What does ‘HVAC’ mean: The History of HVAC


‘HVAC’ stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. When you think of air conditioning and heating, you probably think of very modern technology. But people have been using different methods to keep their homes comfortable for hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of years.

HVAC History Highlights

In ancient Rome, a system of central heating called a hypocaust was developed. A hypocaust pushed heated air through a network of air ducts, pipes, and under raised floors to heat a room, and sometimes the walls. The hypocaust was a very early forerunner of modern radiant floors.

People used manpower and ropes in ancient China, Egypt, and India to manually animate fans and cool rooms.

In 14th century Europe, the dangerous problem of toxic gasses in mines was diminished by the development of efficient fans. The same principles used for these fans were later adapted to ventilate homes. Chimneys were also added to stoves and fireplaces during this time which made indoor air quality much cleaner and heating the home safer.

In 1744, Benjamin Franklin created a more efficient version of the cast iron stove. Around the same time, latent heat was discovered, (which helped with the development of water heating systems), and the steam engine was created.

In the 1830s, Dr. John Gorrie produced buckets of ice by designing a machine that used compression. Air was then blown over the ice, cooling the surrounding area.

William Siemens used a similar concept in 1861 to heat surroundings. He is responsible for the development of the ‘open hearth furnace.’

In 1902, Willis Carrier, who is known as the inventor of modern air conditioning, needed to solve the problem of paper being ruined by humidity in printing plants. He invented a machine that combined a system of coils that circulated refrigerant with large fans that “conditioned” the air. His intention was to extract humidity from the air, but his invention also cooled the air.

Later in the 1900s, the air conditioning process was reversed, and homes were able to be heated as well as cooled.