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The modern heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) system gives us year-round comfort at the press of a button. It is easily one of mankind’s finest accomplishments to date, but have you ever thought about how we got to this level of indoor climate control? Let’s take a look at the early history of HVAC systems throughout the world to see how far we have come.

The earliest history of HVAC systems begins with the Egyptians, where slaves had to cool off royalty using fans made from ostrich feathers. Those in India had a similar design, though they used a system of ropes and pulleys instead of raw manpower.

As far as heating is concerned, obviously primitive man started it all with the invention of fire. However, the Romans were the first in the history of HVAC systems to develop a working central heating system called a hypocaust, which was an empty space beneath the floor where warm air could circulate (this primitive HVAC system could even produce steam for heated baths). This would be one of the biggest steps forward in the history of HVAC systems until the 1400s, when chimneys allowed for large indoor fires that could be easily controlled.

Shortly after chimneys, the French mining industry unintentionally made the history of HVAC systems after they created high-powered fans to ventilate air into mineshafts. These machines, along with the chimney and a new thermometer design that no lingered relied on air pressure, formed the rudimentary components of HVAC systems as we know them today.

James Watt invented the steam engine in 1819, which soon gave way to fully-developed air exhaust systems. Carnot and Jules discovered that heat can produce energy, and heating systems began to power buildings for the first time in the history of HVAC systems. In the 1900s, we developed industrial fans that relied on centrifugal force and even coil designs, and these designs are still used today.

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