The start of 2016 has brought big blasts of winter to the Waterloo Region. From frigid temperatures to icy conditions it’s no wonder everyone is seeking out the solace of their heated homes.

In a little over 100 years, furnace technology has significantly advanced to improve our at home comfort. Heck, we wouldn’t be able to live in Canada without this technology! But who invented it? How long did it take? Where did it come from? Let’s take a look.

1885: Radiators

For about 100 years home heating in North America was dominated by wood and it really wasn’t until 1885 that this changed.

By the end of the 19th century the invention of low cost cast iron radiators would bring central heating to homes. At about the same time, in 1885, Dave Lennox built the industry’s first steel coal furnace. His invention transported heat by natural convection (warm heated air rising) through ducts from the basement furnace to the rooms above. How clever!

Fun fact: These furnaces helped households move away from burning wood to the more efficient coal. Don’t worry Joey, this shocked us too! 


Late 1880s: Building the Bunsen

Even with Lennox’s advances many were still struggling to stay warm and continued to develop new technologies. It was the late 1880s when German inventor Robert Bunsen’s burner technology came on the scene. He was the first person to create an open flame to produce heat without soot, fuelling the development of gas, propane and oil fired heating systems. Pilot lights on gas-powered furnaces are a great example of this technology and are still used today.

1905: Exciting Electricity

In 1905, American Albert Marsh discovered the metal chrome, allowing him to construct a heating element 300x stronger than others on the market. Dubbed “the father of the electrical heating industry,” March’s heaters converted electricity to heat that could warm individual rooms.

Similar to pilot lights, electrical heating technology has changed very little and is still produced and used the same way.

1919: Wonderful Wall Furnaces

It was Alice Parker who invented the first central heating system that we have all come to know and appreciate. Her work allowed homeowners to regulate the temperature of their central heating systems and heat their homes more efficiently.

Fun fact: Her invention led to the first coal fuelled, electric fan and ductwork distributed forced air wall furnace around 1935.

Today’s Technology

There are many different options available to heat your home, from oil to natural gas, electricity and even geothermal technologies. Plus, today’s programmable thermostats allow for the fine-tuning of temperatures, giving you more control over your home environment than ever before.  

If you have questions about your furnace, please don’t hesitate to contact your trusted Waterloo Region HVAC professionals at Afterglow. Also, remember that your furnace needs professional maintenance every year as well, so don’t forget to schedule your tune-up!

When cold wind is blowing outside and the temperature drops below freezing, we are grateful for the warmth and comfort that furnaces provide.


Afterglow. Water, warmth, well-being.