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The Fascinating History of Air Cooling

Last updated May. 25, 2018


At the time air conditioning was recently introduced, it was a luxurious item that could only be found in the homes of the wealthy ones.

Today, affordable air cooling solutions are available for individuals of low-income status. This is really necessary and something to be thankful about as it is almost unbearable to cope with the heat of the summer without a cooling system.

The air cooling solutions, as we have them today, have come a long way. There have been several advancements made to get the first models to what we have now.

Scientists and investors have always been keen to improve on the cooling solutions, and what we have now is a highly improved system, metamorphosing from the earliest models developed more than 1000 years ago.

Let us take a look at the history of the machines.


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The Beginning of Air Cooling


The concept of providing cooling solutions for households to increase comfort was first introduced by Dr John Gorrie, a physician and later day inventor. This was around the 1840s in Florida. The physician reasoned that providing cooling for residents will help to alleviate health conditions and prevent diseases.


He also reasoned that it will be helpful for patient’s recovery from different health conditions in the hospitals. Dr Gorrie’s initial idea was to bring in ice from frozen lakes up north to Florida. With time, Dr Gorrie understood that the process of hauling in ice was both inefficient and expensive.

He started experimenting with new ways to obtain cooling. His initial effort resulted in the invention of a system that could create ice of its own by using a compressor powered by a horse, water, sails, and at times, steam.

In 1851, Dr Gorrie succeeded in having his invention patented. Bringing it to the public became an issue after the death of the financial banker. Though his invention was never made available to the public, it is still credited as the earliest invented air cooling solution.


Carrier’s Breakthrough


The journey for better air cooling solution was rekindled by an engineer, Willis Carrier. He championed the idea that eventually resulted in the first electrical air conditioner.

Carrier was employed by the Buffalo Forge Company in 1902. He was given an interesting problem to solve – the wrinkling of magazines due to humidity at a Sacekt-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn.

Through a number of tests and experiments, Carrier developed a model that could control humidity by the use of coils that ensured the cooling of the area. He was able to obtain a patent for his experiment which was called an ‘Apparatus for Treating Air.”

The invention was capable of humidifying and dehumidifying depending on whether the water was cooled or heated. He made further improvements to his invention, adding an automatic control system that could be used to regulate the humidity as well as the temperature of the air in the textile mills.

Willis Carrier realised that his project could be meaningful to a wide range of industries. He had to leave his job at Buffalo Forge to start his own company, Carrier Engineering Corporation.


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Air Cooling in Public Buildings


The increasing need to keep public places cool resulted in the use of the available cooling solutions. During the St. Louis World’s Fair, the Missouri State Building was cooled with some form of a mechanical refrigeration system. This was the very first time Americans got a taste of air cooling. When the movie theatres started having a huge crowd, the technology became more useful.

The cooling systems were very much a modification of the heating systems. They were more of refrigeration equipment used to send up cool air through the heating vents, making lower floors to be much cooler than upper floors.

The Carrier Engineering Corporation installed the first real cooling systems in theatres in Los Angeles around 1922. Carrier made more advances in air cooling solutions for public places. His contributions resulted to large scale installation of cooling solutions across different cities in the United States.


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Air Cooling Become Available to Households

Initially, the air cooling solutions were actually too expensive for household use. They were equally generally large. It was Frigidaire that created the first split-system room cooler considered suitable for household use in 1929. It was, however, still heavy and needed its own condensing unit. It was still expensive to some extent, too.

An engineer in General Electric, Frank Faust created an improved self-contained room cooler and between 1930 and 1931 the company made 32 similar models of the machine. Some other engineers that worked with General Motors used chlorofluorocarbon coolants in refrigeration.

Though the products seemed very promising, they were phased out after being found out to contribute meaningfully to ozone layer depletion.

Over the years, several improvements were recorded. H. H. Schultz and J. Q. Sherman were the first to create units that could comfortably fit on the ledge of a window. In 1932, these models of cooling solution were available to the public, though at a price most households couldn’t afford. Henry Galson was able to develop even smaller units that cost less and by 1947, many household could afford air conditioners.


Continued Improvement in Efficiency

By 1970, air cooling solutions were really popular and affordable. The energy crisis that followed meant that there was a need for improvement in manufacturing standards. Since 1992, there has been continued improvement in manufacturing standards, and these have been estimated to save lots of money.

Though they still consume quite significant amount of energy, the ones available today use just about half of the energy used by the ones manufactured in the 1990s.


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Air Conditioning in the Future

With the level of improvements recorded over the years, it is safe to say that air cooling systems in the future will be much more efficient than what is available today. There are several efforts by corporate bodies and individuals to improve on the available technology and develop more efficient units.

The option of non-vapour kind of compression technology is currently being explored for increased efficiency. This will also be helpful in addressing some of the environmental concerns raised by the use of air conditioners.

Air coolers today, not only provide highly powerful air cooling but they are extremely environment-friendly machines that are not only affordable but energy efficient too. Air coolers are becoming one of the most preferred cooling solutions and have come a long way in establishing itself as a popular air cooling device.

If you have any further questions, contact us and we would be happy to help you.