Get To Know the Women Who Transformed the World of Heating & Cooling
March is Women’s History Month – a time to commemorate and reflect on the women who have positively changed society throughout history. The most famous examples are art, science, sports, government, and the equal rights movement. But the world of HVAC-R (heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration) also has female pioneers. So keep reading to learn about the women whose innovations in heating and cooling have had a profound and lasting impact on everyday life – and the HVAC industry itself!
Women In Today’s HVAC-R Industry
Today, women make up around 9% of the HVAC-R industry. While it may not seem like very much, that number is dramatically higher than it was just a couple of decades ago – and continues to rise. Discrimination and stereotypes have kept women out of the HVAC labor force for a long time. However, that’s slowly changing as companies actively reach out to young women to fill positions as technicians, installers, salespeople, engineers, and managers.
Some organizations, such as the renowned Women In HVACR, offer apprenticeship programs, scholarships, education, and other resources to help incentivize young women to begin careers in heating and cooling. With all of the growing support and opportunities, it’s no surprise that there are more and more women-owned HVAC companies each year!
Alice H. Parker and the Gas Furnace
Before the HVAC industry was even off the ground, there was Alice H. Parker. Born in 1895, Parker graduated with honors from Howard University Academy, a high school attached to the historically all-black university. In 1919, inspired by her fireplace’s inability to keep her home warm through the cold New Jersey winters, Parker devised a furnace that would revolutionize home heating systems forever.
Parker’s design was a central heating system that used natural gas rather than wood or coal, the prevailing fuel type at the time. Another key thing that set her gas furnace apart from other early designs was that it utilized multiple burners connected to separate ducts, each of which could be controlled independently. This paved the way for the “zone heating” systems used today.
While her patent never saw wide-scale production, it laid the foundation for modern gas furnaces. Making her achievement even more impressive is that Parker, a Black woman, filed her patent and became an influential figure long before the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements.
Margaret Ingels and Her Impact On Air Conditioning
Around the time of Parker’s patent, another young woman was coming into her own as an HVAC pioneer. Margaret Ingels was born in Kentucky in 1892 and developed an interest in science and engineering early on. In 1916, she graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, making her the first woman to earn an engineering degree at that university and the second to do so in America.
A few years later, Ingels got her Mechanical Engineering professional degree (another historic first for a woman) and began her career in HVAC. She worked in the American Society of Heating and Ventilation Engineers research lab for years, developing devices and methods for measuring indoor air quality in schools and other public buildings. She then worked for the Carrier-Lyle Corporation (now known as Carrier, one of the world’s largest HVAC manufacturers), where she helped pioneer the sling psychrometer – a device used to measure humidity levels – among other valuable contributions to air conditioning and ventilation systems.
Long after she died in 1971, Margaret Ingels continues to be a role model and inspiration for young women interested in pursuing careers in engineering and HVAC-R!
About Atlas Home Service
Founded in 2011, Atlas Home Service has quickly developed a reputation as one of Alexandria, LA’s most reliable and highly-rated HVAC companies. As a family-owned and woman-operated business, they proudly offer up-front pricing, membership perks, and emergency service when needed. Their friendly and punctual technicians are licensed, insured, background-checked, and drug-tested, so homeowners can rest easy when they call Atlas for HVAC repair and maintenance in Alexandria, Louisiana!