The History of Home Heating

History of Home Heating

Old fashioned cast iron radiator

These days when cold weather strikes, all we have to do is adjust our thermostats to enjoy the consistent warmth of home heating.

It wasn’t always that easy to heat a home during winter, though. Before the advent of the home furnace, people labored to gather and burn wood — and later coal — to stay warm during the cold months.

The Greeks and Romans

As you might imagine, an enclosed wood-burning fire was the earliest way of heating one’s home. The ancient Greeks are thought to have invented central heating, but Roman engineers are credited with making the most advances in central heating through their hypocaust system.

A hypocaust system heated certain buildings in the Roman Empire — such as homes, villas and public baths — by conducting furnace-heated air through empty spaces under the floors and within the walls, according to the BBC. Sadly, this involved the use of slave labor to stoke the fire in the furnace so that wealthy Romans could enjoy the warmth that was funneled into buildings.

Monks Revive Central Heating

In early medieval times, German monks used a simpler system in which a furnace room pumped heat through channels under the floor in their abbeys. However, Cistercian monks in the 13th Century revived the Roman hypocaust system “using river diversions combined with indoor wood-fired furnaces,” according to Wikipedia.

Water and Steam Based Heat

In the early 1700s, the Russians and Swedes were designing central heating systems that distributed heat through water to warm palaces and heat greenhouses, respectively. Later, Angier March Perkins, who was born in the U.S. but did most of his work in the UK, invented a steam heating system in 1832 so that the Governor of the Bank of England could grow grapes in the cold climate.

The Radiator and Furnace

Eventually, a Polish-born Russian named Franz San Galli invented the heating radiator in the 1850s, transforming the face of central heating forever. By the end of the 19th Century, cast iron radiators heated many American homes by use of a coal-fired boiler in the basement that directed hot water or steam to radiators in every room of the home, according to Sustainable Dwelling.

In 1885, American inventor Dave Lennox built the first riveted-steel coal furnace. The Lennox furnace manufacturing business in Iowa has since evolved into a global corporation called Lennox International, a heating and air conditioning powerhouse and a brand recognized worldwide. Better and better versions of the furnace were invented over time and the rest, as they say, is history!

Choose Brennan Heating and Air Conditioning

At Brennan Heating and Air Conditioning, we offer environmentally-friendly, Energy Star home comfort systems. Looking for Seattle furnace installation, heating products, thermostats or other climate control products? We are happy to provide a free energy consultation to help you find the products to keep your home the perfect temperature all year long. Brennan Heating is an award-winning Seattle heating and air conditioning contractor. Contact us online or by phone at 1-877-BRENNAN.

(Photo courtesy of


About brennanheatingandairconditioning

Brennan Heating and Air Conditioning provides quality heating, cooling, and electrical services to the greater Seattle area.
This entry was posted in Furnaces, Heating Installation. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s