A History of Commercial HVAC Building Automation

The history of “creature comfort” has progressed extensively throughout the ages. The caveman could probably never even fathom an automated system, and “auto-fire,” that would automatically turn on and keep his corner of the earth, his cave warm to his liking. Even in more modern times, drafty homes were typical and battling to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer was a day’s work. Lucky for us postmoderns, most of us enjoy comfortable warm homes in the winter and cool homes in the summer due largely to HVAC systems and building automation.

As an HVAC company, we are hyper-aware (obviously) of how greatly building management HVAC systems affect all us on a day to day basis. As with many of our modern conveniences, the significance of even having an HVAC system and automated system is greatly overlooked because it is commonplace. The HVAC automated system is the “child” of years of innovation by multiple people.

The Very Beginning

Though indoor heat was a thing enjoyed by peoples prior and around the world, an indoor heating system that didn’t result in smoke-filled hallways and uneven heated homes was first enjoyed by the Romans. The Romans were the first to invent an indoor heating system. The system used is called a hypocaust and warmed their villas and public baths incredibly effectively.

The very beginning of HVAC building automation came about in the 1880s by a Scottish chemist named Andrew Ure. His invention of the bi-metallic thermostat was a solution to the problem of drafty textile mills and ineffective working environments due to dropping temperatures. In 1883, Warren Johnson, a Milwaukee teacher was tired of the school building getting cold during the harsh northern winters and invented a simplistic version of the thermostat: Johnson invented and patented the bi-metallic thermostat. The device he invented, though simple, responded to the falling temperatures and activated a light in the boiler room, alerting the janitor to put more coal into the furnace.

Following Johnson’s invention, the thermostat continued to evolve. Albert Butz three years later invented the electric thermostat and Charles Hearson brought about the first industrial thermostat with his invention of the first incubator.

From Thermostat to Automation

The thermostat continued to evolve and gave way to HVAC systems and commercial automation systems with most systems still being pneumatic: a pneumatic system is controlled by air-filled tubes. This system responds to change in air pressure due to temperature change. Most systems were pneumatic up until the 1980s with the rise of accessibility of computers.

The Turning Point for HVAC

Advancements in computer technology ultimately changed HVAC system forever. In the late 1980s most new HVAC systems were now controlled by computers and the systems themselves being powered by electricity, making pneumatic systems archaic. These new systems had less or no moving parts and relied on semiconductors-powered resistance thermometers. Non-programmable thermostats became a thing of the past. In 1995, came the ability to connect a thermostat to the internet, ultimately welcoming the thermostat to the modern world.

As the world continued to change so did the HVAC system. Automation systems became a regular installment in many commercial buildings and with its installation brought improved building ventilation, improved occupant comfort, efficiency for all building systems including the lighting system creating buildings with less energy needs and systems with improved life cycles.

Today, after the culmination of great minds’ inventions and overall improvement of technology and manufacturing, many people are able to live in comfort without giving their HVAC or building management system much thought other than preventive maintenance and the moment when a new system is required. The invention and improvement of the HVAC system and automation system are testaments to the power of human innovation and we all are entirely grateful.

We’d Love to Help!

The Tradesmen of New England would like to help you to continue focusing on running your business, diverting little energy and attention to your HVAC system. Our technicians have years of experience and are certified, professional, and caring. We will work with you to install the proper HVAC system in your building and keep it running effectively. We make scheduling easy with our online client portal and QR code system. For more information, check out our services and contact us!