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The History of Heating and Air Conditioning

The History of Heating and Air Conditioning

In the Atlanta area, we are blessed with milder winters than much of the rest of the country. The flip side, however, is that our summers can get pretty hot. Can you imagine living in a place with the kind of temperature fluctuations we experience and not being able to regulate the temperature of your home? Not too long ago, it was much more difficult than it is today. A look at the history of heating and air conditioning offers some insight into how fortunate we are to have today’s technology.

Heating has, for all intents and purposes, been around since humans discovered fire. Over the years, humans improved their ability to heat with fire through better insulation and building materials, as well as hearths that both reflected and retained the warmth of fires. Later, with the advent of wood or coal-burning furnaces came the ability to guide warm air through registers to other rooms.

The invention of the steam engine and boiler technology, in particular, the improvements made to it by James Watt during the late 18th century, was a major leap forward in the history of heating and air conditioning. At the same time, the concept of heat exchangers was being developed, which is the technology on which many modern HVAC systems are based. Over the next two centuries, furnaces and boilers became smaller and more efficient, ultimately utilizing cleaner fuel sources, such as natural gas. Efficient and affordable electric heating systems came into wide use in the mid-1900s.

On the cooling side, Willis Carrier is the most influential figure in the history of heating and air conditioning. Founder of the company that still bears his name, Carrier patented his first cooling device in 1902 and is generally considered the father of modern air conditioning. As AC technology took hold, it was initially installed in factories, offices and public buildings. The first residential air conditioner installation occurred in a Minneapolis mansion in 1914. During the 1920s, Carrier refined his invention, which led to smaller, more affordable units. It was the prevalence of affordable AC that allowed for the population booms in cities like Miami, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Ultimately, centralized heating and air conditioning systems were developed that used many of the same components to cool a house that are used to heat a house. Furnaces and air conditioners now share air exchangers, ducts and vents throughout modern homes. It is this combination of technologies that gave rise to the modern HVAC industry and allows companies like Casteel to assist you with all of your heating and cooling needs.