A Short History Of Air Conditioning
- The idea of cooling down the air in one’s home was conceived long before the technology was available to produce this cool air. In fact the first attempt to build an air conditioner was made by Dr. John Gorrie, a doctor from Apalachicola Florida, way the 1830’s. He used a fan to blow air over a bucket of ice to help cool hospital rooms of patients suffering from yellow fever and malaria.
- Naval Engineers constructed a wooden box in 1881 containing cloths dipped in ice water with again a fan blowing over them to assist in easing the suffering of dying President James Garfield. With this contraption the engineers were able to lower the room temperature by 20 degrees Fahrenheit but a very high cost. They used over five hundred thousand pounds of ice in only two months’ time.
- It wasn’t until 1902 that an American named Willis Haviland Carrier designed a close predecessor to our modern air conditioner units. He wasn’t sure just how much interest there was going to be, so he staged a boxing match to attract a crowd and used that somewhat rowdy occasion to show off his new invention. He called the machine at the time the “Apparatus for Treating Air” and he considered it a success when he was contracted to install one for the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithography and Publishing Company in Brooklyn New York. He used cooling coils to both cool the air and lower the humidity down to as much as 55%.
- After Carrier’s invention air conditioners really began to take off in the industrial field. Manufactures such as textile mills, pharmaceutical companies, printing mills, and some hospital began installing this new technology into their buildings.
- It wasn’t until 1914 that the first residence, the Charles Gates mansion, in Minneapolis was equipped with mechanical air conditioning. During the first few models of Carrier’s air conditioners, the units were large and very expensive and residential air conditioning remained a novelty for the rich and famous.
- Carrier however continued to work on his pride and joy and in 1922 had two major breakthroughs. He replaced the toxic ammonia he used as a refrigerant with the much more benign coolant dyeline and added a compressor to drastically reduce the size of the unit.
- 1925 turned out to be Carrier’s biggest year yet when he began selling his invention to movie theaters and in 1925 to the Rivoli on Broadway in New York City.
- Shortly following, air conditioners were being installed in railroad cars, office buildings, and department stores.
- In 1928 the US House of Representatives had air conditioners installed with the Senate, White House and Supreme Court following soon after.
- In the late 1940’s window air conditioning units appeared with sales increasing from around 74,000 in 1948 to over one million in 1953.
- Finally in 1952 a builder in St. Louis decided to take a chance and offer air conditioning systems in his new housing development – the entire subdivision was sold out in just two weeks.
- Today more than 27 million homeowners enjoy central air conditioning and another 17 million have multiple units in their home.
- 75% of all homes being built in the United States today come equipped with central air conditioning.
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