What is the best part of summer? Is it enjoying the outdoors while sitting on a boat, is it eating an ice cold snow cone, or is it just taking in the nice warm rays? While being outside during the summer is absolutely wonderful, we would argue that the best part of summer is actually when you head back into a nice, cool, air conditioned home. But in the non too distant past, not everyone had the ability to enjoy an air conditioned home. So, just when did the History of HVAC begin?
The Ancient Times
The idea of cooling yourself off on hot days is not a new concept. During the ancient times many wealthy people used man powered fans, and came up with other primitive ways to keep themselves cool. However, none of these methods were long withstanding, so lets fast forward until 1758 when the History of HVAC continued to expand.
This is when great American inventor Benjamin Franklin, alongside John Hadley, made the discovery that when liquid evaporates from a surface, it creates a cooling effect. This effect is still the basis of how modern air conditioners are running today.
From here we move right along to 1851 when John Gorrie, a physician from Florida, created an ice machine that used compression to create ice. Air would then be blown over the ice’s surface to create a cooling effect. Gorrie created his machine in an attempt to cool patients, so diseases could be prevented. The air conditioner may have taken off right then, but unfortunately his financial backer died, so he lost funding for his project. What could have been…
Next we find ourselves in 1881, and President Garfield had just been shot. In order to keep him comfortable a device was created that blew air over wet cloth. While the invention was able to lower the temperature in the room by 20 degrees, it could not save President Garfield, who died just two months after being shot.
Fast forward to 1902. Willis Carrier created the very first electrical air conditioner for his publishing company in an effort to control humidity to prevent paper from wrinkling. Carrier’s air conditioner blew air over cold coils to cool the air temperature. He quickly realized the value of his machine and later went on to create Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America.
Now we move on to 1914 when the term “air conditioning” becomes coined by Stuart W. Cramer. Cramer created a ventilating device that adds moisture into the air in his textile mill and called it “air conditioning,” which Willis Carrier borrowed when he named is company.
During the same year, air conditioning was added into a home for the first time. It was installed at a mansion in Minneapolis belonging to Charles Gates. The unit was massive coming in at 7 foot tall, 6 feet wide, and 20 feet tall. Interestingly, there is actually a chance the unit was never used, because no one ever lived at the residence.
America: Land of the Air Conditioners
The History of HVAC continued to advance, and in 1931 the first window unit was created by H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman. They became commercially available just one year later, but came with an extreme price tag. They cost anywhere between $10,000-$50,000, which adjusted for inflation would be between $120,000-$600,000.
Next, in 1939 Packard rolled out air conditioning in cars (see what I did there). However, in order to use the vehicles air conditioner, its engine needed to be stopped, and the owner had to disconnect a compressor belt once they had cooled down.
In the 1953, due to the post-war economic boom, over one million units were sold to homeowners, and by 1965 10% of homes had air conditioners in them.
In the 1970’s central air came around and helped to cool homes much more efficiently by utilizing condensers, coils, fans, and duct work.
Finally, the History of HVAC continued into modern time, and by 2015 the Energy Information Administration reported that 87% of U.S. households are using air conditioners.
While it is impossible to predict what the future of air conditioning will hold, units are continuing to use safer refrigerants and are become increasingly more energy efficient. For now, it is just nice to know that when you walk inside after a hot summer day, you can guarantee that your home will be nice and cool.