Air Conditioning: A History
Willis Haviland Carrier was the brains behind the modern concept of air conditioning but before his invention became a reality, many came forward with the idea of a machine that served the purpose of cooling, though changes in the design were tinkered differently to Carrier’s design. So we can mark the anniversary of Carrier’s fantastic invention, we’re going to take a brief look back at the long story – and history – of air conditioning.
1758: Benjamin Franklin and Cambridge University professor John Hadley discovered that the evaporation of alcohol and other liquids evaporate faster than water and in turn they can cool down an object enough to freeze the water.
1820: It was a case of dé ja vu for inventor Michael Faraday who made the same discovery as Franklin and Hadley some 62 years later in England. This was achieved through the compression and liquidity of ammonia.
1830s: Dr. John Gorrie makes a huge breakthrough in the case of air conditioning but it comes to no avail. Whilst working at a Florida hospital, Dr. Gorrie created an ice-making machine that uses the compression to make buckets of ice, then blowing air over them. He patented the idea in 1851, with the dream of cooling buildings throughout the world. Lack in financial backing was to blame for the failure of his invention and the world would have to wait much, much longer for A/C.
1881: President James Garfield is shot by an assassin on July 2 in 1881, so naval engineers built a makeshift cooling unit in order to keep him cool and comfortable simultaneously. The device is a simple design, with water-soaked cloth filling the inside whilst a fan blows hot air overhead, keeping cool air much closer to the ground. The good news behind the project is that the device can achieve lower room temperatures of up to 20F, but unfortunately President Garfield still dies. Oh and the machine used a massive half-million pounds of ice in just TWO months.
1902: Willis Carrier invented the ‘Apparatus for Treating Air’ at a time where he was working for the Sackett-Wilhelms Litographing and Publishing company in New York. The machine is designed to blow air over cold coils, which can control both room temperature and humidity. The device keeps paper from wrinkling as well as aligning the ink where it’s supposed to be. After discovering that other factories want to use the cooling technology, Carrier establishes the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America.
1906: Stuart Cramer creates a ventilating device that gives the ability to add water vapour to the air in textile factories. The humidity makes yarn easier to spin and reduces the chance of breakages. Cramer is the first person to call this process “air conditioning.”
1914: Air conditioning came to the home for the first time in history. The unit is installed in Minneapolis, inside the mansion of Charles Gates. The air conditioning unit is approximately 7 feet high, 6 feet wide and 20 feet long. It’s a great possibility that the unit went unused because no one actually ever lived inside the house.
1931: H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman are responsible for inventing an individual room air conditioner which sits on your window ledge. This design is common place in apartment buildings ever since. The units are available for purchase and are purchased by those who are least likely to experience a hectic, sweaty life – the rich. A large cooling system would cost between $10,000-$50,000, which is equivalent to $120,000 to $600,000 in today’s money!
1939: Packard invents the first air-conditioned car, which allows a relaxing ride for those inside. Dashboard controls for the onboard A/C would come later. For now, given the passenger would get chilly, the driver would have to stop the engine, open the hood and disconnect a compressor belt.
1942: The US builds its first power plant, named a “summer peaking” plant. It’s built to handle the ever growing electrical load that air conditioning demands.
1950s: After World War II, the economic boom finally happens as residential air conditioning becomes available to many. Over 1 million units are sold in 1953 alone.
1970s: The window units of air conditioning lose points as central air comes along. The units consist of a three main components: condenser, coils and a fan. Air gets drawn in, passed over the coils and then blasted through the ventilation system.
So, what do you think of our look into the history of air conditioning? Tell us in the comments below!