In honor of Columbus Day, it’s interesting to visualize just what the early explorer would have seen. Consider the housing that he saw in the Americas and how much it has changed to its current state in modern America. The homes of people in the Americas hundreds of years ago were simple, small spaces. They usually only had one room to house everything that the family owned. Home-building techniques were adjusted to the materials that were available, the climate, and the make-up of the area where the house was going to stand. One of the biggest changes in our quality of life from then to now has been in the way we control the temperatures of our home.
Back then, the homes built did not use HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) facilities. It was all about natural cooling, heating, and ventilation, but in recent centuries, people learned to create air control systems. Demand was high, especially in areas where temperatures were extreme. The machine they developed was called the air-conditioning unit, and the man who invented it was Alfred Wolff. At around the same time, Willis Carrier came up with another air-cooling unit. Carrier’s unit became the predecessor of the modern air-conditioning unit and the HVAC itself. Carrier’s model had control over temperature, air filtering, ventilation and circulation of cold air and humidity.
Today, people have seen vast improvement in HVAC efficiency when it comes to air and temperature management.
Back in old times, heating was produced in mason stoves. Then came the chimney—an important part of heating history.
Next came the warm air system that started with a central heat source that could be conducted throughout the home. The Industrial Revolution advanced this development. In 1805, William Strutt came up with a furnace that ushered warm air into different rooms through ducts. The entries to rooms had dampers that allowed residents to control how much war air entered a room. This progressed to warm-air furnaces that hit their stride in the late 1800s. Then came hot water heating and steam heating. Boilers and radiators both became popular. Thermostats were another big development, allowing people to more effectively control exactly how much heat they wanted in their home. And of course, automatic heating allowed us to turn heat on and off on demand.
It was a long road to rise to our current standards. Next time you flip on the A/C or the heat, consider the developments that lead to the comfort we now enjoy.