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Evolution of HVACLast month we learnt about the history of HVAC from our neolithic ancestors to around the end of the eighteenth century. As we saw, the eighteenth century saw scientific discoveries and inventions, as well as technological improvements, really taking off. Now let us look at the evolution of HVAC in the 19th century.

The Evolution of HVAC – Advances in the Early 1800’s

In 1803, Thomas Moore of Maryland received a US patent for a refrigerator which was the first US patent issued on refrigeration. He devised an icebox to take his butter to market. He designed a cedar tub insulated with rabbit fur, filled with ice, and wrapped in a piece of sheet metal so he could transport his butter at a cooler temperature.

The first warm air furnace is credited to William Strutt of England, who around 1805 invented a warm-air furnace consisting of a riveted, wrought iron air chamber encased in brick. A few centimetres of space between the brick and the iron allowed air to circulate.

Space outside the brick was divided horizontally into two sections: lower for cool and upper for heated air. Holes in the brick casing allowed cool air into the bottom while hot air from the top moved to rooms through ducts. Strutt’s hot air furnaces were referred to as “cockle,” “Belper,” or “Derby” stoves.

At about the same time, firetube hot air furnaces were invented in France. These were constructed with iron pipes placed at a slight pitch through the brick faces of a fire chamber. The cool air entered at one face, was heated in the pipes exposed directly to the fire and exited at the other face.

Technically, the cockle and firetube furnaces were important advances, but a more scientific approach emerged when Professor Dr. Paul Meissner of the Vienna Polytechnical Institute published a book on heating with hot air in 1821.

He explored the laws of warm-air heating and was the first to recognize that cool air should be removed back to the furnace as warm air is admitted to a room. He even proposed a system of dampers.

In 1837 Charles Hood published A Practical Treatise on Warming Buildings by Hot Water which was first book on heating by hot water.

HVAC Advances in the Mid 1800’s

The idea of a modern HVAC system first came about in 1842, when an inventor, Dr. John Gorrie, proposed the idea of cooling cities during elevated temperature months. He devised a system of cooling that involved transporting huge blocks of ice from frozen lakes and streams in the north to cool hospital rooms.

The logistics were almost impossible, so he experimented with refrigeration and developed a machine that made ice using horsepower, wind-powered sails or steam. This was before electricity was generally available, the battery only being devised in 1800 by Alessandro Volta.

Gorrie was granted a patent for his ice-making machine in 1851 but never saw it come to the marketplace, as his chief financial backer died. However, his work laid the foundation for modern-day air conditioning.

In 1864 American Artisan began publishing and was the first so-called “trade magazine” featuring articles and information on heating.

On a fairly bleak subject, 1878 saw the first refrigerated morgue in Paris. This however led to advancements in autopsies and medicine.

HVAC Advances in the Late 1800’s

The first thermostat as we know it was patented in 1883 by Warren S. Johnson and was called an “electric tele-thermoscope”. During 1891 the trade journal Ice and Refrigeration began publishing and that same year the Broadway Theatre in New York was cooled by using tons of ice and circulating iced water.

This was followed a year later by the first air-conditioned house in California. A year after that, in 1893 oil fired boilers were used to heat buildings at Chicago World’s Fair. HVAC became more scientific in 1894 with the publication of a book called a Guide for the Calculation and Design for Ventilating and Heating Installations by Hermann Rietschel. This book also included a chapter on comfort cooling of rooms.

HVAC in the early twentieth century

In 1901 a 300-ton co-generation comfort air conditioning system for temperature and humidity control was installed at the New York Stock Exchange. The system used absorption refrigeration machinery designed by Henry Torrance of the Carbondale Machine Co.

Another industrial use of HVAC was implemented in 1902. A printing company, Sackett-Wilhelms, was having problems with humidity that was causing magazine pages to wrinkle. Willis Carrier, who worked as an engineer at the Buffalo (NY) Forge Company, was given the task of solving this. He designed and patented the  “Apparatus for Treating Air” that used cooling coils to either humidify the air by heating water or dehumidify by cooling water.

This solved the problem of the wrinkled magazine pages by maintaining a constant humidity and temperature. He perfected this technology and then built and patented an automatic control system that regulated the humidity and air temperature in textile mills.

With this success he realised that other industries could benefit from the technology and formed Carrier Engineering Corporation with six other engineers. The air conditioner invention date, 1902, is credited to Carrier.

Two years later, in 1904, air cooling was introduced to the general public when organizers of the St. Louis World’s Fair used mechanical refrigeration to cool parts of the Missouri State Building where some of the fair events took place. It was able to circulate almost a thousand cubic metres per minute.

Later in 1906, Stuart Cramer, a textile engineer coined the term air-conditioning, and the modern HVAC industry came of age.

In our next article, we will explore the evolution of HVAC from the early twentieth century up to the present and into the future.