Gas Appliance History in Australia: The Evolution from 1853 to Now
Let’s face it – when it comes to our everyday household gas appliances, we’ve come a long way since the very first stovetops, ovens, dryers and heaters were introduced in Australia. And while modern homes are often kitted out with the latest technology, none of these appliances would be possible without the combined efforts of inventors, scientists and engineers of the past.
We know Australia’s first gas stoves were introduced in 1853 – but where do other popular gas appliances fit into our history? Join us as we take a walk down memory lane to trace the evolution of gas appliances in Australia, from the 1850’s to today.
Prior to the introduction of Australia’s first gas stove in 1853, Benjamin Thompson came up with the idea for a cooking stove in the 1790’s, which was designed as a brick-shaped box that items could be lowered into and cooked with fire. From the original gas stove’s introduction, gas cooking was presented as a major improvement for the daily routines of domestic life – but it did take a few years for a reliable gas supply to become available. It wasn’t until 1873 that gas cooking stoves were becoming more prevalent in Australian households, and in those days, cooking classes were incredibly popular amongst those who had purchased a brand new gas stove.
By the 1920’s, most gas stoves in Australian households had top burners with enamel coatings and interior ovens. As the years went on, stoves became more customisable, and extra burners and temperature regulators that controlled the stove’s heat became commonplace. This was a huge milestone, as it took the guesswork out of cooking and allowed the user to be precise with temperature and required heat settings. Today, most modern gas stoves have electronic ignition options, similar precise temperature control dials that improved the cooking process in the 1920’s, and extractor hoods to remove fumes.
Did you know the earliest ovens invented were designed to be communal amongst communities? Cooked goods were exchanged for small amounts of cash during this time, until, towards the end of the 18th century, more compact stoves were invented before the very first gas oven was invented and patented in 1820. This original oven was easy to control and use, and was only inhibited by the speed at which gas could be accessed in homes across the globe. In this case, Great Britain was one of the first nations to have gas readily available in households.
Though it was initially quite unpredictable, temperature control in gas ovens has improved in leaps and bounds over the decades. At the beginning of the 20th century, ovens with thermostats were all the rage, as they allowed the user to regulate and somewhat control an oven’s temperature. Today, both the design and technical capability of the modern gas oven makes it easier than ever to ensure food is cooked well (and evenly) throughout, and gas ovens are commonplace in homes around the country (and the world).
Towards the end of the 18th century, people in England and France started inventing what we now know as a clothes dryer. However, early dryer models weren’t without their troubles. Unfortunately, ventilation holes meant clothes inside the drum would come out smelling of smoke or covered in soot. Sometimes, clothes could even catch on fire during the drying process.
To fix this, an Ohio inventor adjusted the ventilator invention so it wouldn’t utilise an open flame; rather, it would involve placing a rack over a stove. This new gas dryer was patented in 1892, and continued to sell well into the 19th century in Australia. Dryers grew in popularity following World War II in the 1940’s. During this time, Whirlpool famously released a gas dryer that claimed it took half the time to dry clothes as regular-speed dryers, thanks to gas output and increased air flow. Today, gas dryers are similarly efficient and popular throughout the world.
Across the globe, people first began to trial indoor gas fires in the mid-19th century, usually opting for coal fires which were notoriously unpredictable and occasionally toxic. Then, in the 1950’s, efficient gas convector fires were invented and provided a safer option for interior heating. This invention was thanks in part to the UK’s Clean Air Act of 1956, which prompted a move towards cleaner energy sources in all parts of the home. As well as heaters, this also extended to dirty chimneys that were increasing pollution in certain residential areas.
Modern gas heaters have progressed to utilise radiant heat technology rather than previous versions’ Bunsen burner techniques. Instead of involving convection, this technology spreads by absorbing objects in its path, and is also an effective and economical method of outdoor heating.
Today, gas heaters come in a wide range of styles, shapes and sizes. Most houses now have gas ducted underfloor heating. Conversely, modern gas ‘space heaters’ feature preheat modes and thermostat control technology.
Traditionally, a gas barbeque functions by applying heat to food from below. In its earliest form, the gas barbeque was used in the south eastern United States to slow-cook meat and food such as hamburgers or hotdogs. The world’s first portable gas barbeque was invented in Chicago in the late 1930’s.
In the 1980’s, Bill Best, the inventor of the infrared burner, added ceramic burners to a barbeque that allows people to cook food directly on a heated tile. This proves to be an incredibly useful feature, as it allows restauranteurs and home chefs alike to grill meat evenly and lock in flavour without too much hassle or mess. Today, modern gas barbeques are available in an extensive range of types and sizes. One of the most popular and affordable options is the plumbed gas barbeque, which fires up in minutes, features precise temperature control dials, and are up to 40% cheaper than their bottled LPG counterparts. These clever contraptions take the guess work out of cooking, and are a reliable way to prepare your next meal.