The History of Home Heating

It that time of year … cooler temperatures on the way and heat going on at night. Our  HVAC Sacramento  experts have been busy tuning up residential and commercial systems for maximum output and savings. Today’s high efficiency systems have come a long way from a stone hearth and logs that barely kept families warm on cold winter nights. Read on to learn more about the history of home heating.


Innovation is one thing human beings are good at. Sometimes progress comes in leaps and bounds while at other times it just creeps along. Human beings went from riding around in horse and buggy contraptions to sending men to the moon in 70 years. However, fire is still the number one method used to heat our homes. The efficiency of how the fire is used has grown exponentially. What is used to make the fire has also changed over the years.


The Fireplace

A fireplace is a convenience item in most modern homes. They are not usually used as a primary method to heat a home but rather as a supplemental or emergency heat source. Not all that long ago, a fireplace was the primary way a home was heated. Massive amounts of wood was cut and gathered throughout the warm months to get a family through a harsh winter.

Fireplaces of that era had most of the heat go right up the chimney. The family survived from the little bit of radiant heat that escaped into the room. Homes had no insulation and were not sealed very well against drafts. Windows were single pane and would freeze over when the weather turned frigid outside. Carbon monoxide poisoning from the fireplace was a real concern. According to US Census, wood was used for heat by 23% of the population in 1940 and only 1.3% in 1970.


Coal and Oil

Coal furnaces began to pop up in homes when coal delivery was easier to obtain. Most homes were built with a coal cellar. It was commonly a small concrete block room that had a metal door called a coal chute on the outside. Many older homes still have the coal chute still in place though it has usually been sealed shut by several layers of paint. Coal was burned in a metal furnace that usually had sand on top of it to act as a heat absorber. Ducts let the warm air rise to rooms that had registers (vents) in the floors.

Oil furnaces that run on a fuel quite similar to diesel fuel became popular as more homes were wired with electricity. Oil furnaces required an electric pump to aerosolize the fuel to be burned and to power a fan that carried the warmed air through ducts to floor and wall registers.


Natural Gas and Propane

Modern furnaces burn natural gas at around a 98 percent efficiency to extract the most amount of heat energy for every cubic foot of gas used. They became the dominant furnace type in most homes due to the lower cost as compared to other fuels. Though there are electric furnaces, the cost of electricity versus natural gas is higher in most areas. Electric furnaces are still popular where there is no natural gas service or propane is too costly.

Man definitely owes home heating comfort to the discovery of fire. While our Sacramento plumbers aren’t fully versed in history or all modes of heating systems, we are experts at today’s HVAC needs. Book your appointment today and save $20 off your fall tune-up.