The Long History of the Air Conditioner

Where would we be without air conditioners? If you’re one of our Sacramento clients, you’d probably be living somewhere else. The air conditioner has changed the landscape of American society in so many ways it’s hard to keep track of them all. For thousands of years, humans around the globe tried to find a way to artificially cool their air, and it wasn’t until fairly recently they were able to do so. The air conditioner is less than 120 years old. Since it’s easy to take cool air on a hot day for granted, we’re sharing the long history of the air conditioner.

The Early Times

The history of the air conditioner spans millennia. One of the first noted attempts to cool an indoor space was done by the ancient Romans. In a genius move, the ancient Romans built a vast aqueduct system that brought water from reservoirs to wells and fountains. With this in place, wealthy Romans attempted to take advantage of the aqueducts to pump chilled water into the walls of their homes. While this may have slightly worked, it would have left everything feeling damp and humid. After this attempt, there is no note of other cultures trying to artificially cool their air until 180AD in China. A Chinese craftsman named Ding Huan invented a rotary fan, very similar to the ones used today. This fan was large enough to cool a whole room. But it needed to be operated by a person whenever it was in use. While China was making technological discoveries. The rest of the world used hand fans until manufactured ice became a commonly created item.

Ice Ushered in a New Age

Cooled air technology was stagnant until 1902 when a young engineer, Willis Carrier, was tasked to think of a solution. The Buffalo Forge Company printed posters, flyers and other materials in New York City, but they faced an ongoing issue during the summer. NYC’s high humidity levels would cause their printed materials to warp. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Carrier attempted to offset the humidity by using “an industrial fan to blow air over steam coils filled with cold water; the excess humidity would then condense on the coils and produce cooled air.” After this discovery, Carrier patented his design and continued to improve upon cool air technology. The next milestone in the long history of the air conditioner came at the 1094 St. Louis World’s Fair. While air conditioning had been introduced in some large buildings—the New York Stock Exchange was the first commercial building to have AC—it had never been introduced to the general public. In an effort to beat the St. Louis heat, fair engineers rigged a large building with electric motors that powered a compressor and blower system. After people saw this technology firsthand, they wanted more.

Air Conditioning Becomes Available

During the 1900s and into the 1920s Carrier was working hard at improving his cooled air technology. In the early 1920s, movie theaters were one of the first places to debut large-scale air conditioning. This is where the term “summer blockbuster” came from. Moviegoers across the nation would watch a movie to escape the heat. In 1922 Carrier debuted his centrifugal chiller, a central compressor that could make cooling systems smaller and much more effective. Though cooled air technology was rapidly growing, many Americans wouldn’t have AC in their homes until after WWII. Factories set up to aid the war effort were converted into appliance factories and that was when small, portable air conditioner units were manufactured—and priced—for the average American.

What if There Was no AC?

If Carrier hadn’t worked on his patent and improved artificial air technology, the U.S. would look very different. Ever wonder why schools have a summer break? It was because of heat. In many places, the heat would be so much that children couldn’t concentrate or thrive in school during the summer, hence the reason for the break. Also, areas of the southwest are only populated because of air conditioning. States like Arizona and New Mexico used to be uninhabitable until AC became the norm.

Think It’s Time for An Upgrade? Call Moore Home Services!

If your AC could be a part of history, it’s time for an upgrade. Moore Home Services is your number one stop for all things air conditioning. Our expert technicians can assess your home and work with you to find the best cooling solution. We are a Diamond Certified company proudly serving our Santa Rosa and Sacramento communities. Click here to schedule an appointment online or call the number at the bottom of the screen to speak with a friendly representative today.