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From Fire to Furnace: The History of Heating and Air Solutions

The history of heat and air technology has evolved for thousands of years
January 30, 2017

Ever think about the adaptation of heating, cooling, and air filtration systems over time? Just 100 years ago, our systems would be considered “ancient” in today’s world… but what about heating as it occurred 1000 years ago? Where did it even begin? How did it evolve? Today, we’re here to supply a glimpse backward in time at the process of heat and air design and how it has helped the development of the systems we know today.


Lim Ric: Your Choice for Heat and Air Solutions

While we weren’t around at the time of the Ancient Romans, LimRic didn’t need long to establish ourselves as the leading professionals in our industry. Offering air conditioning, plumbing, drains, and air quality solutions, LimRic has an expert team of professionals who are ready to deliver time-tested results. Commercial or residential issues, LimRic uses the best technology and expertise available to ensure your home’s heating mechanisms withstand the test of time.

Opening the History Book of Heat and Air Technology

The process of getting to our current heat and air technology has been a centuries-long journey surviving frigid temperatures and escaping from hot climates. Read about some of the major developments throughout history!

When in Rome

In Ancient Rome, the first central heating system came by way of a hypocaust. A hypocaust is a building design that raises the floor with stacks of tiles or pillars of stone. Channels are then built into the floors and walls of this space, where a fire in a furnace is maintained and heats the room up. The warm air then travels up through the channels and heats the floors and walls where it is directed. Slaves had to maintain the fire, which determined the amount of heat output. This system was popular in homes and public baths, but very expensive as the heating maintenance process was very labor intensive. Aspects of the hypocaust are still integrated into modern methods, such as radiant floor heating. However, before the system was refined, carbon monoxide poisoning was a common occurrence as it was unable to be detected, causing many deaths.


Santa’s Main Entrance

The chimney emerged in the 12th century, derived from the ideas the ancient Romans were still employing. When tubes inside walls were constructed to draw smoke out of bakeries, the chimney’s design was not far behind. Originally constructed out of woven straw and coated in mud, the chimney was a rare luxury that still came with great danger. Smoke-filled rooms and houses were not an uncommon struggle. Eventually, the chimney evolved into brick and mortar which became a construction mandated by law in English courts. Straw, clay, and plaster chimneys claimed many lives as the growth of the chimney evolved with the understanding of heat, fire, and smoke. As the science of chimneys became clearer, the design was altered to eliminate smoke from coming into the house, the addition of a ‘flue’ to close and open, and more cost efficient and safer designs. History books still haven’t explained how Santa has survived this long – he must’ve used the front door!


Franklin’s Furnace


What do swim fins, the glass harmonica, bifocals, and the Pennsylvania Fireplace have in common? They were all invented by Benjamin Franklin! His long list of achievements includes the invention of the Pennsylvania Fireplace in 1742, renamed “the Franklin Stove”. This metal-lined fireplace typically was positioned in the middle of the room to radiate heat to the room. The cast iron design captured and retained the heat from the fire very well, making this stove a wonderful way to heat a home after the fire was extinguished. The invention of the Franklin Stove changed the resources and heating maintenance required extremely quickly. Because many people were dying from the dangers of heating a home, his invention improved lives by eliminating the use for as much wood and for effectively drawing smoke and dangerous carbon monoxide out of the home.


A Cast Iron Comeback

Iron radiators became popular through the 19th century, where in-home heating became not only a practical requirement but also a stylish choice for decoration purposes. Originally the iron was seen as bulky and led to changes in smaller design, covers, or painting as easy ways to disguise it. However, as the effectiveness of the cast iron stove has now become an antique look worthy of reclaiming, original and mock-design iron radiators have regained popularity as an effective and noteworthy source of heat. While original models require wood, and therefore more maintenance, newer models have incorporated gas options to remove this hassle.

Air Force One

In America, most homes relied on wood for fueling furnaces until around 1885 when the coal stove became a furnace phenomena. The first force air furnace was invented in 1935, taking the coal-supplied heat and an electric fan to distribute heated air through ductwork within the home. This force-air technique is still evident as a key event in the development of our current heating solutions. While gas and oil eventually retired coal and wood furnaces to greener pastures, coal as a heating source was incredibly popular and very cost efficient as a solution for many decades.


If you’re stoking a fire to stay warm, you may need to consult the professionals at LimRic to evaluate the efficiency of your home’s heat and air appliance needs.


Call LimRic today to make sure the history of your home’s heat and air technology isn’t keeping you in the dark ages!

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