The Evolution of Heat Pumps in Paradise, NV

While the furnace and air conditioner in a traditional HVAC system act according to different principles, heat pumps can both heat and cool an area by reversing the same process. Let’s look at how such a technical marvel came to make life comfortable for millions of homeowners in Paradise, NV, and beyond.

Earliest Devices and Discoveries

Before the Industrial Revolution, humankind had very little technology to cool or heat rooms. People could do little more than build open fires or burn wood in furnaces for heating. For cooling, people from the time of Ancient Egypt would build large rooms with high ceilings in an effort to spread out the heat in the air.

In the first century CE, there’s evidence of the Romans using a large underground heating system called a hypocaust to heat public buildings. The Chinese inventor Ding Huan also built a massive mechanical fan in the second century CE. Sadly, no one advanced beyond these devices for many centuries.

Refrigeration Made Advances

In 1558, Giambattista Della Porta conducted experiments where he swiftly cooled water with potassium nitrite. Cornelis Drebbel also built a giant cooling machine and demonstrated its power in Westminster Abbey in 1620. Benjamin Franklin created a design for a cast iron furnace in 1742 and later found that evaporating alcohol could rapidly cool an area.

Finally, Americans Charles Evans and John Gorrie created cooling machines during the first half of the 19th century. Evans performed his work in 1805, and Gorrie got patents for his creations in 1851.

Key Breakthroughs

Refrigeration technology seemed to gradually advance through the first half of the 19th century, but this only accounts for half of what heat pumps do. Indoor heating technology also moved forward at this time, but all resulting devices were either radiators or furnaces, which function differently than what heat pumps would eventually exploit. This all started to change thanks to a critical discovery that the British physicist William Thomson, better known as Lord Kelvin, made in 1852.

Through his investigations into thermodynamics, Kelvin found that it’s theoretically possible to take any process that might cool a room and reverse it to generate heating. It didn’t take long before others would find applications for this idea. In 1856, the Austrian engineer Peter von Rittinger created the first-ever heat pump.

Von Rittinger’s machine had exclusively industrial applications. It would evaporate moisture from Austrian salt marshes, making salt extraction much easier. Residential use would have to wait until the 20th century.

Enter the Modern Heat Pumps

English engineer John Sumner built the world’s first water-source heat pump in 1945. Sumner’s design was brilliant and innovative for its time, but in the immediate aftermath of World War II, there was little interest in electrically powered home comfort systems because England had plenty of coal. Nevertheless, Sumner installed a heat pump in his own home during the 1950s, amply proving that the system could work.

American engineer Robert Webber built a geothermal heat pump three years after Sumner’s invention. Although he borrowed Sumner’s ideas, Webber created his device almost accidentally. He was tinkering around with his freezer and trying to increase its power when some scalding water from the device burned his hand, giving him his idea.

Unfortunately, the heat pump remained in limbo until the 1970s. Because of the energy crisis that hit the world at that time, governments everywhere began subsidizing technology and research that promised to generate energy efficiently while using as few fossil fuels as possible. By the 1980s, heat pump efficiency standards were rising, and digital thermostats also emerged during that decade.

Our team of experts can guide you in choosing a heat pump system that fits your needs. If you’d like a consultation for your home in Paradise, NV, call Super Service Cooling & Heating and ask about our heat pump services.

Image provided by iStock

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