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Blogs from May, 2024

Fascinating Facts About Modern Thermostats: Brilliant Backstories You’ve Never Heard!

little girl programming a modern thermostat

little girl programming a modern thermostat

The coolness of this very hot invention

Have you ever thought about how cool it is that you can control the temperature around you with a simple turn of a dial or touch on a screen? Or how amazing it is that you can dictate exactly how hot or cold you want it and within minutes the temperature adjusts to your demands? The modern thermostat is an amazing device!

We’ve come a long way from when the only way to stay cool was to use hand fans and sit under the shade!

The thermostat, a device that has become an integral part of our daily lives, has a rich and intriguing history.

It all started with an egg incubator!

Ever heard of Cornelis Drebbel?

We have to thank this Dutch engineer and inventor from the early 1600s. He got the whole thermostat idea started when he invented a mercury-based device that regulated the temperature of a chicken incubator so that eggs would hatch.

Brilliant backstory:

Drebbel dabbled in many fields, including dye works, chemistry and alchemy.

As interesting as his experiments were, nothing tops his invention that we’re still using today, more than 400 years after he envisioned it: The SUBMARINE.

Two centuries later, advancements to heating happened

Along came Andrew Ure.

Andrew Ure was Scottish. He was a chemist who studied mechanics along with natural philosophy. He wanted to gauge the temperature of a room and create a bi-metallic thermostat where the metal would bend if the temperature dropped. Eventually, he used that thermostat to keep steam boilers warm.

Ure is most known, however, not for his work with temperature, but for his notorious experiments on corpses. Ure claimed that by using electrical impulses or other kinds of stimulation, he could cause corpses to breathe again.

Brilliant backstory:

Andrew Ure, creator of the bi-metallic room thermostat – and a man who wasn’t afraid of doing tests on dead bodies - was the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s groundbreaking novel, Frankenstein!

A Classroom teacher helped, too

A few decades later, in 1880, a Professor from Wisconsin named Warren Johnson became truly obsessed with regulating the temperature of the classrooms in which he taught. Winters in Wisconsin were cold, and he knew his students couldn’t concentrate if they were freezing. Johnson, not a scientist but a teacher with a curious mind, figured out a thermostat that would alert the janitor to adjust the heat damper located in the basement to control the temperature of his classroom.

Johnson filed for a patent for the electrical thermostat in July of 1883.

Brilliant backstory:

Warren Johnson, just a humble teacher who cared about his students’ comfort, invented a device that would drastically improve the quality of life for millions of people. His thermostat became the basis for Johnson Controls, founded in 1885 and now a multinational conglomerate spanning six continents with over 2000 locations and a revenue of more than 6.7 BILLION dollars!

What’s up with Albert Butz?

Around the same time as Warren Johnson, Albert Butz was also working to regulate temperatures. Butz immigrated to the United States from Sweden when he was eight, serving in Wisconsin’s infantry at the end of the Civil War.

Butz patented the first temperature regulator for ovens and a pioneering system called the damper flapper, which automatically regulated the air intake of coal furnaces in order to raise or lower the temperature. His invention was the origin of modern automatic temperature control systems.

Baffling backstory:

Albert Butz was more of an inventor than a businessman. Over his lifetime, he was granted 13 patents. Some patent attorneys encouraged him to create a company to sell his damper flapper, and in 1885, Butz with the help of several patent attorneys and investors – established the Butz Thermoelectric Regulator Company.

But here’s the baffling - not brilliant - backstory.

There is no record anywhere that any of his products ever sold.

Less than three years later, Butz abandoned the company he’d created in Minneapolis and moved to Chicago, leaving the patents in the hands of his lawyers.

In 1892, all of Butz’s patents were sold to a man named W.R. Sweatt for a total of $1.00!

More than twenty years after Butz created his automatic temperature controller, a young man named Mark Honeywell purchased Butz’s patent and developed a programmable thermostat.

The company that Butz founded was sold, resold, transitioned, and renamed multiple times, but eventually ended up as Honeywell, Incorporated, now headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina with an annual revenue of 36.7 BILLION dollars – all for a patent sold for less than $1.00!

Thermostats are getting smarter!

By the 1980s, thermostats included programmable scheduling features along with digital displays.

The thermostat market is shifting towards smart and connected thermostats. These devices offer the ability to control and monitor thermostats through mobile apps and voice assistants. The global thermostat market, valued at USD 5.6 billion in 2023, is projected to grow at a CAGR of 13.1% from 2024 to 2032.

Smart thermostats optimize heating and cooling systems, leading to more efficient energy use and cost savings for consumers.

Today, they can be used to monitor, schedule, adjust, and control the temperature of your home no matter where you are in the world.

The Brilliance of ServiceOne

ServiceOne knows thermostats! We can help you choose the perfect one for your home or business. A family-owned, veteran-owned local company, ServiceOne has more than two decades in the air conditioning and plumbing industry.

Call us.

We’ll give you the fascinating facts and brilliant backstories of any piece of HVAC or plumbing equipment you need!


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