A Short History of Air Conditioners: Who Invented Air Conditioning?

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When was air conditioning invented? That is a question that few people likely know the answer to. With so many types of air conditioning systems available today, it may be hard to imagine a life without the comforts of residential air conditioning. While inventors, such as Benjamin Franklin, paved the way for the systems needed to produce conditioned air, it was the head of a publishing company that helped to create the foundation for the air conditioning systems used today. Read on to learn more about when air conditioning was invented or, if you are ready to upgrade your current system or install a new one, contact Superior Home Supplies today.

Cooling Air Before Air Conditioning Was Invented

Believe it or not, air cooling was not standard in many homes until the late 70s and early 80s. Only 10% of homes had some form of air conditioning by the late 60s. Part of the reason air conditioning didn’t catch on before the latter half of the 20th century is that summers were cooler. Climate change and ozone depletion have increased temperatures in the summer, making air conditioning more of a necessity than a convenience. Even though the temperature was cooler decades ago, it doesn’t mean there weren’t a few periods of hotter weather where people had to come up with creative ways to cool down. To help cool down the air in their home, homeowners took a few simple steps to help keep the heat at bay. When the temperatures would soar, homeowners would.

  • Limit cooking, baking, and chores until the temperature cooled down in the evening.
  • Open up the windows when the temperature was lower, typically from the evening until mid-morning to allow the air in the home to cool down.
  • Cover windows and keep them shut during the peak times of heat and sun.
  • Take advantage of local swimming areas and sprinklers.
  • Cool down their internal body temperature with cold drinks and foods such as ice cream and iced tea.
  • Create make-shift air cooling systems, blowing air with a fan over a tub or block of ice.

The Invention of Air Conditioning

So when was air conditioning invented? The beginnings of the first air conditioner occurred in the early 20th century. As temperatures in the summer were beginning to rise, the need to develop an apparatus for treating air became apparent in 1902. Willis Carrier helped to answer this need by creating one of the first known air conditioning systems. Willis Haviland Carrier, an American engineer, knew that humidity was a concern during the summer months. He had seen the effects of high humidity levels in his printing plant in Brooklyn, New York. The humidity caused warping of the paper and affected its ability to feed through the printing press. So the first modern air conditioner was born out of Willis Carrier’s desire to control humidity levels and create a cooler environment. He started his journey by focusing on the concepts of mechanical refrigeration that had been developed by John Gorrie years before. The ultimate design that he came up with resembles much of the modern air conditioning systems that we see today, such as a belt-driven condenser, compressor, coolant, coil, mechanical controls, and an evaporator. Ultimately, he changed from the printing industry to creating cooling systems for residential air conditioning and air conditioning for office buildings and other commercial business air conditioning applications. He founded the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America to produce and distribute products from his designs. The Carrier Corporation continues to be a leader in air conditioning systems and HVAC systems.

Willis Carrier Air Conditioning

Portable AC vs Central AC

When thinking about when was air conditioning invented, it is important to consider the types of air conditioning systems. While there is a wide range of air conditioning system types, such as heat pumps, and ductless systems, one of the first differentiations to make is between a portable air conditioner and central air conditioning systems. When deciding whether a portable air conditioner or central AC would be best for your home, it is important to consider energy consumption and how each type operates to provide you with a comfortable temperature. One of the most common types of air conditioning systems found in newer homes is a central air conditioning system. These HVAC systems can be stand-alone or paired with a furnace. They share the same ductwork as your heat system and can be controlled by the same thermostat. They have high energy efficiency ratings and use less electricity than a portable air conditioner, which makes them more environmentally friendly and allows you to save money on your energy bills. A portable air conditioner is designed for cooling the air in a smaller space, such as a room or small apartment. They rely on condensation and evaporation as well but can be placed in many areas throughout the home as long as they are close to a window where they can vent out. A portable air conditioner is not as efficient as central air conditioning, but when you choose an A/C unit that has varying speed control, it can be more efficient than models that don’t. While they don’t have as much cooling power as central air conditioning, they are great for small areas.

When Air Conditioning became HVAC Systems

Heating and air conditioning were designed to work together to provide comfort to your home all year round. When you pair an air conditioner with a furnace, the result is an HVAC system. HVAC systems utilize the same delivery method to deliver either cooled or heated air into your home so that you can achieve the desired temperatures. HVAC systems are perfect when upgrading to a new system or installing one for the first time. HVAC systems such as the Goodman 13 SEER 2 Ton Complete Split UPFLOW AC System with New 9 Speed furnace can help keep your home comfortable no matter how high or low the temperatures get.

The invention of the furnace

When learning about when air conditioning was invented, you may also be curious as to when and how the furnace came about as well. Before modern furnaces, most homes were heated with wood in fireplaces or wood or coal-burning stoves. Alice H. Parker saw the need for a central heating option that would work more efficiently than coal or wood-burning options. By 1919, she had patented her design for the first natural gas furnace. Even though the full specifications of the patent were not adopted into the design of modern furnaces, much of it was used to help create the gas furnaces that are widely used today. Through her designs, a system was created that would allow homeowners to customize their heating temperature by using a heat exchanger and burners to deliver heated air through a series of ductwork in the home.

How the two systems work together

HVAC systems are created by combining an air conditioning unit with a furnace so that cool air is delivered in the hot months and hot air is delivered when the temperatures get colder. Both components of the HVAC systems are controlled by one centralized thermostat, allowing you to easily switch between heat and cooling as needed. Both components of HVAC systems work to control not only the temperatures in your home but also the humidity levels, which can be a primary factor in maintaining the comfort of your home. With some HVAC systems, a humidifier will be attached to the furnace. This component will add moisture to the air to combat the dryness that cold weather and the heater will create. Once the warmer weather hits and the air becomes more humid, you will want to lower or turn off the humidifier attached to the unit. The air conditioning component of your system will dehumidify the air as it cools it. Both components work together to provide comfort in your home without utilizing a significant amount of energy. But, to ensure that both systems stay as efficient as possible and operate effectively, regular maintenance is important. If you have a regular HVAC maintenance plan, you will likely have service scheduled twice a year. Once in the fall before you turn on the heating system and once in the spring before you need to use your air conditioner. Even if you don’t have a maintenance plan, it is best to schedule a visit twice a year to ensure your complete system works properly.

Willis Carrier Air Conditioning

Don’t wait. Find the right air conditioning system for your home at Superior Home Supplies

Now that you have answered the question of when was air conditioning invented, why not check out some of the latest innovations in air conditioning systems? Whether you are in the market for a portable air conditioner, a heat pump, or a traditional split system, Superior Home Supplies is here to help. We offer air conditioning options and complete HVAC systems, all designed to keep your home as comfortable as possible while saving you money on your annual energy bills. Contact us today to find out more.
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