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How did the Modern Home Air Conditioning System begin?

Posted on: July 26, 2014

It’s hard for Americans to imagine a world without modern home air conditioning. We take it for granted that our homes will be comfortably cooled when we wake up and return from work. We’re so accustomed to frigid indoor temperatures and expect shopping malls and movie theatres to be so cool that we often carry around sweaters and jackets or keep them at our workplaces to avoid becoming too cold.

It wasn’t too long ago, however, that people were doing the opposite: Going to great lengths to stay cool at home and work. Strategically placing windows, using draperies, running fans—these were just a few of the ways that people tried to stay cool.

Instead of taking your home air conditioning for granted, learn its history and appreciate your home comfort.

How did the modern home air conditioning system begin?

How did the Modern Home Air Conditioning System begin

Before Air Conditioning was Invented

Primitive methods of staying cool included using palm leaves to create a breeze to running fans powered by electricity. As far back as the third century, Roman Emperors charged their slaves with the task of transporting snow from the mountains in order to stay cool.

A few strategic innovations starting in the 1700s led to the development of the modern home air conditioning system as we know it today.

In the mid-1700s, Benjamin Franklin, in conjunction with a Cambridge University professor, discovered that evaporating liquid of any kind created a cooling effect. Their specific invention centered on evaporating alcohol, as well as other volatile liquids. They found that these liquids were quicker to evaporate than water alone.

Another inventor built upon Franklin’s discovery in 1820, proving that compressing the gas ammonia and turning it into a liquid creates a cooling effect.

A decade later, and continuing the premise of compressing liquids, a doctor working in a Florida hospital creates a machine that can make ice. The machine used the process of compression to make ice, and then kept the ice cool by blowing air on it. However, nothing much came of the idea in terms of mass production.

In the latter part of the 1800s, innovative naval engineers were prompted to come up with a way to keep President James Garfield cool, as he struggled to survive an assassination attempt. Although Garfield ultimately passed, the savvy engineers were able to lower the temperature in the room where Garfield lay by 20 degrees. The cooling device was a contained unit consisting of wet cloths, ice and a running fan, which essentially kept the air in the lower part of the room cooler, while letting hot air rise to the top of the room. The invention worked; however, it couldn’t be mass produced because the cost of using ice was prohibitive.

Modern air conditioning is born

Enter Willis Carrier, the person whom many refer to as the inventor of modern home air conditioning. Motivated by humidity inside a printing plant that made pages wrinkle and ink smear, Willis was prompted to keep conditions inside the plant stable and boost the efficiency of the manufacturing process. He started the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America to manufacture the device in response to the demand by other factories.

Eventually, other individuals built on these early cooling inventions. Soon people could buy window air conditioning units or systems to cool the whole house; however, these devices took up a lot of space, and were costly. As a result, only the wealthy could afford them.

As innovators continued to work on the cooling systems, they became safer and smaller—and as a result, more affordable. Air conditioning quickly spread across country and people installed them in their homes, an outcome of the economic growth of post-World War II. Airplane manufacturers, retail and other commercial establishments also took advantage of the artificial cooling systems.

Going without air conditioning on a hot summer day in West Volusia County is almost unimaginable. While residents still turn to swimming pools, movie theatres and retail settings to stay cool, having a functional, efficient air conditioner in the home is a must. If you’re having trouble with your A/C or it’s time to schedule a tune-up, contact the cooling experts at Jacob Heating & Air Conditioning today. We are proud to be a factory-authorized Carrier dealer, and we offer homeowners and businesses air conditioning, furnace and heat pump solutions, dehumidifiers and indoor air quality services.