The History of Air Conditioning

In today’s America, air conditioning is often taken for granted. In fact, according to the Energy Information Administration, 100 million American homes have air conditioners, adding up to 87% of all American households. However, it has not always been like that, and it took almost two centuries and numerous smart brains to invent today’s beloved air conditioner.

Primitive air conditioning started long before the United States were created, when wealthy citizen in the ancient Rome circulated cool water through the walls of their homes to keep the temperature down. The emperor Elagabalus took it so far as to import large amounts of snow from mountains via donkey trains to keep his villa cool during the summer months. Five thousand miles away, the Chinese used, and still use, hand fans to keep cool, and in the third century, a Chinese invented the fist room-sized rotary fan.

In the United States however, air conditioning did not become a popular topic until the 1840s when physician and inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Florida experimented with cooling systems as he believed cooling was the key to avoid diseases. His invention, a compressor powered by a horse, water, wind, or steam, was granted a patent in 1851. However, insufficient funding put the project on ice.

In 1902, engineer Willis Carrier picked the project back up and invented the first modern electric air conditioner to solve humidity problems that caused magazine pages to wrinkle at a publishing company in Brooklyn. He continued working on this project and created a humidity control system which sends air through water-cooled coils. Willis Carrier soon realized that this new invention could benefit many industries. In fact, many theatres used his invention to create a comforting atmosphere for its customers during the summer months. Soon after, many industries picked up this project, and this is how air conditioned department stores, rail cars, and offices came about.

Numerous engineers experimented with this new cooling system and it took them several decades to bring this new invention into American households. Engineer Henry Galson set a milestone by inventing a smaller and cheaper version of the air conditioner. It was his invention that made air conditioners in American households possible.

These systems are continuously improving and adapting to smart technologies. In the 21st century, having air conditioners in American households is no longer a luxury. According to a survey of American Society of Mechanical Engineer’s members, the air conditioner was named among the 10 greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century.

Doug’s Heating and Air Conditioning equips you with the most recent air conditioning technologies. Give us a call for consultation at 309-764-2500.