09 Apr Heating History: The Natural Gas Furnace
There are so many choices for heating your home or business in the 21st century. Years ago, however, it was a difficult task to provide enough warmth to survive long cold winters. In the past, families utilized individual fireplaces to heat their homes. From a modern perspective, fireplaces sound like a great option for home heating – until you realize how high maintenance they can be. An open fire is dangerous enough, but add to that the constant stoking of the flames and adding coal or firewood day and night to keep it going, a fireplace can be quite labor intensive, especially as it doesn’t heat the whole home. Unless you were lucky enough to have a fireplace or coal furnace in every room and staff to tend to them, families would often still be uncomfortable during the night.
In order to streamline home heating, fireplaces became more decorative. The natural gas furnace, with its blower fan, combustion chamber, and ducts, was ultimately a collection of different individually engineered components compiled into one invention. So you may wonder, who was able to design this complex piece of machinery? The 1919 patent belongs to one Alice H. Parker, an African American woman from New Jersey.
Alice H. Parker, inventor of the natural gas furnace
Unfortunately, Alice H. Parker’s life is a bit of a mystery. There is little information about her early life, and even her exact birth date is unclear. What we do know is that she was born in the year 1895 and grew up in Morristown, New Jersey. In 1910, she earned a certificate with honors from the Howard University Academy, a high school in Washington, D.C. Alice was one of the first African American women to be granted a patent. This was an extremely significant milestone due to the fact that her patent predated both the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Liberation Movement (Blackpast.org).
Improvements to central heating
Central heating did exist before Alice Parker was born. In fact, the hypocaust system that heated a home utilizing underground fires was used as far back as Ancient Rome. However, Alice’s central heating system patent was significant for its use of natural gas, which was a brand new innovation for the 1920s. Her natural gas furnace called for pulling cool air in and using a heat exchanger to push warm air out through ducts. The ducts would then move heat to another room in the home. It was particularly convenient because it did not require the same upkeep as fireplaces or coal furnaces.
The natural gas furnace in the 21st century
Though Alice Parker’s exact design was not implemented, her patent paved the way for the modern natural gas furnace we still use today. The idea of using the natural gas furnace to heat a home picked up in popularity in the 1940’s, and has remained one of the most used central heating systems since (How Products Are Made).
Heating certainly has come a long way since Alice H. Parker first invented the natural gas furnace. New technologies are being implemented each year to improve heating and energy efficiency. With over 70 years of experience, OSI Comfort Specialists has the expert knowledge to keep your natural gas furnace or other central heating systems in excellent shape throughout the years. Give us a call at 516-763-1400 to schedule preventive maintenance or a new installation.