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The History of Air Conditioning

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Until the 20th century, only individuals of wealth or those who were on their death bed in a hospital might have experienced the cooling of air indoors. Here are the key events throughout history that shaped air conditioning as we know it today:

1851 – The industrial revolution brought along a number of new inventions incredibly fast, and Air Conditioning came about with the invention of the mechanical refrigeration system by Dr. John Gorrie. The Florida physician used compressor technology to create ice, which he used to cool air for his patients in his hospital. These compressors evolved to eventually be powered by water, wind-driven sails, or steam.

1902 The world’s first modern air conditioning system was invented by an engineer named Willis Carrier. After graduating from Cornell University, Carrier found a job at the Buffalo Forge Company. And that’s where he began experimenting with air conditioning – in response to an air quality issue at the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company. Designed to improve the manufacturing process in a printing plant, Carrier’s invention controlled not only temperature but also humidity. Carrier used his knowledge of the heating of objects with steam and reversed the process. By cooling the air he was able to adjust the amount of moisture in the air, which in turn made the humidity in the room controllable. The controlled temperature and humidity helped maintain consistent paper dimensions and ink alignment. Later, Carrier’s technology was applied to increase productivity in the workplace, and The Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America was formed to meet rising demand. Over time, air conditioning came to be used to improve comfort in homes and automobiles as well.

1906 Engineer and architect, Stuart W. Cramer of Charlotte, North Carolina was exploring ways to add moisture to the air in his textile mill. It was Cramer who coined the term “air conditioning”, using it in a patent claim he filed that year as an analog to “water conditioning”, then a well-known process for making textiles easier to process. He combined moisture with ventilation to “condition” and change the air in the factories to improve the efficiency of cotton spinning, which reduced yarn breakage. As an added benefit, the air conditioning made the workers more comfortable throughout the workday.

1914 The first private home to have air conditioning was built in Minneapolis, owned by Charles Gates. He had great foresight that air conditioning would one day be a standard feature of private residences, especially in regions with a warmer climate. David St. Pierre DuBose designed a network of ductwork and vents for his home, all hidden by intricate and attractive Georgian-style open moldings. This building is believed to be one of the first private homes in the United States equipped for central air conditioning.

1945 Robert Sherman of Lynn, Massachusetts invented a portable, in-window air conditioner that cooled, heated, humidified, dehumidified, and filtered the air.

The 1950s In the years following WW2, sales of residential air conditioners skyrocketed. And by the 1950s, air conditioning became more and more popular in homes across the United States.

Today it’s unusual for a home or apartment to be without air conditioning.

Over the last 170 years, Air Conditioning has evolved to become more energy-efficient and cost-effective than ever before. I’d say we’ve come a long way, wouldn’t you?

Learn more about the Types of Air Conditioners we use today.

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