A History of the Modern Furnace

By Rod Johnson Air Inc. — Your Stockton Furnace Repair Company

Heat in Retrospective

Ever wonder how your ancestors kept warm in their homes? It wasn’t easy! Before electricity, warmth was typically achieved through open fires and wood-burning fireplaces. However, once you stepped away from the hearth, on a cold day you’d quickly lose that warmth.

This page explores some of the major developments in the history of heating, to give us perspective and appreciate and better understand the things we have.

Are you looking for help with repairing or replacing your heating system? Rod Johnson Air Conditioning has been in the heating and cooling business since 1968. When it comes to heater maintenance or repair in Stockton, you can count on us to get it taken care of fast and effectively. Contact us today to schedule a service.


Timeline of Important Events in the History of Heating

  • The earliest known form of heating was the campfire

  • Fixed hearths have been found tracing back to as early as 2,500 BCE in Greek ruins and later in Egypt

  • In the year 15 CE, the Roman hypocaust, a basic type of radiator, is first described — a form of central heating system

  • For most of human history in most regions of the world, heating is all about fires and fireplaces

  • In the 1200s, the city hall in Luneburg, Germany, along with a number of other buildings, had a central heating system.

  • The first hot water heating system seems to have been in a 14th century monastery in Greenland that tapped into a hot water spring

  • Stoves are invented in the 1700s that can heat whole rooms, but fireplaces still remain the main way of protecting people against the cold

  • Gas light technology was developed in England in the 1790s.

  • In the early 1800s, American inventor Daniel Pettibone, inspired by the Roman hypocaust, invented the first furnace that used warm air for heating.

  • The Bunsen Burner was invented in 1855. It was the first open flame to be able to create heat without soot. It opened the road to propane, gas, and oil fired heating systems.

  • The discovery of how to use electricity spawns the electrical heating industry in the late 1800s/early 1900s.

  • In 1919, Alice Parker invented and patented the wall furnace, which provided better temperature regulation and more of a whole-home solution to heating than most of its predecessors.

  • The first coal-fueled systems with electric fans and ductworks were available around 1935

  • A myriad of inventions and modifications occur as furnaces rapidly become more and more similar to the ones we use today. Inventions in this period include the thermostat, ways to use alternative energy, efficiency improvements, and improvements that reduced the cost.

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Are you using a furnace that looks like it belongs to times past? The EPA’s Energy Star program strongly recommends you replace furnaces that are more than 15 years old, due to the fact that newer models continue to dramatically improve energy efficiency. Doing so is likely to save you money in the long-run.

If you are in Stockton and would like to schedule a furnace check-up or get it replaced, contact Rod Johnson Air Conditioning. We have the experience and equipment to provide you with the best HVAC service in Stockton.

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