History of HVAC

In classical adaptations of popular stories derived from the ancient world of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, the epic and characteristic depiction of power is shown through a beautiful slave using a palm branch as a fan to comfort the patricians and other upper class society members.

Is that what constituted HVAC industry at that time? An attractive, half naked slave with a palm in his or her hand? We would assume the population established a certain kind of heating and cooling system for their households in order to survive through harsh winters and hot habitats.

Because research seems to be the part of our company’s philosophy, we decided to intrude on the past of HVAC industry, looking deep into the history of heating and cooling by starting with the basics!

Ancient Climate Control

Ancient Egypt is beyond what we call fascinating! From the mistery of pyramids and great pharaohs’ tombs all the way to architecture and daily lives of the society. And house construction is the fundamental notion when it comes to bringing the slightest comfort to the household, which is far from the luxuries we are so used to today.

According to Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University of Cairo, a field archeologist, and the author of Ancient Egypt: An Introduction, houses and palaces of ancient Egypt were extremely simple due to the fact that Egyptians regarded houses as temporary structures.

However, as austere and primitive as mud and clay building materials might be, the thick mud-brick walls played a key part in insulation, maintaining cool air during summer and warmth in winter. We haven’t forgotten about the famous palm branches – they decorated the roof and insulated the house as substantially as the mud.

Steven Semiatin, a writer for History Magazine, evaluates certain ways people handled weather throughout ages, way before the rise of luxurious HVAC industry. When King Tut died in the 14th century BC, his tomb was filled with profusion of treasures, such as jewels and gold, along with… fans made out of ostrich feathers.

Zhou emperors of China demonstrated another creative thinking by employing about 100 servants, whose assignment required placing blocks of ice around the throne and waving wide fans to caress the emperor with cool breeze.

It is worth mentioning the inventions of Ancient Romans, who developed technique of pumping aqueduct water into pipes placed behind the walls of homes (Semiatin, 2011). This intelligent structure allowed for sufficient heat reduction.

Ancient Rome may unquestionably be called the mother of advanced radiant heating system, as one of the first such innovations designed by Sergius Orata began its career in about 80 B.C. However, the very first, yet not as sophisticated, radiant panel systems were introduced in Middle East, where King Arzawa installed the system in his palace in Turkey in about 1300 B.C.

Further Inventions

The years between 1500s and 1600s are characterized by revolutionary initiative, where French mines used ventilating machines constituted of multiple fans and blades. Domestic chimneys became widely introduced to American homes by European pioneers.

In the year of 1758, Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley conducted an experiment, which focused on testing evaporation. The two scientists observed that evaporation in volatile liquids can change the temperature of a desired object past freezing, which led Franklin to say, “From this experiment, one may see the possibility of freezing a man to death on a warm summer’s day.”

Heating and ventilation were not much behind in the process of innovations and inventions. During that time, Fahrenheit constructed the very first mercury thermometer, as well as Franklin’s steam heating system, or what is currently known as a stove. James Watt, a Scottish mechanical engineer, became known to the public as the steam engine inventor along with other significant and contributing developments that greatly improved the entire concept of technology and masterminding.

In North America, probably the earliest stove had been invented by Dr. John Clarke in 1652, a design known as a cast iron box stove.

According to achrnews.com, throughout the 1800s stoves went through major revolutions including the base burner stove designed by Eliphalet Knott and airtight stove invented by Isaac Orr. In 1849, F.P. Oliver invented the first thermostatic stove

Beginnings Of Modern A/C Units

Multiple inventions within this time frame preceded the beginnings of first comfort air conditioning system, which was designed in 1902 by Alfred Wolff (Cooper, 2003) for the New York Stock Exchange, while Willis Carrier equipped the Sacketts-Wilhems Printing Company with the process AC unit the same year. According to pbs.org, Willis Carrier was an engineer, who forever changed the face of America in terms of climate control.

Patenting air conditioner impacted various environments and workplaces, improving productivity as well as building design, ultimately leading to cities’ growth. Carrier performed experiments that resulted in improved heater design, and the above-mentioned humidity controller for a printing company, which passed air through a filter and over coils containing a coolant – a popular design used today.

Process air conditioning (Cooper, 2003) started to grow rapidly in overcrowded places, such as theaters, schools, factories, or auditoriums. Stuart Cramer, who was a believer in new technology, coined the term “air conditioning” in 1904, which led to delivering a speech at the annual conference of the American Cotton Manufacturers Association in 1906 in regards to “Recent Development in Air Conditioning”.

The first in-home air conditioning system was installed in a Minneapolis mansion in 1914. The machine was seven feet tall and twenty feet long. According to popularmechanics.com, the mansion belonged to Charles Gates, and the machine is believed to be never used because no one has ever lived in the house.

Balaban and Katz succeeded in launching a chain of motion picture theaters, as stated by Encyclopedia of Chicago, and much of their triumph in achieving the highly prosperous industry of film was due to taking advantage of new technological growth. A smart strategy was implemented in 1917, when Balaban and Katz installed the comfort air conditioning in Central Park Theater in Chicago (Cooper, 2003).

Despite the evolutions of HVAC systems throughout ages, the major expansion of air conditioning systems in homes and office buildings happened within the period of post-World War II building boom (Cooper, 2003). Around the time of 1953, construction builders included air conditioning in most of their projects (residential homes and offices), since the decision of a cooling system installation was not up to an individual consumer.

Central air conditioning systems were popularized in 1970s. However, most newly built homes during late 1960s were already highly equipped with the cooling system available at that time, including affordable window air conditioners.

Ever since the boom of HVAC industry in 1970s, mainly air conditioning system, lawmakers passed laws related to reduction of energy consumption. Although central air conditioners are still a luxury in most developing countries, it is hard to imagine surviving hot summers in a house not equipped with this valued (or undervalued) comfort. HVAC industry is a profession constantly searching for improvement and opportunity for growth. Advances in technology make the designs more convenient to fit specific needs of households across America. And all thanks to a few ambitious engineers with a desire to experiment, invent, and bring comfort.