A Quick Look at the History of Air Conditioning for Anyone Interested in an HVAC CareerJuly 03, 2019
Summertime is officially upon us—in other words, air conditioners will soon be our best friend for the next several months. But what exactly led to air conditioning even coming into our lives in the first place? Following the invention of the first A/C systems, air conditioners have evolved from a luxury to a necessity for most, as many households in Canada have air conditioning. However, it took a long time before reaching its status of ubiquity.
Here’s a look at how modern air conditioning has grown over time, and how it continues to make the hot, sticky summer weather just a little bit more bearable.
Developments Prior to the 20th Century
It can be argued that ancient Egypt set the groundwork for air conditioning to follow, as it would be common to hang reeds in windows and have water trickle down to moisten them, thus leading to cool air as the water evaporated. Similar attempts to stay cool would also be made in ancient Rome, where members of the upper class population used the aqueduct system to have cool water run through their homes. In fact, the emperor Elagabalus built a mountain of snow in a nearby garden as a means of staying cool during the summer months—though the results were a letdown.
Were it not for Willis Carrier, who knows how we’d be protecting ourselves from the extreme heat
Willis Carrier’s Game-Changing Invention
Although American engineers and scientists would attempt to further developments in air conditioning technology in the late 19th century (including John Gorrie’s attempt in 1842 to make an ice-creating machine to cool hospital rooms), Nikola Tesla’s invention of alternating current induction motors would really help move the process forward, leading to oscillating fans being invented as the 20th century got underway. However, in July 1902, a 25-year-old Buffalo native by the name of Willis Carrier introduced the first mechanical air conditioner.
Initially meant as a means of keeping moist air within the printing plant where Carrier was working at the time, the machine was built to control both humidity and the temperature of a room. Carrier, an engineer who considered himself the Thomas Edison of air conditioning, would found the Carrier Corporation 13 years later—a company that continues to manufacture and sell HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) systems in 170 countries to this day. In 1922, he’d take his invention even further by introducing the centrifugal chiller, which would be introduced to the public three years later. While HVAC college was still a long way off, these developments set the groundwork for the field and what was to come.
Technology in HVAC continues to evolve over time
Growing Pains Before Widespread Use, as well as What the Future Holds for HVAC Careers
Though A/C units seem incredibly universal nowadays, it took a long time for them to get there. Even in the late 1930s, window air conditioners were too expensive for the average person. Air conditioning would be first experienced by many in those days at movie theatres, since machines would cost between $10,000 and $50,000. As the late 1960s rolled around, window air conditioners had become more affordable, and many newer households in the United States had central A/C.
Today, close to 60 per cent of Canadian households have air conditioning, with a demand for A/C units across the world being equally high. In fact, demand continues to climb! In other words, your opportunity to pursue an HVAC career won’t be going away anytime soon.
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