Hvac History

A brief history of HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)

  • In 1902, Willis Carrier invented the first air conditioner to address a specific problem: controlling the temperature and humidity levels in a Brooklyn printing office. The invention revolutionized climate control indoors.
  • Moving ahead 23 years, the first centrifugal chiller, a device that cools water for air conditioning systems, was introduced to the public at a movie theater in 1925. This innovation made it possible to cool large spaces more efficiently.
  • Fast forward to 1930, sales of window air conditioning units surpassed a million, paving the way for widespread adoption of air conditioning in homes, offices and automobiles. This shift transformed everyday life for many people, making it possible to live and work in comfort during the hot summer months.
  • The timeline ends with a note about the United States’ energy consumption in 1980, which surpassed that of all other countries combined. This statistic highlights the increasing popularity of air conditioning and its impact on energy use.


This was a period of Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese and of course the Indians. While Egyptian’s
used to use man powered fans, the Indians used to use rope fans. Roman’s used to use something
known as hypocaust (a central heating system which has furnace in the basement and flues to
distribute heat). It has a system for radiating heat for rooms and even steam for the bath of the rich.
Chimneys were used extensively towards the start of 1400s which allowed people to have private
rooms. It is also known that Leonardo Da Vince built water driven fan to ventilate a suite of rooms.

1500s- 1600s

In France, ventilating machines were used in the mines. These machines used to have a series of fans
with blades which used to direct fresh air into the shaft. This was the time when the idea of houses
with chimneys came to America from Europe. Large quantities of wood and coal were used during
that era for heating their homes. Invention of thermometer by Galileo changed the way temperature
was measured till then. Ferdinand II developed a thermometer independent of air pressure. This was
the time when the very first gravity exhaust ventilation system was made for the US House of the


Initially many countries used to use stove built of bricks or fuller’s earth. Fahrenheit invented the first
mercury thermometer. The first ventilator using centrifugal fan was made.

The era saw a series of important inventions that changed the lifestyle of the people of the whole
world. Benjamin Franklin invented the very first stove which is supposed to be known as the first
steam heating system. Then a series of some vital discoveries by Joseph Black including latent heat
changed the way heat and temperature was perceived. James Watt brought a revolution by
inventing the steam engine. A stove with a furnace for heating air was used in England. This
arrangement had system of pipes which could heat up even big factories. Today that arrangement is
known as direct fired heat exchangers.

Heat developed from friction was considered a form of vibrations. Carnot founded thermodynamics
and James Joule discovered that work produces heat. Heat started to be considered as a form of
energy. Hot water heating systems were used for large commercial and public buildings. Also the
first warm furnace is developed. Houses with water spray system to humidifying and cooling were
used. Supply air and exhaust air systems started to be driven by steam engines.

Also the law of conservation of energy is discovered. The first and second laws of thermodynamics
were made. Boilers with higher capacity were used. Laws of gases were discovered and widely put to


This era saw a sudden steep in the inventions and evolution of the HVAC systems. Furnace system
with centrifugal fans, high pressure steam heating systems, massive fan systems and high speed
centrifugal fans and axial flow fans with small electric motors were in extremely high usage. The first
fan coil dehumidifying system was made by a company called Buffalo Forge. The same company
made the first spray type air conditioning device. The first railway and industrial air conditioning
system was devised by Sturtevant, including a backward inclined blade centrifugal pump. Buffalo
Forge designed a system to remove dust particles from air streams.

The HVAC industry started using Scotch Maine type boilers with oil and gas burners and induced or
forced type fans were used. A system which brings down the temperature to 10 degree Fahrenheit
but increases the humidity to uncomfortable levels was made. The Rational Psychometric Formulae
for fundamental calculations was invented. A forced air system which uses a fan was made. The first
centrifugal refrigeration machine was made for air conditioning large spaces.

Hydronic circulatory pumps and radiators started to be used in the air conditioning systems for
circulating water in the system. The first refrigeration with a compressor was made. The first
residential air conditioning was made. Room coolers that use the technology of the refrigerators
were made. Panels for heating floors and ceilings started to be made. The use of solar power as a
power source was made. The first man walks on moon with life support and cooling systems.

The heating pump heats on the reverse refrigeration cycle and on lower outdoor temperatures. Due
to the over usage of refrigerants the environment was endangered and thus the United Nations
Montreal Protocol for protection of earths ozone layer was signed. With the help of international co
operation chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) which depletes ozone layer was phased out from usage. A multi
million dollar research program on air conditioning and refrigeration system began.


What were some of the earliest forms of heating and ventilation used by ancient civilizations?
The ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, and Indians all developed innovative ways to heat and ventilate their homes and public spaces. For example, the Egyptians used manual fans, while the Indians employed rope fans. The Romans, on the other hand, developed a central heating system known as hypocaust, which featured a furnace in the basement and flues to distribute heat throughout the building. This system even included radiators for heating rooms and steam for bathing. These early innovations laid the groundwork for modern HVAC systems.
How did the development of chimneys impact the evolution of HVAC systems?

The widespread adoption of chimneys in the 1400s revolutionized HVAC systems by allowing for the safe and efficient ventilation of combustion gases. This enabled people to have private rooms with fireplaces, which greatly improved indoor air quality and comfort. The development of chimneys also paved the way for the creation of more sophisticated heating systems, such as radiators and boilers, which would become staples of modern HVAC technology.

What role did Leonardo da Vinci play in the development of HVAC systems?

Leonardo da Vinci, the renowned Italian polymath, made significant contributions to the field of HVAC. He designed a water-driven fan to ventilate a suite of rooms, demonstrating his understanding of the importance of air circulation and exchange. Da Vinci’s work on fluid dynamics and mechanical systems also laid the foundation for later innovations in HVAC technology, such as air conditioning and refrigeration. His legacy continues to inspire engineers and designers working in the field of HVAC today.

How did the Renaissance period influence the development of HVAC systems in Europe?

During the Renaissance, there was a renewed interest in classical knowledge and innovation, which led to significant advancements in HVAC technology. In France, for example, architects and engineers developed more sophisticated heating systems, including the use of hot water and steam to warm buildings. This period also saw the introduction of new materials, such as copper and iron, which were used to construct more efficient and durable HVAC systems. The Renaissance marked a turning point in the evolution of HVAC technology, as it laid the groundwork for the development of modern heating and cooling systems.

What were some of the key challenges faced by early HVAC system designers and engineers?

Early HVAC system designers and engineers faced numerous challenges, including the need to balance heat distribution, air circulation, and ventilation in buildings. They also had to contend with limited materials and technologies, which made it difficult to create efficient and reliable systems. Additionally, the lack of understanding of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics made it challenging to design systems that could effectively heat and cool buildings. Despite these challenges, early HVAC pioneers made significant progress, paving the way for the development of modern HVAC systems.

How has the history of HVAC influenced the development of modern HVAC systems?

The history of HVAC has had a profound impact on the development of modern HVAC systems. The innovations and discoveries made by early pioneers, such as the Romans and Leonardo da Vinci, laid the foundation for later advancements in HVAC technology. The evolution of HVAC systems has been shaped by the need to address changing societal needs, such as the demand for comfort, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality. Today, modern HVAC systems continue to build upon the knowledge and innovations of the past, incorporating new materials, technologies, and design principles to create more efficient, sustainable, and comfortable indoor environments.