Boiling Water in the Streets

The video above shows boiling water, spraying over the streets of Moscow. Unlike many American homes where water is heated within the home, using boilers and such, many cities supply hot water from a central heating plant. This process of hot water distribution is called district heating.

Hot springs water was distributed in 14th Century Chaudes-Aigues, France
Hot springs water was distributed in 14th Century Chaudes-Aigues, France

50% of Russian hot tap water is produced this way and they are not the only ones doing this. One of the oldest known cases of district heating is the use of hot springs in 14th Century Chaudes-Aigues, France (where 450,000 litres of hot water flow every day to the surface). Paris began heating domestic water using geothermal energy in the 1970s. The US has some district heating as well, such as the New York Steam System in Manhattan, distributing steam for building heating, power, disinfection, and cleaning.

A pressure releasing steam stack in New York
A pressure releasing steam stack in New York

The largest problem lies in low population-density areas. Due to the expense of installing connections for each building, district heating is better suited for cities with many large buildings. Benefits to such a system lie in its energy efficiency. Though it may seem as though a lot of heat may be lost in transit, which it often is, in most areas it actually uses less fuel than individual systems. This is why many large cities (e.g. Tokyo), universities (e.g. Cornell), and large business campuses like Disneyland use district heating!

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