Once considered a luxury item, AC is now ubiquitous in nearly every home and office. Could you even imagine life without air conditioning? Yet it wasn’t too long ago when hospitals required ice in their rooms to cool down temperatures for malaria-induced patients. Here’s a briefer history of AC, including when it was invented and how it found its way into every home in America.

The 1840s and a Doctor Keeping Out Diseases

It was the 1840s, and hot in the summertime. Dr. John Gorrie of Florida suggested cooling would take care of the “evils of high temperatures.” He believed that cooler temperatures would stave off the (more common) diseases such as malaria. At the time, he had been shipping ice in from frozen lakes in northern US to his Florida hospital to keep patients comfortable.

Gorrie didn’t give up on his idea, and started to experiment with artificial cooling, creating a design that made ice with a horse-powered and wind-driven compressor. The device got its patent in 1851, and from henceforth became the predecessor to modern air conditioning and refrigeration.

The 1900s and a Humidity Problem

The thought of air cooling stagnated for a while until finally, in the year 1902, engineer Willis Carrier took a job that resulted in the invention of modern air conditioning. Carrier was assigned a task while at the Buffalo Forge Company of fixing the humidity problem that led to wrinkled magazine pages of the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn. As Carrier developed his device for fixing humidity problems, he divined that air conditioning could be helpful to more than just airing out magazine pages. He cut loose from his company and formed Carrier Engineering Corporation with six other engineers.

World’s Fair and the Hollywood Movie Theatre

When Carrier’s machine bust into the World’s Fair of 1904 refrigerating the Missouri State Building, crowds reacted to the experience of public air conditioning for the first time. The next time Americans would experience a massive comfort cooling phenomenon came in the 1920s when Americans got the air conditioned treatment in movie theaters across the nation. 

These cooling systems for movie theaters spread refrigerated air through floor vents, letting hot air rise to the top and leaving cool air at the lower levels. At times, visitors had to wrap their feet up in newspapers and find other means of keeping warm. It wasn’t until 1922 when the Carrier Engineering Corporation installed a better-made cooling system in theaters at the Metropolitan in Los Angeles to better distribute the air throughout the building.

Home Cooling and Air Conditioning

Even with the best advancements in cooling engineering, the systems built by Carrier Engineering were too large to put into a home. But the next company to come along – Frigidaire – fixed that condition with a new split-system cooler for rooms in 1929. The cooler, though heavy, was as small as a typical radio cabinet. It needed a separate condensing unit that had to have a remote control to work. The Frigidaire was a success, and General Electric quickly picked up on the model and developed a room cooler. 

General Motors came into the mix with synthesized chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) coolants, the very first non-flammable fluids for refrigeration. That made air conditioners a whole lot safer to use (now we use ozone-safe hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) after CFCs were linked to ozone depletion).

The Compact Fridge

Henry Galson, engineered a more compact version of the window air conditioner and sold 43,000 units by 1947, and central air conditioning reached practically all of the United States by the late 1960s. Window air conditioners were generally inexpensive, so Americans in hot states really could afford to air condition their homes. 

Energy Efficiency: 1990s and Beyond

Energy efficiency became the theme of the 1990s, and the 1992 conservation standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps has helped save a lot on energy bill (an estimated $29 billion from 1993-2023, to be exact). The subsequent standard passed in 2006 was estimate to save $70 billion from 2006-2035. The best news is air conditioners use 50% less energy now than they did in 1990.

Nowadays, we take air conditioning and refrigeration for granted, but we have doctors and engineers from 1840 and beyond to thank for the convenience of today. To find out more about heating and air conditioning and install services in your home, contact HH Heating for convenient heating, air conditioning and HVAC today.