Solid fuel was the most common heating source during the 1940s-60s, but other sources such as electric and gas heating became more common during this era.
In most 1940s-60s houses, the living room had an open fireplace that generally provided the sole source of space heating in the house.
Chimneys were constructed from reinforced concrete and generally located on an outside wall. The fire surround was typically tiled, sometimes with a timber shelf above.
However, open fires were not efficient, induced draughts (as well as regular air changes in the room), created dust and sometimes smoke, and there was a constant need to obtain and store fuel.
By the 1960s the fireplace was being replaced in a number of instances by a closed firebox solid fuel stove or wall mounted gas or electric heating. By the late 1960s the freestanding metal open fire, such as the Visor, was being widely advertised.
Solid fuel stoves
Developed in Europe, the solid fuel stove began to gain popularity in New Zealand during the late 1940s and 1950s, but their popularity decreased during the 1960s with the availability of gas and the ease of electricity.
Also developed were the free standing metal open fires of the 1960s. Solid fuel burners had far greater efficiency and burned much more cleanly and economically than the open fire.
Unfortunately the poor quality of the coal (a commonly available fuel) made it an unsuitable fuel for enclosed slow combustion stoves, so they were not widely adopted as a source of heating.
A common feature of houses of the 1940s and 50s was the chip heater – a small free-standing firebox with an external enamelled finish and a flue that was used for heating and also rubbish disposal. They were often fitted with a wet back to provide supplementary water heating.
Gas was not widely used for space heating partly because of the lack of reticulated gas in many parts of the country, and also because of the popularity and availability of electricity. The advantages of gas, if it was available, were the quick convenience and flexibility with less labour involved, than with having an open fire.
Electric heating was considered modern and was popular for its convenient and flexible heating. Its main disadvantage during the 1940s and 1950s was a sometimes unreliable electricity supply. However this was overcome in the 1960s.
Oil-fired central heating became popular in more expensive houses in New Zealand during the 1960s. An oil-fired furnace could be located under the floor or in the basement to heat air that was moved by fan through ducts to different parts of the house.