Imagine waking up each day to start a fire in the main rooms of your house instead of a central furnace system. In the early 1900s, life was like that for virtually everyone. Then, in 1919, Alice H. Parker developed one of the first concepts of the home heating system we know today. Her idea conceived of a central control, or thermostat, and the forced air gas furnace system so familiar to us.   

Furnace Pioneer: Alice H. Walker

Alice H. Parker was an African-American woman who was born in 1895 in Morristown, New Jersey. She attended Howard University Academy in Washington, D.C. The high school academy was an offshoot of Howard University, which was a common educational practice at the time.

In 1910, Parker graduated from Howard University Academy with honors. It’s said she found her design inspiration in the cold New Jersey winters. She felt there was a more effective method to heat a home than a fireplace, which was often labor-intensive and aggravated breathing conditions.

Her invention eliminated the need to venture outdoors to chop or buy more wood. In addition, it reduced the risk of house fires because fireplaces were no longer needed to burn overnight.

Early Central Furnace Concept

On December 23, 1919, Parker filed her patent for her heating system invention. Her design allowed for cool air to be pulled into the furnace, where it was heated by natural gas combustion.

The warmed air would then be pulled from the heat exchanger through ducts to each room of the house. While Parker was not the first to imagine central heating as a concept, her idea to use natural gas was revolutionary. Previously, heaters used coal or wood.

Influence On Today’s Furnace

Unfortunately, not much is recorded about her life. Regardless, the filing of her patent pre-dates both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement.

Because of the many obstacles women and especially women of color faced, her patent for such an influential invention is phenomenal. Today, the majority of homes in the Midwest use natural gas to heat their homes.

According to a survey by the U.S. Energy Information Association, out of 26.4 million homes, 66 percent use natural gas and 77 percent of those homes use a central furnace. We owe Parker a lot.

So, on February 11, or National Inventors Day, thank the hard work by Parker to make gas furnaces a reality.

At Apollo Home, we are always encouraging the next generation of thinkers. We love the conversations within our Apollo Apprenticeship Program between veteran HVAC technicians and new apprentices joining the field.

We strongly believe in education, both for the well-being of our employees and for the customer. Our team is constantly educated to keep up with emerging technologies and the various brands.

When one of our HVAC technicians arrives at your door, he or she is capable of assessing the situation, weighing options and providing you with a complete plan for a resolution specific to your situation.

We’re proud of our team, our trainers and of the tradition we’ve carried for more than 100 years in the Cincinnati area.

Furnace Experts in Greater Cincinnati: Apollo Home

Next time you feel a chill, reach out to us. We’re happy to perform preventative maintenance, a furnace repair or if needed, a furnace replacement. For the most convenience and value, we suggest joining our Apollo Care Plan.

This maintenance agreement includes two tune-ups for your heating and cooling system each year as well as additional benefits like priority scheduling through a VIP phone number. Call us or submit an online form today to schedule a visit from Apollo Home.