Today, we often don’t appreciate how advanced our heating systems have become, but our heating modalities didn’t just change overnight! As early as 1.5 million years ago the concept of heat was introduced via campfires. How did we evolve from an open flame to a portable space heater? Let’s take a look at the evolution of heat throughout history.
The first suggestion of space heating in homes dates back to 2500 B.C., when central heat was developed through hearths, fireplaces, stoves, and underfloor systems in Greece. Romans are the first to be credited for creating a heating system known as the hypocaust system. Hypocausts were a form of centralized heating that was constructed by circulating hot air under the floor of a room. This design worked best in Roman buildings where mosaic tiles were supported by columns underneath, creating air spaces and ducts for air to circulate.
Different cultures followed suit; Asian cultures used heat from stoves to warm specific areas and eventually constructing pipes under floors of buildings to heat entire structures. It wasn’t until 1200 A.D. that chimneys were introduced. European monks relied heavily on this apparatus for warmth.
Due to the abundance of wood, fireplace heating was the most popular method in American homes in the 1800’s. The Pennsylvania stove, Benjamin Franklin’s invention, came about in 1741. Franklin’s stove is a metal-lined fireplace that generated efficient air flow through a rear baffle, a mechanism that forced fumes through an inverted siphon, causing more heat to be extracted from combustible gases.
Although the system created a safer means for heating homes, the design was not without its flaws. Over the next 50 years, several other innovators tweaked Franklin’s design. Today, you can still find Franklin stoves in several American homes!
Modern Heating: 19th-20th Century
Throughout the mid 1900’s and into the 20th century, heating systems continued to change rapidly. Let’s take a look at a few important points in the history of comfort heating:
• In 1855, Russia developed radiators to heat homes.
• 1883 marks the invention of the first electric heater, developed by Thomas Edison.
• The birth of electricity in the late 1900’s brought about several new ways of living. Electric heating became a domestic staple in American homes throughout the 20th century. Domestic storage units, or portable heating systems, were an affordable method to produce heat in a specific area.
• The first American solar water heater is developed in 1896.
• In the late 1940’s, American inventor, Robert C. Webber, creates the first geothermal heat pump. Webber stumbled across the invention while experimenting with his freezer. By connecting piping from his deep freezer to a hot water heater, he was able to heat water through a looped pipe. Using a small fan, he was able to circulate hot air into his home. Today, this is still considered one of the most efficient ways to heat a space.
Heat Today: A Greener America
Since the 19th century, heating has come a long way. The birth of the digital age has introduced heating systems that are portable, easy to use, and controlled via smart devices! As we continue to understand the impact of our eco-footprint, a greater emphasis on energy-efficient systems becomes apparent. It seems our future will rely heavily on systems that allow us to adjust our air circulation to effectively reduce the amount of energy we are using, in order to save money and our planet.