It’s difficult not to regard air conditioning as one of the most superb technological achievements of the 20th century. Since people in McKinney, TX, and countless other places use AC every day, its impact on civilization has been extraordinary. Here is the story of how we got this marvelous invention.
If you dig far enough into the annals of history, you can find several interesting precursors to the contemporary air conditioning system. For example, in the 2nd century CE, the Chinese inventor Ding Huan created a manually powered rotary fan that exploited the principle of evaporative cooling to produce cold air. However, this invention was eventually forgotten because no one built upon or improved it for many centuries.
The history of air conditioning as we know it today truly begins in the 1840s. At that time, a Florida-based doctor named John Gorrie came to believe that exposure to excessive heat was at the root of many diseases. Although this medical hypothesis proved to be incorrect, it encouraged Dr. Gorrie to start thinking in a few interesting ways.
Gorrie initially constructed what was, by today’s standards, a rather primitive system for cooling hospital rooms. Unfortunately, this system was impractical and costly, as it required an enormous logistical network to bring massive quantities of ice from the northern United States into Florida. Still, Gorrie continued to think big and even imagined devising systems that would cool entire cities while pursuing his ideal of curing disease by mitigating heat.
Eventually, after some tinkering, Gorrie secured a patent in 1851 for an early horse-powered compressor that created ice and alternatively took power from steam and water or wind-driven sails. Sadly, technological development in this area again hit a dead end after Gorrie’s primary financial backer died.
Enter Willis Carrier
That dead end was finally circumvented in 1902 thanks to the work of American engineer Willis Haviland Carrier. That year, while Carrier worked at the Buffalo Forge Company, the Sackett & Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn, NY had a problem. The pages of the magazine that Sackett-Wilhelms was publishing were crinkling up because of unmanageably high humidity levels, and the firm asked for Carrier’s help.
Carrier’s labors on this problem produced the basic air conditioner design that exists today. Carrier filled a set of coils with cold water and then had fans blow air over those coils. Contact with the coils cooled the air.
Over the following decades, Carrier would gradually refine his design, increasing its power and efficiency. Thanks to this, air conditioning systems would come to enter important venues like New York’s Rivoli Theatre. Finally, by 1933, Carrier’s machine had nearly all the major parts of today’s air conditioning systems.
In 1928, Thomas Midgley, Jr. and Charles Franklin Kettering collaborated to create the first non-flammable refrigerant. After all of this, the major parts of the air conditioner as we know it today were in place.
Coming to a Mass Market
By the 1930s, ACs had proven their worth and usefulness but were still too large and expensive for residential use. By the 1940s, however, the engineer Henry Galson worked on designing smaller self-contained appliances. Eventually, by the late 1960s, these had shrunk to such a point that they became viable for home use.
The energy crisis of the 1970s serendipitously spurred this development even further. In response to soaring energy prices, lawmakers introduced higher standards for energy efficiency in many devices and appliances, and air conditioners were among them. In response to this, companies began designing increasingly efficient and inexpensive systems.
These processes have culminated in the AC industry as we know it today. Now, not only are AC units powerful enough to reliably cool homes for decades at affordable rates, but a whole industry of professional technicians offers AC repair, installation and maintenance services to millions.
We are proud to be part of the HVAC industry. If you need help with AC maintenance or repair, call All Service Heating & Air, and you’ll receive top-rated professional air conditioning service in McKinney, TX.
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