutting the water heater off you had to be very careful not to shut off the water before turning off the gas. If you did forget, the heater would quickly be ruined, probably melted down!

Shepherd's Crook

The heater works by mixing hot gases and water, which although very efficient, wasn't particularly clean. British heaters had an interesting safety devise built in that you can see on the side of it. The "shepherd's crook" actually makes an air gap in the water supply. This prevents any tainted water from the heater from possibly getting back into the water supply, (a rather modern concept). The slightly tainted hot water was to be used only for bathing. This heater burns roughly 100,000 BTU per hour.


In 1889, George Eastman began selling his Kodak flexible roll film for the first time; the World’s Fair opened in Paris with the completed Eiffel Tower; Daniel Stover and William Hance patented a bicycle with the back-pedal brake; and Edwin Rudd, a Norwegian mechanical engineer and inventor who immigrated to the U.S., was awarded a patent for his design of a tankless water heater. It had a cast iron body with a copper heat exchanger, and his patent was on a gas actuator valve, which turned on the burner when a water faucet was opened.

Things have changed since then. Today, tankless water heaters are used throughout most of the world, and have gained significant popularity in North America. They last longer than tanked heaters, provide hot water when and for as long as it’s needed, and will save consumers money each month because they reduce the amount of energy used.