The History of Air Conditioning

The History of Air Conditioning

Can you imagine not having air conditioning during a sweltering hot summer? If your power has ever gone out or your AC stopped working, you may have experienced for yourself just how unpleasant life without air conditioning can be.

The Not-so Good Old Days

Back before AC was invented or became common in homes, people did what they could to keep their cool. Homeowners would sleep on the porch (often called a sleeping porch), and apartment dwellers often would sleep on fire escapes. People would plant shade trees near their homes, use awnings and window overhangs to provide shade and cool the air, and leave the windows open all night. Since heat rises, having a home with high ceilings or a second floor helped – things would get very hot upstairs, but the downstairs would stay relatively cool. Desperate people got creative and would hang wet laundry in doorways or sleep in refrigerated sheets.

A Solution for the Sick

In the 1840s, Dr. John Gorrie of Florida believed that high temperatures increased the spread of diseases like malaria, and he also wanted to make his sick patients more comfortable. He put together a very basic system for cooling hospital rooms that required blocks of ice to be shipped from the North to Florida, which was expensive and a hassle, to say the least. He later designed a machine that used a compressor that could be powered by a horse, water, wind-driven sails or steam. He was granted a patent but was never able to market the device. Still, it was a start.

The Invention of the Modern AC

Will Carrier is credited with creating the first modern air conditioning in 1902. While working for the Buffalo Forge Company, he was tasked with solving a humidity problem that was causing magazine pages to wrinkle at a publishing house. He designed a system that controlled humidity using coils, which could either add moisture to the air by heating water or remove it by cooling water. He also created an automatic control system for the device which was then used to regulate humidity and temperature in textile mills. He soon realized that this innovation could benefit a wide range of industries and started Carrier Engineering Corporation with six other engineers. Today, that company has evolved into Carrier, a global force in HVAC solutions. Advent Air is proud to say we partner with Carrier – a company that has earned the trust of millions of people around the world.

AC Rolls out to the Public

In 1904, the Missouri State Building was the first to use mechanical refrigeration during the St. Louis World’s Fair, and naturally, people loved it. In the 1920s, these cooling systems were rolled out to public theaters. While these early systems were less than ideal (often upper levels of the theaters were hot and muggy and the lower levels were freezing), they kept progressively getting better as technology improved.

Residential AC

Although public buildings were able to adopt AC early on, it wasn’t until the 1960s that AC units became small and affordable enough to become widely used in homes. This development drove population growth in hot-weather states like Florida and Arizona, making it easier to live in those areas. According to the Energy Information Administration, 100 million US homes now have AC, representing 87% of all households.

A Cool Future

At Advent Air, we love sharing the rich history about how AC has evolved, but we’re even more excited about the innovations that are shaping its future. (See What Does the Future Hold for Air Conditioning)

We’re dedicated to bringing our customers the latest and greatest developments in AC to ensure control, comfort, energy-efficiency and convenience. Advent Air is committed to the quality of the air you and your family breathe every single day. Visit our website or contact us today to learn more.