Heating, cooling, and plumbing have a long and interesting history. Humans figured out how to keep themselves hot, cold, and hydrated thousands of years ago, believe it or not. Here are some of the facts.
- Even though the modern air conditioner was invented less than 100 years ago, people began to figure out how to keep cool almost 2,000 years ago. In around 180 A.D. in China, Ding Huan invented a rotary fan with seven wheels that was powered by one person. The 10-foot-wide blades could cool an entire hall of people.
- Only the wealthiest Romans could afford it, but some homes had central air conditioning: aqueduct water circulated through walls that cooled the rooms.
- A mere 500 years ago, Persians figured out how to build wind towers that circulated indoor air and forced the hot air out of the buildings.
- Carrier, the inventor of the modern air conditioner, was trying to help book publishers by controlling humidity in the factories. He had no idea he would change how all of us live and work.
- If not for AC, we wouldn’t have computers or modern pharmaceuticals due to their reliance on cooled air during production and storage. Air-conditioned hospitals are credited with decreased infant mortality, advances in surgery, defeat of malaria, and modern standards of sterile conditions.
- The 60% increase in economic growth in the south and west of the U.S is directly attributable to air conditioning making it comfortable to live and work there. Basically, Las Vegas as we know it wouldn’t exist without air conditioning.
- The Romans were the first ones who figured out the use of a central warm-air heating system.
- Those industrious Romans also invented radiant heating for floors.
- Not long after the Romans, those same Persians who invented fans to keep cool also figured out how to use natural gas to ignite an “eternal flame” that they used for heat and cooking. Pipelines weren’t invented for another 1500 years.
- Chimneys weren’t invented until the 12th century; before that, most fires were outside so it was cold inside. It took a couple of hundred years to get them right, but finally by the 1400s fireplaces were the mainstay in most homes for heating and cooking.
- The radiator, precursor to modern furnaces and heat pumps, was invented (where else?) in frigid Russia in the 1850s.
- Egyptians used copper for their pipes 4,000 years ago. Yes, it’s the same copper that is still the #1 material we use today.
- There is evidence of indoor plumbing as early as 2500 BC in the Indus Valley Civilization.
- Flush toilets are much older than you’d think. They were first used around the 26th century BC in the Indus Valley Civilization, where the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro had a flush toilet in almost every house and even had sophisticated sewage systems. Modern flushing toilets were invented by Sir John Harington in England in 1596 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.