History of Air Conditioning
Do you realize that air conditioning was invented around the same time as electric washing machines, vacuum cleaners, radio broadcasting and tea bags?
Among the many inventions of the early 1900s that improved the lives of homeowners and their families, air conditioners were one of the most welcomed. Before air conditioners were invented, people avoided working or being active during the hottest parts of the day, taking naps and then resuming their work in the later part of the day. They sat on porches more, and they built homes that were designed to let air flow through them better, utilizing whatever breeze may have been available.
Now, however, things are very different. Tex-Perts Cooling & Heating is a professional heating and cooling company in San Antonio that can set you up with the perfect air conditioning system so you don’t have to suffer in the three-digit summer temperatures. We can install any brand or model that you choose, so you no longer have to suffer like Texans of the past!
Hand fans were used in China at least 3,000 years ago, and this method of personal cooling was used through the late 1800s. The earliest cooling systems were basically large-scale models of the hand fan, often needing to be moved by hand by servants for the comfort of their masters.
Ancient Romans made many advances in the field of home cooling systems. One of their ideas was to circulate cool water through pipes in the walls of their homes in order to keep themselves cool. Emperor Elagabalus even imported snow with donkey trains and had it placed in his gardens. It didn’t work, of course, but people began to see that being cool was worth sparing no cost to the wealthy.
The Dark Ages did not see much progression in the field of air conditioning. No inventions occurred during this period that lead to modern air conditioning. Research picked up again in America in the late 1800s. Engineers in the United States basically picked up where Roman developments had dropped off.
The first kinds of cooling systems in the United States showed up around 1900, and they consisted of electric fans. However, they were very expensive and really not that effective.
Finally, when Nikola Tesla invented the alternating current motor, oscillating fans could be invented and then quickly improved upon. Electricity was indeed the gateway to modern air conditioning. Oddly enough, the first air conditioner wasn’t invented to keep people cool. It was actually developed to keep the humidity under control in a printing plant. Willis Carrier invented the system in 1902, and a popular brand of air conditioners still carries his name.
By the 1930s, air conditioners were much more widespread. Train cars, department stores, restaurants and offices had air conditioning systems, making life much more comfortable even for people who could not afford AC at home yet. States that had extremely hot summers – Arizona, Florida, California, and our beloved Texas – saw a rise in population during this period, in large part because air conditioning made the blistering summers bearable.
Less than 20 years later, Carrier invented a smaller unit that was used in the Rivoli Theater in Times Square. People would go to the movies as much to escape the sweltering summer heat as they would to see a film. The adaptation of air conditioners by movie theaters is a key reason why we now see movies released during June and July, frequently called ‘summer blockbusters.’
As much as Americans enjoyed public air conditioning, they did not see the need – or want to shoulder the expense – of residential air conditioning until fairly recently. In 1965, a poll done by the Carrier Corporation showed that only 10 percent of American homes had air conditioning. This is in sharp contrast to a similar survey taken in 2007 which showed that an overwhelming 86 percent had installed air conditioning systems.
Other parts of the world have not seen as much growth in the field of air conditioning development, nor are AC systems as popular as they are in the US. While the United States favors central air conditioning systems and tends to crank the AC way up, China’s residents usually opt for window units that are set between 77 and 80 degrees.
European countries like Great Britain haven’t taken to modern air conditioning quite as fast as America did, and it’s virtually unheard of in Africa and Southern Asia. The residents of these countries still employ age-old techniques to stay cool, including drinking plenty of water and wearing breathable fabrics.