A History of Home Heating in Utica, NY

October 11, 2016
It’s likely that when you turn on your heating system in your Utica, NY home, you don’t really put much thought into the history behind it. But home heating has a history dating back more than a million years, and the story of heating is an interesting one. The ACHR News, a trusted source of news and information for the HVAC industry, discussed how home heating began, and how it has evolved over the years.

The ACHR News points out that the very first use of heat for comfort happened 1.5 million years ago when early man gathered around campfires for warmth. As time progressed, they moved those campfires to the inside of their caves and huts, placing the fire in the center of their living space. The next evolution included creating fires in other dwelling areas, and using stones to create a makeshift hearth.

The next step in the progress of home heating came around 2500 BC, when fixed central fireplaces were developed in Greece. Excavators discovered hearths and fireplaces, stoves and even under-floor systems. Later, castles from the 13th century included fireplaces with a flue leading to the outside. While fireplaces continued to be made of stone, advances in iron smithing allowed for cast iron firebacks to be produced, protecting the fireplace stone from heat.

The Turkish King Arzawa in 1300 BC was likely the first person to effectively use under-floor radiant heating in his castle. The Romans perfected it, and even moved the system into building walls. These heating systems, known as hypocaust systems, were used to heat the homes of wealthy Romans, but also were used to heat the famous public baths throughout the Roman Empire. Interestingly, these systems operated at about 90 percent efficiency, but unfortunately the technology was lost with the fall of Rome.

During the Dark Ages, there was very little progress in made in heating; in fact, chimneys didn’t begin to appear in writings and literature until after the 14th century. A very rudimentary precursor to the heating you have in your Utica, NY home came in the 1600s, when French inventor Louis Savot created a circulating fireplace. This innovation allowed cold room air to enter the room from the bottom, get warmed in the fireplace, and then blow back into the room through openings. Throughout the 1600s-1700s, more and more improvements in fireplace design were made, and individuals like Benjamin Thompson, published construction manuals on the subject.

In the United States, Dr. John Clarke of the Massachusetts Bay Colony brought heating to the colonies via his invention of the cast iron box stove in 1652. By the mid-1700s, the cast iron box stove was being regularly manufactured at foundries throughout the colonies. Innovations continued throughout the next two centuries. By the 1900s, different versions of the cast iron stove were being made by numerous manufacturers.

The blower furnace unit that probably heated your Utica, NY home (if you live in an older house) was not widely available to the public until the 1930s. It’s actually more likely that your home used some form of radiant heat. Boilers appeared in the mid-1800s – some manufactured right in Utica – and radiators showed up a bit later. By the 1880s, cast iron radiators had become very popular. Thermostats came into use in the early 1900s thanks to Warren Johnson, whose company, Johnson Controls, is still in operation today.

By the 1920s, most homes in Utica, NY had automatic heating systems of some form. Today, homeowners have a vast array of heating equipment and products to choose from, including oil and gas furnaces, fireplaces, boilers, ductless heat and more. A qualified heating contractor like Fred F. Collis & Sons can help you decide what heating system is right for your home. For more than 80 years, we’ve been helping people throughout the Utica area with their heating needs, and we can help you too. Give us a call at 315-790-6651 and we’ll be happy to help you.

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