A Physician’s Guide to Sanitation – Part 9

Connections between kitchen water boiler and water-back

For Parts 1-8, click here.

The Kitchen Range

A range differs from a stove in three features. The main object of a stove is to create warmth, while a range is designed to cook food and to heat water for household purposes. The grate-surface is made as large as possible, and is supplied with movable lids so that the red-hot coals can be uncovered for broiling and frying. Other openings serve to admit pots and kettles. These methods of cooking require a bright and hot fire, whereas baking demands a steady and uniform temperature. The oven must therefore be heated on all sides, and this is accomplished by carrying the smoke and hot gases from the fire-box around the oven before they enter the chimney. If there are separate ovens two smoke pipes are provided which join before entering the chimney. The fire-box is made oblong and deep to hold plenty of coal, and is lined with fire brick.

The water-back, an iron box corrugated on the side next the fire to increase the heating surface, has two pipes connecting with the kitchen boiler through which cold water enters and, when warmed, flows back into the boiler and then circulates through the house to the bath-room, laundry, and butler’s pantry. In some ranges the water-back is divided lengthwise by a diaphragm which separates the inflowing cold water from the outflowing hot stream, thus greatly increasing the heating capacity of the range. A brass water-back is more expensive but no more serviceable than one of iron. The water-back is sometimes placed in front of the range, but it acts just the same in either case. A coil of heavy copper tubing is sometimes used instead of cast iron.

Unless the range is kept free from ashes and clinkers, it will be impossible to broil chops and steaks. Clearing the grate-bars with a poker is a slow and annoying process. The “Smythe” or “triangular bar” grate has three-sided bars which revolve and interlock, and are turned in opposite directions by a handle operating cog-wheels, thus removing ashes and clinkers with little dust and trouble. Other forms of grates have been devised with the same object. It is highly important to keep the grate clear, as otherwise the bars may melt with the excessive heat, or clinkers may stick to the fire-bricks. The pan should also be kept free from ashes if a good fire is to be maintained.

The best range will not work if there is a poor draft. This may be due to a crack in the oven door or top; or a broken cover or open joint in the smoke-pipe may admit enough cold air to check the draft even if the chimney-flue is ample. The latter should not be less than 8×10 inches and, better still, 8×12 inches. If a broiler, laundry stove, or ventilating hood connects with the range-flue, it will interfere with the draft unless fitted with dampers which can be closed on occasion. The hot-air flues around the oven collect dust and fine ashes, and thus check the draft; they should therefore be carefully cleaned. If the smoke-pipe from a range is connected with the chimney near the ceiling, the draft will be better, but the room will be uncomfortable during warm weather.

Water can not be warmed without consuming fuel; and if plenty of hot water is required for washing and bathing, a good fire must be kept up in the range. Water may be required in the laundry when a low fire is desirable in the range, as in summer or between meals. It is therefore desirable sometimes to have the boiler heated by the laundry stove to prevent friction between cook and laundress. A very small stove will be sufficient for this purpose, and can be used also for heating irons, etc.

To keep the boiler hot, the circulation through the water-back must be rapid, and the connections must be properly made. The return-pipe from the range to the boiler should have an upward grade, as hot water always tends to rise. The inlet-pipe which carries the cold supply should descend a little from the boiler so that the sediment can be easily removed by a small “sediment cock” when desired. Then there will be no chance for a reverse current of hot water from the water-back, which would interfere with the general circulation. If the return-pipe has not sufficient grade the flow will be sluggish, and the water will be exposed too long to the fire and will boil or simmer, while bubbles of steam will form and flow with the current into the boiler and there condense on contact with the volume of cold water. This gives rise to an alarming noise called “water hammer,” which some times breaks couplings or pipes, and makes people think the boiler is about to explode.


Fresh air is not a luxury but a necessity; it is a lung food and should be pure and abundant. The atmosphere of a living-room should be changed every twenty minutes in order to preserve health. Every house should supply 800 cubic feet of air for each occupant; model prisons require 1,000 cubic feet. People who spend the winters cooped up in small houses hugging the red-hot stove, or who sleep in close, unventilated rooms for fear of the cold night-air, are usually sallow and sickly. The “Great White Plague” kills millions every year owing to popular ignorance and neglect of ventilation. The test of a well-ventilated dwelling is to enter at any hour and find the air as pure and fresh as that outdoors, with no odors of cooking or washing, or of dust-laden carpets and curtains. To this end rugs and bare floors, open fires, and isolated kitchens and laundries are to be recommended.

A hood should be provided over the kitchen range to carry off cooking odors and steam from the laundry, and there should be a skylight on the roof to remove foul and heated air which rises to the upper floors. Ventilating the bowl of a water-closet is of no benefit unless the vent-pipe connects with a gas-jet or heated flue. Even an open fire-place does not always “draw,” and frequently there is a down-draft, especially in the vicinity of a stairway. By placing a four-inch board across the lower part of a bedroom-window and raising the sash slightly, air can be admitted between the two sashes without causing a draft.

Window ventilation


Few persons appreciate how much heat is radiated from an oil-lamp. A Rochester burner will warm quite a good sized room in winter if placed on the floor; while if a similar lamp is hung directly under a register leading into a room above, it will create a movement of air that will sensibly affect the atmosphere. An ordinary lamp contaminates the atmosphere as much as several persons will do; and where there are a number of lamps in a room the need of ventilation is quickly apparent. This is a strong argument for the substitution of electric lights or acetylene for oil.

General Hints

In selecting basins, kitchen-sinks, and wash-tubs, do not have them so low as to necessitate stooping. Bath-tubs also are often too high from the floor for persons of ordinary height, and with tiled or hard-wood floors there is danger of slipping if they are at all wet. A bath room should be sunny, and large enough to swing an Indian club and to contain a linen-closet as well as a wicker receptacle for soiled towels, etc. Faucets are commonly too small, and the flow of water consequently too slow. The difference in cost is slight. So also with marble slabs for basins, which are easily cracked if made too thin. It is in such details that plumbing work is “scamped.”

Oil-lamps should not be kept lighted in sleeping-rooms, as they contaminate the atmosphere as much as several adults. Nor should young children occupy the same bed-room as older persons, as they need all the air they can get. An ordinary bedroom (10x12x8) hardly contains 1,000 cubic feet of air-space, and this is only partly changed during the night. Therefore, do not rob the child of its just needs. If it slept outdoors under the sky it would not have too much air. Yet, in some families a child, an adult, and a lighted oil-lamp may be found in the same bedroom in the month of August, with the window closed.

If waste-pipes in cellars and kitchens are patched with scraps of lead or tin fastened with wire or twine, it indicates that the kitchen waste-pipe was choked with grease, and that a bungling plumber tried to clean it out. Such openings should be closed securely, and a permanent clean-out inserted, with a brass trap screw for convenience of access. The fresh-air supply for the furnace should never be taken from a cellar, no matter how clean it may seem; nor should it be taken from an entrance hallway, as is often done in churches to save fuel. Only outdoor air will serve for such purposes.

  • From The Standard Family Physician: A Practical International Encyclopedia of Medicine and Hygiene Especially Prepared for the Household. Copyright 1907 by Funk & Wagnalls.

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