The History of Air Conditioning

Isn’t it nice that with the flip of a switch we can just turn on the air conditioner and immediately enjoy the cool sensations it brings with it? Most of us take advantage of our ability to easily access this commodity, since it exists pretty much everywhere today. Most buildings and houses come with an air conditioning unit. If they don’t, one can quickly and easily pick up a portable unit, which allows you to cool any room you want anywhere. But times were not always so easy. In fact, air conditioning was a luxury item when you start digging back through its history.

The ancient Egyptians crafted a makeshift cooling system in their buildings by using aqueduct water that traveled through the walls. This created a cooling of the entire structure. Since water was considered a coveted item in the scorching hot desert, this was definitely a luxury to have. In Persia, another concept used for cooling was to combine wind towers with cisterns. The wind from the towers would be directed toward a large cistern filled with water, and would evaporate and cool the temperature in the building.

As time progressed, we became even more scientific with our means of cooling. Michael Faraday used liquefied ammonia for cooling in 1820, and in 1842 Dr. John Gorrie created a machine that could make ice. He used this ice to cool temperatures in his hospital. However, the first electrical air conditioner was not invented until 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier (that’s right…Carrier). The main reason that air conditioners were created was because of industry mills/buildings. The dangerous environments could get sweltering hot, and needed to be cooled. Dr. Gorrie created his air conditioner to cool and dehumidify the air in a printing plant. The person who first coined the phrase “air conditioning”, Stuart W. Cramer in 1906, came up with the a way to add moisture to the air of his textile factory.

In 1928, freon refrigerant was created. This was the first non-toxic chemical used to operate air conditioners up to this point. It was created by Thomas Midgley, Jr. We now know that freon may not be toxic to us, but it is toxic to the ozone. Since then, new refrigerants have been invented that are much more environmentally friendly.

Air conditioning has certainly come a long way, and it seems to be getting more accessible by the minute. Whereas it was a luxury to even think of having some way of cooling your abode, it is now commonplace to have air conditioning in your car, on the bus, etc. We’ve also come to learn that air conditioning has more than one purpose (i.e. keeping you cool). It can also filter out bad particles in the air, which is why it is imperative to have in hospitals. They remove dust, pollen, dander, and some are even dehumidifiers. For people with allergies or breathing problems, this is a huge advantage. There are so many benefits that can be derived from air conditioning. We should certainly be thankful that we can gain access to it so easily now!