Saturday, November 24, 2012

Does This Sound Suspicious To You?

     Albert Butz of Minneapolis, the father of thermostatic control for home heating, engaged a firm of attorneys and patented his "damper flapper" in 1885.

     In 1886, he incorporated the Butz Thermoelecric Regulator Company...and by 1888, with no record extant showing as much as a single sale, he walked out; left for Chicago, having transferred his patent to the law firm -- who kept after the thermostat business, as the Consolidated Temperature Controlling Company, then as the Electric Thermostat Company. In August 1892, the latter sold a long list of patents to W. R. Sweatt, for one (1.00) dollar. Two months later, the stockholders changed the name again, to the Electric Heat Regulator Company and elected a fellow of who you may have heard, William R. Sweatt, as both Secretary and Treasurer.

     ...And that company chugged along for years under Mr. Sweatt, growing steadily, and changing its name (again!) in 1912 to The Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company, making mostly controls for coal-burning furnaces before merging in 1927 with Indiana's own Honeywell, which had been making hot-water heating systems; by that point, the two companies had come to a kind of patent deadlock and neither could move without use of the other one's patents.

     All that fishy business early on?  Despite the remarkable success of both firms by the time of the merger, early on, automatic control -- especially with a furnace you still had to hand-feed coal -- was a difficult thing to sell.  Albert Butz had a good idea but he may've felt lucky to get out from under.  W. R. Sweatt?  Maybe he knew a good idea when he saw it, or perhaps he was trying to protect the $5,300 his father-in-law had talked him into investing in the company; he already owned a small, profitable outfit making wooden items.  In either case, he spent over a decade trying to get the thing rolling and didn't collect a salary until 1895 -- issued retroactively the following year!

     Moral?  I'm not even sure there is one.  Maybe "know when not to give up?"

     (W.R. Sweatt seems to have had no knack for quitting.  Born in 1867, I can find no online evidence he's not still with us!)

     ...All that, and I still don't know if I want to replace the thermostat here or not.

8 comments:

BGMiller said...

How old is your thermostat?

The new programmable ones are kind of nice but they do need batteries.

BGM

Turk Turon said...

The best thermostats use a device invented by Bardeen, Brattain and [muttering under breath while typing] Shockley.

Old NFO said...

If it's over 5-7 years, I'd change it... Just sayin...

Bruce Edwards said...

By all means, change your thermostat. I changed mine a year or so ago and it made a world of difference in both the heating and AC. My heating contractor wanted over four hundred bucks to install "the only on I've got on the truck". I said NO!
I bought a round Honeywell heat/AC thermostat at my local hardware store for less the fifty bucks and put it in in less than an hour and I'm a hammer mechanic at best.

Bruce Edwards said...

By all means, change your thermostat. I changed mine a year or so ago and it made a world of difference in both the heating and AC. My heating contractor wanted over four hundred bucks to install "the only on I've got on the truck". I said NO!
I bought a round Honeywell heat/AC thermostat at my local hardware store for less the fifty bucks and put it in in less than an hour and I'm a hammer mechanic at best.

Jim Dunmyer said...

FWIW: When I was a kid, my Uncle had a hand-fired coal/wood furnace that had an automatic damper. It was some sort of electric operator, connected to the damper with a length of sash chain, and controlled by a conventional thermostat in the living area of the house.

wheelgun said...

I love the programmable ones. You may have more constant occupancy than I do, but I don't heat the place much by most folk's standard even when I am home.

Cheaper to heat 1 room, when I am net surfing, that heat the whole house. Only heat the whole house if television watching is planned.

In any event, keeping the heat minimal all day does cut down on the costs.

Andrew said...

How did you write that whole long post and resist descending into Beavis-and-Buttheadery? I was waiting for the shaggy-dog climax that never came.

Butz Sweatt, for the love of scatology! Butz Sweatt!

(There, that's better.)