When iron moulder Richard Baxendale started his own business in 1866 in Chorley, Lancashire building railway wagons, creating market-leading heating solutions was probably the last thing on his mind. In fact, it would be many years before the family business would take its first steps into the heating market.
What a great idea!
In the 1930s, most family homes were heated using one or more coal fires, with hot water provided by either a back boiler or a kitchen range. The fires were not very efficient, so John Baxendale (grandson of Baxi founder Richard) came up with an idea to improve them.
John's idea was for an underfloor draught fire. His concept was to lower the grate to floor level and draw its air supply from under the floorboards. This allowed the air through the grate to be regulated, so the rate the fuel burned could be controlled and the fire could be kept burning continuously and efficiently. This meant that all the fuel was burned to dust and the grate only needed emptying once a week.
When the Baxi Patent Fire was launched in 1935 it was an instant hit, and sold at shows all over the country, making Baxi a household name almost overnight.
Solid fuel remained a popular choice for homes right up to the 1950s and 1960s. High rise flats, maisonettes and detached, semi-detached and terraced houses sprang up around the UK during this time to replace homes lost in WWII and accommodate Britain's booming population. Unfortunately, the more widespread burning of coal caused smog, and the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 were bought in to limit its use in built up areas.
The switch to gas and oil
By the end of the 1960s, solid fuel was in decline and there was growing demand for both gas and oil heating appliances. This was helped along by the discovery of natural gas in the North Sea and the UK's growing mains gas network.
Always on trend, Baxi seized the opportunity to begin developing its own range of gas heaters and in 1966, the company launched the now iconic Baxi Bermuda. The Baxi Bermuda took the market by storm with its unique offering, combining a living room gas fire with a back boiler small enough to fit behind the hearth and providing domestic heating and hot water.
The evolution of domestic heating solutions didn't end there of course, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s, there would be many new products introduced to the Baxi range. By the 1980s, central heating was regarded as a basic requirement in any home and the first combi boilers were launched.
In 1989, the original Baxi Solo was launched - the innovative cast iron wall hung boiler could be fitted by a single installer, making it particularly popular in the trade as installations were quicker and easier than ever.
In 2005, huge changes to the Building Regs required the installation of condensing boilers in homes and Baxi responded by creating a new generation of high efficiency boilers. The new ranges were well received and in 2007, the Baxi Duo-tec Combi HE was named Which? Best Buy and CORGI Boiler of the Year 2008.
With growing concern about climate change, the introduction of high efficiency boilers was quickly followed by a wave of interest in renewable heating solutions, such as solar thermal water heaters, air and ground source heat pumps. Baxi responded with the launch of its own low carbon products, including the Baxi Ecogen, the UK's first commercially available domestic combined heat and power boiler.
With the rise in popularity of smart technology, Baxi recently launched a tool belt app for installers, and has partnered with Nest to train installers on their learning thermostat at its training centres.
Then and now
Finding the most efficient way of heating homes continues to drive Baxi, as it did all those years ago when John Baxendale invented the Patent Fire. The company is always looking to develop cleaner, greener, more installer/customer friendly products, to ensure Baxi remains a household name for many more years to come.