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The Most Notable HVAC Inventions

The Most Notable HVAC Inventions

Sometimes we take our on-demand heating and cooling for granted and forget where and how all of this started. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry is one of innovation and consistent change and progress. What started as handheld fans have now shifted into smartphone-controlled technology that can adjust perfectly to your desired temperature level.

To fully understand just how far we’ve come in the HVAC industry, let’s take a look at where we began.

Ancient HVAC Inventions

The first HVAC inventions were very different from what we use today, but they nonetheless were quite effective. We’re going to look at a few regions and the technology they used to stay comfortable.

Handheld Fans

It’s debated as to where, and when exactly handheld fans were invented, some records show fans in use in 3000 B.C. by the ancient Greeks and Romans. However, most of the time, we picture the ornately decorated and extremely valuable fans from China and Japan when we think about them.

One thing is for certain; even this technology was made specifically for the wealthy and the royal.

Egyptian Sleep Method

Ancient Egyptians used to soak linens in water before going to sleep to stay cool through the night. They would also hang damp linens in doorways to create a cooling effect. When the wind blew through the doorway and met with the damp sheet, it would generate cooler air to be distributed into the immediate rooms.

This practice is still in use today. If you live in a warm climate or you’re just a hot sleeper, then maybe you’ve seen this pop up in the search results as you look for a solution.

To use the Egyptian Sleep Method, it’s recommended that you:

  1. Soak a sheet or a large towel in water.
  2. Wring out the fabric so that it’s not sopping wet, then run it through the spin cycle of your washing machine.
  3. Place a light blanket or towel underneath you, and sleep with the damp fabric on top of you.
  4. For added cooling, aim a fan at you or right above you while you sleep.
  5. The evaporation of the water on the towel or sheet will help keep you cool all night.


Hypocaust is derived from the Greek “hypo-” under “caust-” burning. It is one of the first inventions of a central heating system that we know of.

The hypocaust was fueled by a large wood-burning stove located underground, and the smoke and steam released from the stove would travel under the floors and through tile constructed flues to heat all of the floors and walls of the building.

Because of how labor-intensive it was to build the hypocausts and run them, they were usually only built in public bathhouses or extremely wealthy Romans' homes.

Here’s a photo of what a hypocaust looks like:

Modern Air Conditioning

The first air conditioning system was not actually created to amplify human comfort. In fact, it was created to solve a drying problem at a printing plant. And who was responsible for this invention? We’ll give you a hint: Carrier.

That’s right, Willis Haviland Carrier, a skilled engineer, invented the first modern air conditioning system in 1902. His system worked by sending air through coils filled with cold water, cooling the air while also removing moisture to control humidity.

While using the same fundamental science as Carrier’s system, today's air conditioners incorporate new technology for vapor compression, diagnostics and controls, and energy efficiency.

Does all of this talk about air conditioning make you want to purchase a new system? Give us a call to learn about your options at (609) 527-3354.


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