If you’re like most people in Hanahan, SC, you probably don’t give your air conditioning system much thought. However, for thousands of years, figuring out how to cool indoor air remained a real concern. Here’s the history of air conditioners and how they’ve become indispensable today.
Ancient Air Conditioning
Like people in modern times, ancient people also looked for ways to stay cool. Ancient Egyptians and Persians constructed wind catchers, which were large towers with openings that faced the prevailing winds and funneled air down to subterranean pools of water to cool buildings. Similarly, ancient Romans used aqueducts to try to stay cool.
However, modern air conditioners didn’t get their start until a little more than 100 years ago. People now expect cooled interiors whether they’re at home or visiting shops.
The Birth of Modern Air Conditioners
The idea behind air conditioning in modern times initially originated with Dr. John Gorrie, a Florida inventor and physician. During the 1840s, Dr. Gorrie worked to create a system for cooling air because he believed heat exposure caused many illnesses. He patented a horse-powered compressor to create ice, but his financial backer died before he could build it.
The true birth of modern air conditioning came in 1902 through the work of Willis Carrier. An engineer, Carrier worked to develop a solution to wrinkled pages at a lithography and publishing company.
Carrier created a system that could dehumidify air by cooling water or add humidity by heating it. He patented a system of automatic controls to reduce the humidity and temperature in textile mills.
Carrier realized his mechanical air conditioner would likely have broad appeal. He joined with six other engineers, left his job and started the Carrier Engineering Corporation.
Air Conditioners Come to the Market
Following Carrier’s invention, air conditioning took off following the 1904 St. Louis World Fair. The World Fair cooled a 1,000-seat auditorium using Carrier’s air conditioning system. By the 1920s, movie theaters everywhere installed air conditioners to cool their viewing areas.
However, the design of these early systems relied on floor vents that left people on the bottom floor cold while those in the balconies remained hot. Carrier’s company solved this problem in 1922 by installing higher vents in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Theater.
Also in 1922, Carrier debuted a new air conditioning design in New York. This system relied on a centrifugal chiller, which helped to reduce the cost and size of air conditioners. With this change, air conditioners became more accessible to everyone.
Air Conditioning for the Masses
Air conditioned homes became more feasible with Frigidaire’s split-system room air conditioner in 1929. The system’s small size made it much better for home use, but its heaviness and expense kept it out of reach for most people.
General Electric followed suit with its own room air conditioners in the early 1930s. However, the synthesis of non-flammable chlorofluorocarbons refrigerants by two scientists at General Motors made air conditioners substantially safer, representing a true breakthrough in widespread home air conditioning.
By the 1960s, many new homes included central air conditioning systems. Window units became much more affordable, leading to the widespread adoption of mechanical air conditioners.
Concern about ozone depletion led to the phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons as the refrigerant of choice for air conditioning systems through the 1990 Montreal Protocols. While hydrofluorocarbons replaced them, scientists later linked them to climate change. This finding spurred the development of new, more environmentally friendly refrigerants and cooling technologies.
Modern air conditioning systems ensure that residents of Hanahan, SC, remain comfortably cool during the hot summer months. The long history of humanity’s search for a way to condition air demonstrates the importance of the quality AC installation services provided by our service technicians. To learn more about our expert air conditioning installation and other services, call Berkeley Heating & Air Conditioning today.
Image provided by iStock