Air conditioning is a modern convenience that many of us take for granted. It’s hard to imagine life without it, but it wasn’t too long ago that people had to endure hot, sticky summers without the aid of an air conditioner. So, where did this miraculous invention come from, and how did it evolve into the ubiquitous technology that we know today? Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the history of air conditioning.
The idea of cooling indoor spaces to make them more comfortable has been around for centuries. The ancient Egyptians and Romans used various methods to cool their homes, such as circulating water through walls made of porous materials like reeds, or having servants fan them with large leaves. However, the concept of modern air conditioning didn’t come about until the late 19th century.
The modern history of air conditioning
In 1902, Willis Carrier invented the first modern air conditioning system. Carrier was a mechanical engineer who worked for a printing company in New York. The company’s printing process was very sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, which caused the paper to expand and contract, leading to misaligned colors and blurry images. Carrier was tasked with finding a way to stabilize the temperature and humidity in the print shop, and thus, the air conditioner was born.
Carrier’s original air conditioner was a large, complex machine that used a system of coils and fans to remove heat and humidity from the air. The machine was effective, but it was expensive and difficult to install. Carrier continued to refine his invention over the years, and in 1922, he introduced a more compact, affordable version of the air conditioner that could be used in homes and small businesses.
Despite Carrier’s early successes, air conditioning remained a luxury item for many years. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that air conditioning became more widespread, thanks to advances in technology and changes in society. The post-war economic boom led to the construction of more homes and office buildings, many of which were equipped with air conditioning. In 1965, more than half of all new homes in the United States were built with air conditioning.
The development of air conditioning also had a significant impact on society. It allowed people to live and work in regions with extreme temperatures, making it possible to settle in hot, arid climates like the American Southwest.
Air conditioning also revolutionized the way we do business. Prior to air conditioning, many businesses closed during the summer months due to the heat. With air conditioning, they could stay open year-round, increasing productivity and profits.
Today, air conditioning is a standard feature in most cars, homes, offices, and public buildings. It’s hard to imagine life without it, and for many people, it’s a necessity rather than a luxury. But the evolution of air conditioning didn’t stop with Willis Carrier. There have been many advances in the technology over the years, making it more efficient, affordable, and eco-friendly. There's yet more to the history of air conditioning...
Environmental improvements of air conditioning
One such advance is the use of refrigerants. Early air conditioning systems used toxic and flammable gases like ammonia, which posed a significant safety risk. In the 1930s, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were developed as a safer alternative. CFCs were non-toxic, non-flammable, and highly effective at removing heat from the air. However, it was later discovered that CFCs contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. As a result, the use of CFCs was phased out in the 1990s, and newer, safer refrigerants were developed.
Another major advance in air conditioning technology is the use of variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems. VRF systems use a single outdoor unit and multiple indoor units, allowing for individual temperature control in different zones of a building.
From the history air conditioning to smart AC
One wonders what air conditioning historians of yore would make of modern AC? Modern aircon is arguably typified by the likes of smart air conditioning controllers. These can use A.I. to automatically control aircon units to keep you comfortable at all times of year by learning your preferences (and those of your colleagues friends and family).
They can also turn on and off automatically by knowing if you've left your office and are on the way home meaning you won't pay for left-on AC in an office because you forgot to turn it off, and your home will be nice and cold before you you open the front door. That's because they are linked to an app on your phone and your phone knows where you are at all times!
If you like the sound of a modern, smart AC controller more than what was served up in times of the history of air conditioning, check out the controllers from Ambi Labs right now!