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The History of Air Conditioning | Relief from the Heat

History of Air Conditioning

It’s hard to imagine life before air conditioning, but there was indeed a time when there was no quick relief from the heat.

In Western New York, we are no strangers to warm summers. The hot and humid days usually leave us seeking air conditioning, something that used to be considered a luxury and now seems more like an essential. It’s hard to imagine life before air conditioning, but there was indeed a time when there was no quick relief from the heat. To help you better understand and appreciate the cooling systems, we have briefly reviewed the history of air conditioning below.

The History of Air Conditioning

Air conditioning (also AC) is the process of removing heat and controlling humidity to achieve a more comfortable interior environment. Energy.gov has provided a brief insight into the history of air conditioning.

Air Conditioner: The Concept

To understand the history of air conditioning, you must first learn about how the concept came to be. In the 1840s, physician and inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Florida, proposed the idea of cooling cities to relieve residents of “the evils of high temperatures.” Gorrie believed that cooling was the key to avoiding diseases like malaria and making patients more comfortable. His rudimentary system for cooling hospital rooms required ice to be shipped to Florida from frozen lakes and streams in the northern United States.

To get around this expensive logistical challenge, Gorrie began experimenting with the concept of artificial cooling. He designed a machine that created ice using a compressor powered by a horse, water, wind-driven sails or steam and was granted a patent for it in 1851. Although Gorrie was unsuccessful at bringing his patented technology to the marketplace; his invention laid the foundation for modern air conditioning and refrigeration.

Modern Electrical Air Conditioner: The Invention

While working for the Buffalo Forge Company in 1902, Engineer Willis Carrier was tasked with solving a humidity problem that was causing magazine pages to wrinkle at Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn. Carrier designed a system that controlled humidity using cooling coils and secured a patent for his “Apparatus for Treating Air,” which could either humidify (by heating water) or dehumidify (by cooling water) air. He also created and patented an automatic control system for regulating the humidity and temperature of air in textile mills.

Carrier recognized that humidity control and air conditioning could benefit many other industries, and he broke off from Buffalo Forge, to form Carrier Engineering Corporation with six other engineers. This is the part in the history of air conditioning, where the public was introduced to the concept of the cooling systems.

Public Air Conditioning: The Introduction

In 1904, at the St. Louis World’s Fair, organizers used mechanical refrigeration to cool the Missouri State Building. This marked the first time the American public was exposed to the concept of comfort cooling.

In 1922, Carrier Engineering Corporation installed the first well-designed cooling system for theaters, at Metropolitan Theater in Los Angeles. This unit pumped cool air through high vents for better humidity control and comfort throughout the building. Later that year, at Rivoli Theater in New York, Carrier publicly debuted a new type of system that used a centrifugal chiller, which had fewer moving parts and compressor stages than existing units and increased the reliability and lowered the cost of large-scale air conditioners.

Air Conditioning for the Home: The Adoption

Frigidaire introduced a split-system room cooler to the marketplace in 1929 that was small enough for home use and shaped like a radio cabinet. The system was heavy, expensive and required a separate, remotely controlled condensing unit. General Electric’s Frank Faust improved on this design, and developed a self-contained room cooler.

In 1932, H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman introduced a smaller air conditioning unit that could be placed on a window ledge. These were expensive and not widely adapted; which led to Engineer Henry Galson going on to develop a more compact, inexpensive version of the window air conditioner. By 1947, 43,000 of these systems were sold. By the late 1960s, most new homes had central air conditioning, and window air conditioners were more affordable than ever.

The Rest is History

Air conditioning, as we know it today, is a result of the history of air conditioning that we reviewed above. By the late 1960s, most new homes had central air conditioning, and window air conditioners were more affordable, leading to now nearly 100 million American homes having some sort of air conditioning, representing 87 percent of all households, according to the Energy Information Administration.

At Duffett Plumbing, Heating & AC, we’re your team for reliable AC service in Hamburg, NY. In fact, we provide a variety of cooling services: Air Conditioning Repair, Air Conditioning Tune-Up, and New AC Systems.

Contact us today so we can be a part of the history of air conditioning for you and your Western New York home.