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A History of Air Ducts, Heating, and Cooling


If you are in the market for ducting systems for your business, we can help here at Flex Technologies. All of our silicone products (tubes, hoses, and ducting systems) are made to adhere to stringent quality standards of ISO 9001:2008, TS-16949. We are committed to quality and think that it shows in every single piece we ship. If you are interested in any of our silicone products, please feel free to reach out to us; we will be happy to help you make your decision, and will provide any information that you might need. In the meantime, for the history buffs out there, here is a quick history of air duct technology.

Where did air ducts come from?

We live in a world of modern technological marvels. Sometimes it can be easy to forget just how much work went into even the basic amenities we often take for granted. One of these is air ducts. How many people do you think could realistically endure the heat of the summer months without air conditioning? We think just about everyone south of the Mason Dixon line would be clamoring for cool air pretty fast. And, of course everybody needs heat in the freezing cold. Luckily, human beings figured out the basics of air ducts a long time ago with the use of chimneys and flues in China and Greece respectively starting around 700 AD. These allowed people to keep their buildings warm without filling them with harmful smoke.

This primitive form of heating was prevalent until 300AD, when the Romans invented the first ever recorded form of central heating. They did this by building a series of vertical tubes placed beneath tile floors. These tubs connected to a central wood furnace in the building, and would transfer hot air from the furnace to the floors where the ducts ended.

Fast forward to the Renaissance, and you can find a precursor to the modern radiator in the form of water pipes sending hot water or steam to provide a building with heat. This was the pinnacle of indoor heating until about the 19th century.

That covers how many ancient civilizations kept themselves warm in the cold months or environments, but what did they do in excessive heat? Probably the earliest form of indoor cooling comes from the ancient Egyptians, who would use wet reeds hung from their windows to cool their homes. The air that blew threw the reeds would be cooled by the water, which itself would evaporate and cool the home. It may not resemble modern air ducts, but it is part of the concept that Benjamin Franklin would build on when he discovered that evaporating alcohol could cool a space enough to freeze water. As chance would have it, this was around the time that Michael Faraday (of the Faraday cage fame) came to the exact same results, except using compressed and liquefied ammonia.

Modern Air Ducts

A huge advancement in home cooling came with the invention of a device by Carrier Air Conditioning company (that is still around today) that blew air over cold coils. This was in 1902. In 1906, the atomized sprayer was invented, which is a group of ducts filled with water that spray a fine mist to cool a building through evaporation, and was used primarily in textile manufacturing plants. Believe it or not, this device's use in textile mills is where the term "air conditioning" comes from.

Later on an even bigger breakthrough in air conditioning technology came in the form of Freon. With major Freon production, air conditioners could evaporate, condense, draw heat and moisture from air, and blow back cool air at a much faster rate. However, when Freon first hit the market, window air conditioning units could cost upwards of $150,000 (modern value). Luckily, after WWII air conditioning became a standard amenity, eventually developing into central air.

Hopefully you found this historical overview interesting, or at least a little enlightening. It has been a long time getting to where we are, and here at Flex Technologies, we are working daily to improve the quality of our silicone ducting systems and pass the benefits onto our clients. If you are looking for silicone products (tubes, hoses, and ducting systems), then feel free to check out our selection available for order online today. If you have any questions about our silicone products, please don't hesitate to give us a call. One of our friendly and knowledgeable team members will be happy to answer any questions you may have.