The History of Air Conditioning

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Imagine, it is the middle of a sweltering summer. Temperatures have been in the high 90’s for days and the humidity is so high it feels like it is over 100 degrees.

Most of us are not fazed by this scenario because our immediate solution is to retreat to our air-conditioned homes. But, what would you do if air conditioning didn’t exist?

Let’s look at the history of air conditioning and how it evolved into what is today.

Before air conditioning was invented, people had to endure the heat of summer. People had limited ways to keep cool. Homes were designed with more windows and higher ceilings to allow better air flow. Additionally, many homes had sleeping porches with beds so families could sleep outside and catch a cool breeze.

It was common to take naps during the heat of the day, carry hand fans, and swim.

The first air conditioning unit was invented by Willis Carrier in 1902 when he was tasked with solving a humidity problem that caused magazine pages to wrinkle.

It wasn’t until 1914 that units were installed in residential homes. Early air conditioners cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 and were 7 feet high, 6 feet wide, and 20 feet long.

By 1920 a big breakthrough in cooling technology came when air conditioning was installed in movie theaters. People flocked to the theaters and air conditioning became an attraction itself.

Technology continued to advance and in 1931 the first room air conditioner was invented. Like modern window units, the air conditioner sat on a window ledge.

Finally, in 1953, air conditioning units began to make it into most American homes. People saw it as a status symbol because it was a luxury, not every family could afford.

Today the Energy Information Administration estimates that 100 million American homes (87% of households) have air conditioning. As technology advances, today’s manufacturers are about to develop cooling technology that is more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Over the past 100 years, air conditioning has come a long way and has significantly impacted our economy and daily lives. Without air conditioning hospitals and the advancement of modern medicine would not be possible. The development of the entire IT industry may have never happened.

All we can say is, thank you Willis Carrier!