The History of HVAC

Posted on Sep 15, 2019

It’s hard to imagine but not too long ago people were living without any sort of HVAC. The summers were steamy and the winters were chilly and it was just something people were used to. It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s when the general idea for centralized HVAC came about.

Want to learn more about the history of HVAC and how it came to be today? If so, keep reading below!

Ancient history

Believe it or not, some form of HVAC has been around in one way or another since the dawn of time. Below is how the general idea of HVAC has expanded over the years.


Turns out, they weren’t living under rocks “just because!” Cavemen can be credited for determining that the air is cooler underground, thus their caves were strategic home choices. That, and the fact they offered protection from predators. It was practically a perfect solution and makes total sense. Therefore, cavemen were technically the inventors of the first geothermal cooled homes. 


The Egyptians were widely known for the early invention of many modern conveniences, and air conditioning can be considered one of them too. While they didn’t develop systems that heated entire buildings, they did know a thing or two about air movement. They learned that hanging wet reeds in windows was a great way to cool the air naturally. The moisture off the reeds would cool the air as it moved on the breeze and blow inside the home. This eventually becomes the basis for water-cooled air conditioning!

Greeks and Romans

The ancient Greeks are to thank for the idea of aqueducts. These provided moving water to entire cities and were the basis for cooling/heating water pipe systems. The Romans then took it one step further with their architecture. They actually built their luxury homes and bath houses with vents or air ducts under the floors to move hot or cold air throughout the building. It’s pretty genius!


The Chinese offered a lot to the modern world. Stunning architecture, delicious tea, gunpowder and more! They also gave the world an invention that is still used on a daily basis – fans. They learned that moving air on the skin creates a temporary cooling effect, so they created a device to simulate it. That’s right, those beautifully intricate fans that you see everyone using became the basis for our modern air conditioning fans. 

Middle Eastern

In the Middle East, the temperatures can reach beyond blazing limits. That’s why it’s no surprise that they learned how to manage that heat with architecture. More specifically, they designed towers that caught and circulated the cool breezes, drawing the air up and pushing warm air out. This concept has changed overtime but the idea of a cooling tower still exists today with air ducts. 


The Victorians might be known for being stuffy and strict, but they were still creative when it came to practical design. They knew about using airflow to improve comfort in their homes. Thus, you see victorian-style homes with high ceilings, large covered porches, and recessed windows for cross ventilation. These are still factors we consider in home design today!

fan blowing air

The invention of HVAC

Now that you know how the concept of HVAC developed over the years, you’re probably wondering how it came to be in its modern form. If so, keep reading below as we dive into the invention of modern HVAC systems. 

The 1800’s

The idea of a modern HVAC system first came about in the mid 1800’s when an inventor, Dr. John Gorrie, proposed the idea of cooling cities during high temperature months. He eventually designed a system that controlled humidity using cooling coils. He secured a patent for this device and then refined it into a plan for an automatic humidity and temperature controlled system.

The 1900’s

Fast forward 50 years and the idea officially took off at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. It was at this time that a refrigeration system was used to cool the Missouri State Building, marking the first time a public building had this feature. The idea took off until eventually public theaters had cooling and heating systems in them as well.  

Modern day

Despite the great reception for commercial HVAC, it was still expensive for private use even with a few tweaks. So, in 1932 H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman created a unit that could fit in window sills. This eventually led to most homes having some form of residential HVAC system with central air conditioning by the 1960s. 

Fast forward to today and now we have entirely hidden HVAC systems built into the framing of our homes, allowing for quieter heating and cooling and better design features. Gone are the days of living in caves or using the breeze for our homes. Now we have entire systems that do it for us, all at the switch of a button. That’s pretty amazing!

Ask more

Are you interested in learning more about the history of HVAC. Or, do you need some help with your HVAC system at home? If so, we’ve got you covered! At AIRPRO Indoor Air Solutions, we provide a variety of services for your HVAC system including installation and maintenance.

Have some questions? Give us a call today, we’d be happy to assist you with your HVAC needs!

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