Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stuff Waygooks Like #7 - Floor Heat (온돌)

One of the best things about having an apartment or home in South Korea is having heated floors.  Especially in the winter time, you will find excuses to read, eat, chat, watch TV, or sleep on the floor because Korea can get so cold.

Ondol 온돌 (also referred to as Gudeul 구들) is nearly ubiquitous in all homes and public gathering spaces in South Korea.  Everyone knows that heat rises, so the most efficient way to disperse heat in a home is to release it through the floor and allow it to rise up through an entire room.  It is much more cost effective than a space heater or other Western style heating methods.  Koreans figured this out a while ago, too.  The earliest use of ondol has been found at an archaeological site in present-day North Korea (circa BCE 1000).  In an excavated dwelling (움집) that was discovered in Unggi, Hamgyeongbuk-do, there is a clear vestige of gudeul.  Koreans claim that they developed the world’s first central heating system.

The traditional type of ondol was created by cooking stoves and fireplaces beneath the floors.  The burning of fuels to create the heat was either sporadically or regularly done (2 to 5 times a day), dependent on frequency of cooking and seasonal weather conditions.  With the traditional type of ondol, floor spots closer to the furnace were usually warmer and often reserved for elders and honored guests.  Some historians even say that the traditional flowing hanbok attire was designed with hot floors in mind.  The women’s version of the hanbok in particular tends to form a “tent” around the individual, trapping the heat radiating up from the floor.

The conventional ondol had problems, such as overheating of specific floor spots, carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from burning coal briquette, irregular distribution of heat on the floor, and environmental pollution. For these reasons most modern Korean homes started to have modern versions of ondol floors heated by circulated hot water from water heaters, or an electrical heating system of dielectric heating or induction heating since 1960s.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...