The History of The Furnace – Heat in Retrospect

Posted in: Heating

It is amazing to take a look back and see all of the amazing advances our country has made, in many different areas of expertise! Ever wondered how your ancestors kept warm throughout the years? Here’s a brief look into the history of the furnace with America’s Best Mechanical & Electrical!

Before electricity, it was extremely hard to keep warm. Warmth has always been on of the top issues in being able to survive. In early years, the only ways to gain heat were through open fire and wood-burning fireplaces. However, if you stepped a few feet away from these fires, you were back where you start – freezing and unable to maintain your core body temperature. Enter the radiator…

The radiator would change the need for consistent heating forever. The Roman hypocaust, a type of radiator for building space heating, was described in 15 AD. The heating radiator was invented by Franz San Galli, a Polish-born Russian businessman living in St. Petersburg, between 1855 and 1857. However, radiators were not readily and affordable until Dave Lennox made leaps in heating history. In 1885, Dave Lennox helped advance home heating with the help of low cost coal burning cast iron radiators. With the help of natural convection, the radiators used heat’s rising nature for more efficient heat distribution. Often kept in basements, the radiators allowed homeowners a better shot at warming more rooms throughout the home above.

The Bunsen Burner then opened eyes to even more heating advances. Still struggling to stay warm despite cast iron’s convection, Americans continued to seek better ways to stay warm. Then came German Robert Bunsen and his laboratory Bunsen burner technology. The first open flame to produce heat without soot, it blended gas with air in a controlled manner before combustion, fueling the development of gas, propane, and oil fired heating systems. Pilot lights on gas-powered heaters are a prime example of this technology and are still in-use today.


Electricity brought on exciting advances for heating! Thanks to Thomas Edison’s electrical contributions beginning in 1882, electric heat entered the picture. In 1905 Albert Marsh discovered the metal chrome, allowing him to construct a heating element 300 times stronger than others on the market. Dubbed the father of the electrical heating industry, his heaters pushed electrical current through this metal heating element, which converted electricity to distributable heat. To this day electrical heating technology has changed very little and is still produced the same way.

In came the wall furnace! In 1919, Alice Parker invented and patented the first American central heating system. Providing better temperature regulation and more substantial heat throughout homes, the systems finally put an end to families huddling around the fireplace to stay warm. Her invention gave way to the first coal fueled, electric fan and ductwork distributed forced air wall furnace around 1935.

Today’s furnaces have progressed even further from their 1930s predecessors, offering an array of fuel and warmth sources from oil to natural gas, electricity and even heat pump and geothermal technologies. In addition, today’s thermostats allow for the fine-tuning of temperatures and even more ease-of-use and convenience thanks to Wi-Fi programmable thermostat technology and apps.



Are you using an outdated old relic of a furnace that has you lugging in fireplace logs like your ancestors from the days of yore? The EPA’s Energy Star program strongly recommends replacing furnaces 15 years old and older due to the dramatically improved efficiency of newer models. Furnace efficiency has improved drastically over the years, from 65 percent efficiency in older, 1970s furnace models to 97 percent – near total efficiency – in today’s most efficient furnace options. That tremendous efficiency increase can save you a great deal on heating costs monthly. Some things are better left in the past – is your furnace one of them?

Contact us online or call us for a free quote at 888-456-2525.  We are offering $500 OFF of any new high efficiency heating system installations! Check out our Specials Page and mention the discount coupon when you call to schedule your estimate!

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