Random Facts on Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

keep calm, facts

In the movie ‘Juno,’ Juno’s father is an HVAC technician.

John Gorrie is considered the father of refrigeration and air conditioning. He was a doctor in Florida, and in 1842 developed a machine to make ice. He used the ice create cool air for his patients. He envisioned his ice making device could be used to cool homes and other buildings. He was granted a patent in 1851.  He lost his financial backing and and died a pauper in 1855.

The concept of air conditioning was first conceived by Michael Faraday in 1820 when he discovered compressed and liquefied ammonia could chill air when it was allowed to evaporate.

Love radiant heating in your bathroom? It’s not a new concept.  The Romans had something very similar where the floors were laid out as a series of stone slabs with a heat source located below the floor.

The development of air conditioning was one of the biggest boosts to the movie industry, as movie theaters could get very uncomfortable in warm summer months.

Closing registers in unused portions of your house in order to save money is a myth.

Architecture shifted due to the invention and widsepread use of air conditioning, and many features that buildings used to have (high ceilings, brick structures, breezeways, sleeping porches, etc.) are now being replaced for less pricey solutions. Current structures are built to house air conditioning, so they would be unbearable without the artificial cooling.

The principle that accounts for the movement of air through spaces, and particularly the rising of heat in buildings, is called the Stack Effect.

Propane, a gas popularized by fictionalized propane salesman Hank Hill (from the animated television series “King of the Hill”) is used in HVAC as a fuel, solvent, and refrigerant. More than just for cooking meat on the grill.

Old radiators were built from cast iron, which is 450 pounds per square foot. That’s some heavy heating.

In 2013, Chicago’s Merchandise Mart joined the list of buildings receiving retrofittings to accelerate energy efficiency. Clocking in at 4.2 million square feet (two whole city blocks), that’s a lot of new fixtures.

Ever since 1960, 60 percent of America’s economic growth can be attributed to air conditioning in the South and West, where it has become possible to live and work year-long in comfortable conditions.

Absorbtion and adsorbtion are two distinct HVAC-related terms that often get mixed up. Absorbtion is the internal process of taking up light, heat, or any other energy by molecules, while adsorbtion is the adherence of gases and liquids to each other on the surface. One letter makes a big difference.

Every industry has its own golden standard, and the HVAC world is no different. The Air Standard, as we call it, means that air must be 68 F (20 C) with a 36% relative humidity at 14.7 psia (pounds per square inch absolute). Achieving that standard is no small feat.

A thermistor is the resistor inside a thermostat that changes resistance as the temperature changes, prompting the thermostat to adjust accordingly.

Geothermal power drills into the earth’s crust to extract natural heat coming from the core. The deepest geothermal well constructed (so far) is the aptly-named Kola Superdeep Borehole that goes 7 miles below the earth’s surface, used for research.

A hygrometer is an instrument used to gauge indoor humidity–too dryand your skin feels dry, too humid and you’ll start to smell mildew after a while.

The amount of energy the United States uses annually to power air conditioning units is about the same amount of energy consumed by the entire continent of Africa.

In 1903, the New York Stock Exchange building in New York City was one of the first structures to use an air conditioning system.

The development of modern air conditioning has allowed for advances in medical technology, longer human life expectancy, reduction in the spread of diseases that were once very common and in warmer climates, dramatically increased employee productivity.

Water lines in a home without heat will typically take three days to freeze when they’re sealed during freezing temperatures.

75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are actually turned off.

The Romans were the first civilization to use any type of warm-air heating system.

About 60% of U.S. homes are heated with gas fired forced air furnaces.

In the Summertime, don’t you love the comfort your A/C provides when it’s pumping out chilly air? That luxury is fairly new, but the concept is not. 500 years ago, people in Persia built wind towers to try to get the same effect.

These towers were rigged with wind scoops to catch prevailing breezes. Internal vanes circulated that air throughout the buildings while forcing hot air out. This was especially handy considering the 100+ degree temperatures they encountered on a regular basis.

In 180 AD China, artisan Ding Huan invented a 10-foot wide rotary fan made of 7 connected wheels. A single operator could power the device adn cool an entire hall of people simply by turning a crank.

In 1886, Schuyler Wheeler invented the electric fan, which was the most popular way for Americans to cool down until the end of WWII.

Air conditioner sales took off in the 1950s. By 1953, more than one million room air conditioner units had been sold. 35 years later, in 1998, more than 6.2 million air conditioners / heat pumps were shipped to homes and businesses.

A setback thermostat is a device that will automatically lower the temperature of an unoccupied space and raise it again as the occupant returns.

The very first glimmering of the modern HVAC industry came way back in 1758, when Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley discovered that evaporating alcohol and other similar substances cools down objects enough to bring water to freezing temperatures. Thus the endless quest for warm winters and cool summers had begun.

Geothermal power is efficient because it drills down deep enough to extract moderately warm thermal energy that’s easy to cool and easy to heat, saving energy typically used to balance cold and hot temperatures.

Air conditioning has ruined us for hot weather. Since inhabitants of the developed world are so accustomed to having chilled spaces in the summer, that makes us unable to handle high temperatures as well as we once did.

We have made incredible societal advances in technology (manufacture of computers and data storage centers, large-scale production, delivery and storage of food) and medicine (pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing) advances as a society thanks to, you guessed it, air conditioning.

The very first steam-heating system installation was in England so the Governor of the Bank of England could grow grapes in the cool temperatures.

Packard was the first automobile manufacturing company to incorporate air conditioning in their cars, in 1936.

HVAC has grown in sophistication over the years. Take, for instance, a hybrid heat system. It automatically adjusts to the most energy efficient way to cool or heat a building, combining a furnace with a heat pump and eliminating an air conditioner.

In the 1987 animated film “The Brave Little Toaster”, the late great Phil Hartman lent his voice to be a talking air conditioner who’s sick of being stuck in a wall.

The typical residential tank water heater resides in the basement, where there is always a chance that floodwater can extinguish the pilot light and render the unit useless, depending on the level of saturation. That’s a quick way to get cold water.

Spending a little extra money on your initial boiler purchase can cut your associated yearly energy bill in half.

Before air conditioning was common, many businesses and government offices took a summer vacation. Imaging our government working for 2 or 3 less months.

Did you ever wonder where the term “air conditioning” came from?
In 1906, a North Carolina textile manufacturer came up with the phrase because the technology actually improved the quality and condition of the cloth being made in his plant.

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