Creating environments
that work since 1905

Heating and AC Systems From the Ancient to the Present day

Heating and AC Systems have changed dramatically from the ancient period to today, however at a closer glance perhaps there are factors such as the efficiency of the ancient systems we could incorporate today due to the climate crisis!

Ancient Heating Systems

Ancient Korean Heating Systems

Ancient Korean heating systems originated in the bronze age, making them the oldest heating systems in existence. This system was called the Ondol and was created to channel smoke from fireplaces instead of using open fires as previously. The systems were incredibly energy efficient as the channelling of the smoke meant that the rooms could be kept warm after the fire had burnt out, they reused the heat in the kitchen as well. Not only were the systems highly functional at keeping the rooms warm, but they also deterred rats and other bush due to the hot smoke.

How was the Ondol Structured?

The ‘gorae’ is where the smoke from the heated stones passes on top of the ‘gorae’. The ‘gudeul’ is positioned which are flat stones which prevent smoking from escaping, so when the fire is lit the smoke passes through the room then underfloor, heating all of the area and then coming out a carefully situated chimney.

Ancient Greek and Roman Heating Systems

The ancient Romans invented a heating system called a hypocaust. In terms of structure, the hypocaust was a space between the floor and the earth with pilae stacks. Pilae stacks were a type of tile stacked on top of each. On top of this was a layer of concrete and then tiles as the actual floor of the building. Smoke from the furnace was diffused around this area causing heated flooring and then tile flues were used for the rest of the building to also be heated. This is synonymous with their systems for heating Roman baths.

Ancient Cooling Systems

Although AC was not invited until quite a few years after ancient civilizations, these civilizations did still have their cooling methods for their homes.

Traditional Egyptian Take on Air Conditioning


Ancient Egyptian housing was inclusive of courtyards which used a stacked effect in order to make use of any breeze as a cooling effect within the home. The courtyard’s four walls provide shade, so the air warms up gradually in the morning and stays cool until late in the day when solar radiation begins to warm the courtyard. A fountain is also placed within the courtyard as a cooling effect and also to display privilege.

The Takhtabush

A covered area at ground level which was known as the takhtabush was added to the dwelling to ensure air movement. It is situated between the courtyard and the rear garden, totally opening onto the courtyard and onto the back garden through a mashrabiya, which ensures a constant flow of air by convection. The air heats up more than in the courtyard since the back garden is bigger and provides less shade. A constant cool wind is produced by the warm air rising in the backyard garden drawing cool air from the courtyard through the takhtabush.

This demonstrates the forward-thinking of the Egyptians in their efforts to keep their homes cool. Ancient dampened reeds were hung on windows alongside pots filled with water in their passageways as a method for cooling. After all Ancient Egypt did reach a temperature of 35 degrees in June and July. You can learn more about this here.

Ancient Roman Cooling Systems

Aqueducts were made to carry water hundreds of miles through conduits made of brick, stone, or concrete without the use of pumps. These waterways were built by the Romans on an incline or slope. Mountain ranges were either tunnelled through or avoided. The majority of the aqueducts were subterranean, and the flow was carried by lead or ceramic pipes. Although the water was mostly used for bathhouses, the water from the aqueducts was channelled to Roman house walls which contained pipes that delivered water to cool the brickwork on those warm days when the temperature spiked, acting as effective AC.

Modern Historical Heating

During the nineteenth century, the science behind heating and cooling was investigated further to build machinery that would be more effective than ever before.

William Strutt

Later in modernity, William Strutt invented a mill near Derby which consisted of a central furnace that heated air via an underground passage and then this air was ventilated through the building by ducts.

Nelson H. Bundy the Heating Engineer

In 1872 Nelson Bundy invented the ‘Bundy loop’ The science behind this is as steam heat immediately demonstrated its exceptional efficiency. Although we refer to these objects as radiators, they don’t radiate heat. They instead rely on convection, in which heat is transferred through a medium (such as water or steam) that has already been heated. This is why when the Bundy Loop was created, the shape of steam radiators largely remained the same. Multiple loops similar to those found in a conventional cast iron radiator, were found to provide a larger surface area to fill with steam which therefore produces more heat as a result of the larger surface area.

Modern Historical cooling systems

Willis Carrier

Willis Carrier is known as the inventor of AC in the twentieth century, he found the “dew point control,” an air-conditioning system based on the idea that cooled air reaches saturation and loses moisture through condensation. Carrier also created a system that allowed conditioned air to be fed from the ceiling and discharged at floor level. This system was initially implemented in 1922 at Grauman’s Metropolitan Theatre in Los Angeles. The status of this discovery was monumental.

Dr John Gorrie

The first American patent for mechanical refrigeration was given to Dr John Gorrie who was a pioneer in the development of artificial ice production, refrigeration, and air conditioning. This patent was issued in 1851. Dr Gorrie’s fundamental idea—cooling brought on by the quickly expanding of gas is the one that is currently employed most frequently in refrigeration. He condensed air using two double-acting force pumps.

His device, which was initially created to treat yellow fever patients, worked by injecting a tiny amount of water into compressed air to lower its temperature. The coils housing the compressed air were encircled by a circulation of chilly water. The interjected water was then allowed to condense out in a holding tank, and compressed air was released or rarified into a tank of brine at a lower pressure. This brought the temperature of the brine down to 26 degrees Fahrenheit or less, and when drip-fed, brick-sized, oil-coated metal containers of non-saline water, or rainwater, were submerged in the brine, ice bricks were created. An open mechanism was used to release the chilly air into the atmosphere.

Heating and Ac Systems Today

Today’s heating systems and Ac systems emit far more carbon dioxide than before, in fact, many of the ancient techniques produced zero carbon emissions such as the Roman Aqueduct. Although the heating systems involving a furnace produce some carbon emissions, the ancient Korean heating system ‘Ondol’ was far more efficient than our heating systems today, for they used the same heat created in the kitchen as they did in the other rooms whereas today we have a separate heating realm for the kitchen to cook with.

Also because of the intricacies of the system it meant that the smoke would stay trapped beneath the floor without cooling, meaning the floor would still stay heated long after the furnace had gone out. Although these systems may seem outdated perhaps we could reflect back on our ancestor’s efficiency whilst we’re in such a climate crisis.

Mitchells – Creating that work wince 1905

Although we have moved on from fitting aqueducts, or the Ondol system, we do still take temperature control in your home very seriously. Our team of professional heating engineers and ac conditioner installers prioritise safety and your individual needs bespoke to your homes. We even build these systems using innovative components that provide each client with perfect control over the temperature of their environment. To find out more about how we install your air conditioning please click here. And to contact us please fill in the form on our website and our team will be happy to answer any questions that you may have about your heating or AC system

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