In America today, almost 75% of homes have air conditioning units installed; it’s pretty easy to see that this has become more of a necessity than a luxury, right? Look around you when you go on holiday – your hotel room, the bars, restaurants, shops – they all have air conditioning installed, and what’s more, the number of Brits with air con units in their homes is steadily rising too. Global warming means temperatures are increasing, so this demand for air con is only going to continue – for some people, they likely couldn’t imagine life with it. So, where did air con begin? Well, we thought we would take you on a little history lesson with this blog!
This is where Will Carrier comes in. At the turn of the 20th century, Carrier was 25 years old and known to be an experimental engineer. His creative and experimental traits resulted in him creating a primitive cooling system that could effectively reduce humidity around a printing machine at Brooklyn’s Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographic and Publishing Company. The Company’s reputation was in trouble as humidity was impacting their high-quality colour printing; after a summer of warm weather they had suffered numerous swelling pages and blurry prints. However, thankfully for them, they discovered that a developing cooling industry could offer them some much needed help.
Carrier’s invention used an industrial fan which blew over steam coils of cold water – excess humidity would condense on the coils producing cooled air. This was great for the Company as their problem was solved and their reputation safe, but it was also noticed that this cooled air was making people feel more comfortable in their work, as the heat didn’t get to them quite so much – lightbulb moment!
Carrier was more than aware that his invention was not the most effective, and so he carried on making adjustments and experimenting, and, by 1922, he had produced the much safer, smaller and more powerful Centrifugal Refrigeration Compressor (the predecessor to modern air con!).
One of the first places to really make use of this in America was in movie theatres. These places were known for their stale, sweaty and unpleasant air, and so were therefore not overly attractive to the middle classes. In order to change this and make them appealing to the middle and upper classes, theatres began installing Carrier’s technology, producing more comfortable and pleasant environments for the public.
Air con has massively advanced since then, and when we look at air con units today we can’t help but be curious about how these will look and operate in 50 years time. So, the next time you turn on the air con to make yourself that little bit more comfortable, remember where it all started!
Reference – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/unexpected-history-air-conditioner-180972108/