According to the U.S. Department of Energy, three-quarters of all homes in the U.S. have some form of air conditioning. We may take it for granted now, but this is a relatively modern invention that has become one of the century’s most important and life-changing innovations.Ever wondered about how modern-day air conditioning came to be? Here’s a quick history, from your friends at MTB.
Dr. John Gorrie got the ball rolling on indoor cooling for comfort. He thought indoor cooling could help prevent diseases and provide a better hospital experience for patients. His initial concept revolved around finding frozen water sources in the northern U.S., and shipping ice south.
After experimenting with natural cooling, Dr. Gorrie made strides toward artificial cooling. He obtained a patent for his cooling machine, which used a horse-powered compressor, water and wind-driven sales. Unfortunately, his artificial cooling machine didn’t make it to the marketplace.
Gorrie’s earlier experiments laid the framework for the future of air conditioning. Willis Haviland Carrier — a talented engineer who earned the title of “the father of the air conditioner” — began to experiment with reducing indoor humidity at Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company, a printing plant in Brooklyn, NY, to prevent magazine pages from wrinkling. Carrier’s invention removed moisture from the room, while also using coils filled with cold water to distribute cool air.
The American public experienced indoor cooling for the first time at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Mechanical refrigeration was used in the Missouri State Building to pump 35,000 cubic feet of air per minute to keep the building and its occupants cool.
As Hollywood stars graced movie theater screens, moviegoers also experienced a wide range of temperatures inside theaters. The cooling systems distributed cold air via bottom floor vents. As a result, the lower levels were freezing, while the upper levels were hot and muggy. A major improvement arrived when Carrier’s company, the Carrier Engineering Corporation, installed a new cooling system in the Metropolitan Theater in Los Angeles. Cool air was circulated out of the upper level vents to better control the temperature and humidity.
President Herbert Hoover requested a cooling system for the presidential residence, and a central air conditioning system was installed by the Carrier Engineering Corporation.
Also in 1929, Frigidaire developed a split-system room cooler in the shape of a radio cabinet. It was small enough for homes, but it was also extremely heavy and too expensive for most homeowners. In order to use the new unit, homeowners also had to purchase a separate, remote-controlled condensing unit.
The Carrier Engineering Corporation created a model AC unit to meet the demand the emerging centralized air marketplace. The early air conditioner featured a belt-driven condensing unit, an associated blower, mechanical controls and an evaporator coil.
More than 43,000 window air conditioners were sold thanks to engineer Henry Galson, who developed a more compact and cost-efficient solution.
Air conditioning as we know it today wasn’t practical, affordable or widely available to use in homes until the 1950s and 60s. Prior to that, only the wealthy could afford cooling systems. As most new homes began to include AC, more people moved to hot-weather states since they could seek reprieve indoors.
Centralized air conditioner usage was on a steep incline. Then the energy crisis hit. To reduce energy consumption, the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program was launched to establish a national standard for AC manufacturers.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers voted air conditioning/refrigeration as one of the top 10 mechanical engineering achievements of the 20th century.
Modern-day air conditioners use around half as much energy as air conditioners in 1990. AC units use the same basic fundamentals as Carrier’s invention from 1933, but now they include advanced technology in areas such as vapor compression, electronic sensors, diagnostics, controls, materials and energy efficiency.
We now expect air conditioning wherever we go. So when it’s not working, it’s a major problem. If you’re experiencing any issues with your AC, or have questions about its performance, you can always contact MTB at 704-321-9250.
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