History of the Air Conditioner

History of the air conditioner

For many homeowners, especially those in Sacramento, the air conditioner is a vital part of summer living. But how was life before A? Believe it or not, central air conditioning is a relatively new invention, less than 120-years-old.  Without this technology, the world would look very different. There probably wouldn’t be year round, sustainable life in Central California without an AC. Since the temperatures are climbing and it’s easy to take your AC for granted, we’re sharing the history of the air conditioner.

The Early Years

For millennia people have been trying to figure out how to cool indoor spaces. The ancient Romans were some of the first on record to attempt such a feat. One of the great achievements of the Romans was their vast aqueduct system. A Roman noble had an idea that if they pumped cool water into their walls, they could achieve a cool living space. There is no record of anyone trying this after, so we’re assuming it didn’t really work.

The next noted attempt was a success! Around 180 AD a Chinese craftsman named Ding Huan invented the first room-sized rotary fan. In fact, we still use a version of this rotary fan today. The fan Huan invented was large enough to cool a sizable indoor space, but a person always had to be manually running it. After this discovery, there were no notable advancements in cooled air technology during this era. People primarily used hand fans to escape the heat.

A New Age of AC

Did you know that air conditioning wasn’t invented to keep people cool, as the name implies, it was made to condition. In this case, condition paper. In 1902, a young engineer named Willis Carrier was given a task by the Buffalo Forge Company. The company printed posters and the high humidity from New York City’s summers would warp the paper and printing. Carrier was tasked with finding a solution. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Carrier attempted to offset the humidity by using “an industrial fan to blow air over steam coils filled with cold water; the excess humidity would then condense on the coils and produce cool air.” After his initial invention and patent, Carrier continued to pioneer treated air.

Though advancements in treated air were being made at a business level, it wasn’t until 1904 that the general population experienced air conditioning. In an effort to beat the St. Louis heat and humidity, engineers rigged a large building with electric motors that powered a compressor and blower system at the World’s Fair. After people experienced treated air for the first time, they wanted more.

Air Conditioning as We Know It

Throughout the 1900s and into the 1920s Carrier was continually working to improve cooled air technology. In 1922 Carrier debuted his centrifugal chiller, a central compressor that could make cooling systems smaller and much more effective. In 1925, Carrier invented the summer blockbuster. The Rivoli theatre in New York City’s Times Square approached Carrier to install the first movie theater AC. The prospect of a cool, dark place during the hot summer brought hundreds of New Yorkers to the movies. As movie houses across the country followed suit and brough in their own AC units, Hollywood took note and released their most anticipated movies during the summer months.

While advancements were being made in cooled air technology, most Americans couldn’t afford one of the first expensive, bulky units. It wasn’t until after WWII that AC became accessible to the average American. Factories that had built materials for the war effort were converted to AC factories, making portable, affordable units that most people could own.

What Would the World Look Like Without AC?

AC is no longer a luxury. As humans grow more used to artificially cooled air, our tolerance for natural heat continually goes down. Our entire country would look incredibly different without the air conditioning advancements we have today. Many workers across the Southern US would continue to be forced to take a summer hiatus because the heat would make it impossible to work. States like Arizona, Florida, and Texas wouldn’t be popular destinations unless air conditioning became accessible for most homeowners. Without Willis Carrier and the advancements, he made in treated air, our lives would look very different.

Need an AC Upgrade? Call the Experts at Bell Brothers

Is your air conditioner 15 years or older? Then it could be time for an upgrade. When you’re ready, don’t hesitate to reach out to the HVAC experts at Bell Brothers. We proudly serve Sacramento, Stockton, Vacaville, and surrounding communities. Our technicians are smart, polite, and ready to help at a moment’s notice. To schedule your service, call the number at the top of the screen.