The History of Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is a luxury, especially down here in the South. 8-9 months out of the year, it is unbearable to be outside for longer than 5 minutes. We don’t even think about what life would be like without our trusty thermostat and cold air blowing from the vents. One thing is definite: Air conditioning didn’t happen overnight. Let’s take a look at how air conditioning got to where it is today.

Beginnings

In the 1840’s a physician and inventor named Dr. John Gorrie believed that cooler temperatures would lead people to live healthier lives. He believed that the heat was a reason that people suffered from malaria. Gorrie’s plan to cool rooms required ice to be shipped in from frozen lakes and rivers. While it’s not a bad idea, it’s not an economical one. Trucking and manpower costs were through the roof. In response to that, he devised a way to create ice by using a compressor driven by a horse, wind or steam. This invention laid the groundwork for air conditioning.

Humidity

A man with a name you may recognize, William Carrier, took Gorrie’s invention to the next level. He created a way to remove humidity out of the air and ‘condition’ it to a cooler temperature. He patented a system for regulating humidity and temperature of air in textile mills. This is the beginning of the air conditioning boom!

Commercial Uses

After Carrier patented the air conditioner, it was used to cool industrial warehouses, theaters and government buildings. In 1904, the St. Louis World’s Fair, which had a 1,000-seat auditorium, was air conditioned!

Home Uses

in 1929, Frigidaire patented a split-system that was small enough to put inside of a house. The drawback of this unit was that it had to have a separate condensing unit.

H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman patented an air conditioning unit that could be installed on a window ledge. In 1932, it was put on the market, but did not sell well, due to the high costs.

By 1947, 43,000 systems, created by Henry Galson, were sold. Homeowners could enjoy air conditioning without having to make expensive upgrades!

In the 1970s, with air conditioning widespread across the nation, energy consumption reached it’s peak. This crisis forced AC manufacturers to make advancements in efficiency to use less energy and provide the same amount of cold air.

In 1992, the US Government passed regulations that will see a $29 billion dollar savings in electric usage. In fact, AC units nowadays are upwards of 50% more efficient than units manufactured in 1980!

 

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