HVAC History

Today’s modern HVAC systems represent the height of technology.  Smart thermostats have replaced programmable thermostats. And mercury thermostats have been out of production for years.  Today’s HVAC systems are modern technological wonders that keep our homes and offices comfortable. But the concept of HVAC goes way back… some archaeological digs have uncovered HVAC systems that were in place thousands of years ago.

The ancient Roman Hypocausts central  heating system is a well known, ancient-world technique used to heat public buildings and baths. But the construction costs of these ancient heating systems was too high for a typical home.  Hot air and smoke from a lower-level furnace would rise through a system of flues in the walls heating floors made of tile and concrete. The Romans were even focused on fuel efficiency and built heated rooms for men and women adjacent to the hot room.

But the ancient Romans weren’t the only civilization to employ such a system.  Archaeological digs in modern day Pakistan reveal that the Mohenjo-Daro civilization used a similar approach.  And ancient Korean buildings dating back to the year 1000 BC also show that they had used a similar technique.

When the Roman Empire fell, and Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages, the use of central heating systems became almost obsolete.  Some monasteries did use this system, but as with so many other things, the learning and advancements of the ancient world related to central heating were almost erased during the Dark Ages.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypocaust

Ancient peoples also knew that evaporating water could be used to cool rooms.  Ancient Egyptians used water-soaked reeds in windows to help alleviate heat. In the 2nd century, the Chinese invented a system of fans to cool rooms.  These early devices were, unfortunately, powered by prisoners. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_conditioning

Modern air conditioning took its giant leap forward in 1902.  To solve production problems at a lithography company, a young engineer named Willis Carrier invented a system to extract moisture from the air printing room, thereby cooling the facility.  AC was born. http://www.williscarrier.com/1876-1902.php

Despite the Dark Ages, home heating did progress. In 1200, Catholic Monks heated monasteries with wood-burning furnaces. It was around this time that chimneys were introduced to help ensure toxic gases and smoke escaped to the outside of the structure being heated.  

In 1624 Louis Savot introduced a raised grate to a fireplace to promote the circulation of heated air.  Of course America’s own Ben Franklin invented the “Franklin Stove” which was the most efficient heater ever made.

In the late 1700s, Scottland’s James Watt invented a steam-based heating system.  In 1805, William Strutt developed a forced-hot air system. It was Russia’s Franz San Galli who invented the first radiant heat system.

Controlling the temperature became increasingly important as various heating systems were invented and used.  Warren Johnson patented the first thermostat in 1855.

By the 1900s, electric home heating was introduced to the market.  Albert March discovers Nichrome. This filament wire was used to toast bread, but became the basis of electric home heating.  

Necessity is the mother of invention.  There is no greater example of this axiom than today’s HVAC industry.  From ancient times to the present, people remain on a search for the most effective and cost-efficient means of providing indoor comfort.

Find a Thermostat
Recycling Site Near You