The Art of Cooling – 100 Years On

Air conditioners have become an indispensable comfort in the modern world. With increasing temperatures and expanding the population, modern man has adapted to survive the summers using this very useful little invention.

Here’s a few of the key takeaways on the art of cooling 100 years later, read on to our infographic check out the full infographic for more details:

  • AC units were switched on at an average temperature of 24.2°C.
  • 62% of people studied purchased air conditioning primarily for cooling
  • 31% of air conditioning owners had a maintenance contract in place.

The Art of Cooling - From the days of yore


Early Use:

The struggle of man with the weather conditions is not a new idea. The effort to keep our homes cooler than the outside temperature has been ongoing since ancient times.

  • Ancient Egypt: Used a simple form of air conditioning by hanging wet cloths in doorways to create an evaporation cooling effect. When the wind blew past such hangings, it produced a fresher breeze.
  • Ancient Rome: Aqueducts were used to pump water to various parts of the city. These aqueducts were routed inside the walls of wealthy Roman homes to circulate water and cool the air.
  • 3rd Century Rome: The emperor Elagabalus built a mountain of snow—imported from the mountains via donkey trains—in the garden next to his villa to keep cool during the summer.
  • Ancient China:Air cooling can be traced back as early as 180 AD in China, and the time of Ding Huan. Huan invented a hand-cranked rotary fan that produced a breeze.
  • 1758:Benjamin Franklin and his colleague John Hadley discovered that evaporating volatile liquids (such as alcohol) on the surface of water can cool down an object to freezing point.
  • 1820:English inventor Michael Faraday successfully performed a similar experiment compressing and liquefying ammonia, used in the first modern air conditioning unit.
  • 1830s: John Gorrie, an American physician, began work on the first mechanical cooling apparatus ever recorded, using compression to make buckets of ice and then blowing air over them.
  • 1834:Jacob Perkins invented the first artificial ice manufacturing machine which led to our modern compression systems.
  • 1851: Gorrie patented his ice-cooling invention, which by this time was used specifically in hospital rooms.  It helped in creating a healthier environment for patients of yellow fever.

The Advent of the Modern Air Conditioner:

  • 1902 Willis Haviland Carrier invented the first air conditioner to control the temperature and humidity of a printing company.
  • 1904 The St. Louis World’s introduced nearly 20 million astonished visitors to the modern marvel known as manufactured air.
  • 1906 Stuart W. Cramer came up with the term “Air Conditioning” which was later adopted by Carrier.
  • 1914 The first air conditioned home was the Minneapolis mansion of Charles Gates. The 7 feet high, 6 feet wide, 20 feet long unit was never used because no one lived in the house.
  • 1917 The New Empire Theatre in Montgomery, Alabama becomes the first known theater to use refrigeration.
  • 1922 Willis Carrier replaced the toxic coolant ammonia with the much safer coolant dielene (dichloroethylene, or C2H2Cl2) while also greatly reducing the size of the units.
  • 1922 Willis Haviland Carrier installed his new cooling system in Sid Grauman’s Metropolitan Theater in Los Angeles and later at the Rivoli Theater in New York.
  • 1928 After complaints about the lack of fresh air in the Capitol building, air conditioning was installed and operational by the beginning of the next session.
  • 1930 The White House is air-conditioned.
  • 1931 H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman invented an individual room air conditioner that sits on a window ledge—a design that’s been a fixture in most apartments ever since.
  • 1939 Packard was the first car to offer factory-installed air-conditioning.
  • 1946 The demand for room air conditioners began to increase with more than 30,000 units produced this year.
  • 1953 Room air conditioners sale exceed 1 million units. This is another key milestone in the history of air conditioner.
  • 1957 The first rotary compressor was developed hence making air conditioning units smaller and more efficient compared to the reciprocating type.
  • 1969 Refrigeration technology made a trip to the moon possible. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in space suits with cooling systems which protected them from the uninhabitable temperature of outer space.
  • 1970s Central air conditioning comes along. Air gets drawn, passed over coils, and blasted through a home’s ventilation system. R-12, commonly known as Freon-12, is used as the refrigerant.
  • 1977 Heat Pumps equipment developed that allows cooling and heating cycle using the same machine that can be used to provide cooling during summer and heating during winter.
  • 1987 The United Nation’s Montreal Protocol is signed establishing international cooperation on the phase out of ozone depleting substances, like chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants used in HVAC equipment.
  • 1992 The R-22 Alternative Refrigeration Evaluation Program (AREP) starts to find alternative refrigerants to R-502 and R-22.
  • 1994 Freon is linked to ozone depletion and banned in several countries. Auto manufacturers are required to switch to the less harmful refrigerant R134a by 1996.
  • 1997 Kyoto Protocol signed to protect the earth’s climate by reducing greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
  • 2007 A US State Council issued a circular to restrict the temperature of air conditioning in public buildings to 26°C (78°F) or higher during summer and 20°C (68°F) and lower during winter.

Historical Reactions to Air Conditioning:

1925 – Mr. Zukor, the president of Paramount Pictures:

“Yes, the people are going to like it.”

1932 – Popular Science article:

“With complete air conditioning apparatus in the home, broiling August sun will mean as little as piercing January cold; every day inside is a fine day!”

1947 – British scholar S.F. Markham:

“The greatest contribution to civilization in this century may well be air-conditioning—and America leads the way.”

1958 – New Yorker magazine, article written by M. Pittman and John Updike quotes a cabbie:

“I figure business has improved twenty-five percent since I got my unit in. On top of that, my tips are bigger.”

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.