How Air Conditioning Changed the World

Throughout the ages, mankind has strived to find ways of controlling temperature and most notably to create cooler temperatures in warmer climates. The temperature is now a factor of life we rarely give thought to with systems being able to instantly emulate temperatures we desire.

However, for thousands of years, it controlled many aspects of humanity and dictated much of how we lived. From architecture to work, technology to migration, so much of what we now see as everyday society was very different before the invention of air conditioning.

Early attempts at Temperature Control

One of the most notable examples of mankind’s inspiring attempts at temperature control can be dated back to the early 19th century from American businessman Frederic Tudor.

Dubbed the ‘Ice King’ of Boston, Tudor made his fortune by cutting blocks of ice in Northern America and shipping them to hotter climates around the globe. His plan was to chill out the tropical climate by getting people hooked on cold cocktails and ice cream and is quoted as writing “A man who has drank his drinks cold at the same expense for one week can never be presented with them warm again,”. Although Tudor’s ice business did not create a means of cooling down properties, it did succeed in revolutionising cold beverages and ice cream across the globe.

It wouldn’t be until later that century in 1881 that an early nod to air conditioning would be developed for President Garfield. The President was shot and would later die from this wound, but during the final weeks of his life, an extremely costly contraption was developed whereby air was blown into his room over 6 tonnes of ice in order to keep the temperature 20 degrees lower.

Who Invented Air Conditioning?

To quote the poet Emmerson, ‘genius always finds itself a century too early’ and in true fashion it therefore wouldn’t be until the start of the 20th century in 1902 that Willis Haviland Carrier would design what we know to be the modern-day air-conditioning system.

It was on a foggy train platform in the American city of Pittsburgh that Carrier would conclude you could dry air by passing it through water to create fog. It was at this time he realised with this process he could manufacture the air by adding specific amounts of moisture, ultimately controlling humidity.

This process would become the foundation of modern air conditioning and launch a global industry that would forever change the way we live, work and socialise forever.

What Exactly Did Air Conditioning Change?


Homes have always been built in accordance with the climate in which they are built. For example, properties in warmer climates had to be built to reflect as much heat as possible and were often painted white to do so. Structurally they had to be able to increase airflow throughout and therefore had large corridors and high ceiling to let the heat rise.

However, the introduction of Air conditioning has since drastically expanded the architectural options available. Homes no longer need these considered features, but instead are now being designed to suit the occupant and with the implementation of the system in mind.

Climate Change

Following on from the increase in air-conditioned homes, 2018 research has shown that the number of air conditioners globally is set to soar from an already staggering 1.6 billion units to 5.6 billion by 2050. Whilst air conditioning has provided man kind with the ability to control temperature, there has been a significant environmental impact.

Consequently, people are now advised to use their units less in order to conserve energy and reduce their carbon footprint. There are however newer, more efficient model which use far less energy and have been developed to be much more environmentally friendly in the long term.

Working Conditions

Companies are always looking for ways to keep their employees working at maximum efficiency, whatever the weather and the introduction of air conditioning to workplaces has been pretty much able to guarantee this.

Researchers no longer ask the question of ‘can the temperature impact productivity’ but instead are now formulating the perfect temperature. The latest research suggests that ‘At higher temperatures, women perform better on maths and verbal tasks while the reverse is true for men’.


Author: Gareth Whalley
Sharing my vast knowledge in the Air Conditioning and Mechanical services field especially in HVAC installation, service and maintenance across a broad range of sectors, including Healthcare, Education, Transport, Banking, Retail and Commercial developments.