Air Conditioning History Lesson – Short and Sweet HVAC History Brief
Although Willis Haviland Carrier ranks high in air conditioning history, tinkering with ways to create a cooler living environment has long intrigued inventors in all nations. Carrier’s invention may have initiated modern day concepts of how HVAC cooling systems should function, but the history of chemical/mechanical air conditioning starts much earlier in time. The following presentation illustrates some of the historical highlights of man-evoked cooling processes.
1758 Benjamin Franklin working with John Hadley discovered that evaporating liquids such as alcohol and similar unstable fluids drops the temperature of an object sufficiently to freeze water. Note: In 1820, an English inventor named Michael Faraday while compressing and liquefying ammonia repeated the discovery.
1830s Working with the principle of compression, Dr. John Gorrie constructed an ice-making machine. For transferring cool air, he used blowers to push air across buckets of ice. It was 1851 before he patented the idea, but a lack of financial backing prevented him from achieving his dream of using the system as a means of cooling enclosed environments.
1881 Air conditioning history includes some unique moments in parallel political history. In 1881 President James Garfield was fatally wounded by the shot of an assassin. In a desperate effort to preserve the President’s life, naval engineers constructed an air conditioning device wherein a box of ice covered with a water-soaked cloth served as the key component. By using a fan to blow hot air overhead, the cooler air coming from the peculiarly designed “air conditioning” system actually lowered room temperature by as much as 20-degrees Fahrenheit. Although the device consumed, within a two-month period, over ½ million pounds of ice, the wounded President still passed away.
1902 Enter Willis Haviland Carrier with a device he called the Apparatus for Treating Air. In the nature now applied in modern HVAC technology, the Carrier system functioned by pushing existing air across cold coils. The first Carrier air conditioning system was designed for and installed in the Brooklyn-based Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company. Assuring ink alignment and preventing paper from wrinkling during the printing process was the primary function of that first Carrier system. The success of the unit prompted Willis Carrier to establish the now popular and well-established Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America.
Additional 1902 successes include a 300-ton comfort cooling system installed in the core structure of the New York Stock Exchange. Designed by Alfred Wolff and fully functional for twenty years, the system used cooling properties provided by waste-system-operated refrigeration. During the same time period, a zone control air conditioning system of thermostats, dampers and ductwork was installed in the Kansas City, Missouri Armour office building.
1906 An office building in Buffalo became the first structure specifically designed to use and incorporate air conditioning technology office-wide. To reduce the possibility of fire, the designers incorporated carbon dioxide as the refrigerant – Ops. Additional breakthroughs in 1906 came when Stuart Cramer of North Carolina developed a ventilating system for use in NC textile plants. By adding water vapor to the air, the unit increased interior humidity and helped reduce the tendency of yard to break during the spinning process. Named by the inventor himself, the Cramer humidifying process was officially called “Air Conditioning.”
1907 HVAC cooling equipment first entered the hotel industry when Frederick Wittenmeier from Kroeschell Brothers Ice Machine Company installed air conditioning systems of his own design in the Chicago meeting rooms of the Congress Hotel.
1914 HVAC cooling equipment entered the residential market when a 7*6*20 feet A/C system, although never put to active use, was installed in the Charles Gates Minneapolis mansion.
1923 Using alcohol-based antifreeze as the core component, Nizer and then Frigidaire marketed an electrically chilled ice cream dripping cupboard. Ice cream cans were stored in wells within a cupboard that was surrounded by the refrigerated core component.
1930 Frederick Wittenmeier’s ice machine company continued to install hotel and movie cooling systems with figures that reached into the hundreds since the 1907 initial startup at the Chicago Congress Hotel.
1931 The first “not-poor-man-friendly” individual room air conditioning units entered the home and office marketplace on a price tag ranging from 10 to 50 thousand dollars per unit. Invented and developed by J.Q. Sherman and H.H. Schultz, the costly units reflected a modern day equivalent price tag in the range of $120,000 to $600,000 per system.
1939 Air conditioning entered the automotive world. The first systems, invented by Packard, lacked dashboard controls and required manual disconnect of the associated engine compressor belt to prevent functional cooling, but the extra work did not prevent buyers from enjoying a cool and comfortable mobile experience.
1947 Henry Galson established a production line for manufacturing window air conditioning systems at a price affordable to the mass market. In the first year of production, 43 thousand U.S. residents enjoyed cost-efficient home cooling without being forced to upgrade their complete HVAC system. By the 1950s, residential air conditioning had become as commonplace as moon pie and RC Cola.
1969 Automotive A/C with panel controls passed the 54-percent mark for installation in all new vehicles.
1970s Central heating and cooling began to replace window units.
1987 Government management of energy consumption resulted in the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act, which established standard energy efficiency requirements for central air conditioning systems, freezers, window A/C units and refrigerators.
1994 To save wordage, this air conditioning history brief has skipped various important HVAC moments in time. But we must mention at least one of the points linked to global warming and climate change, after which we will leap ahead into the 2000s. It was 1994 when the link between ozone depletion and Freon forced worldwide response to man-triggered changes in climate. As the international agreement of the Montreal Protocol pushed for a phasing out of CFC refrigerants, automobile industries were required to switch from Freon to R134a, and the world began to awaken to the threats associated with global warming.
2007 Trane introduced the AlumaTuff™ coil all-aluminum outdoor coil framework founded on the technology already associated with the patented Trane all-aluminum Spine Fin™ condenser coil framework. At the same time, American Standard introduced the all-aluminum DuraCoil™ evaporator coil as a component of it’s matched systems program.
2008 Ingersoll Rand acquired Trane reshaped the Ingersoll Rand global market solutions for comfort in buildings and homes.
2010 The Trane ComfortLink™ II Control system received the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award for effective performance, design, creativity and engineering that leads the way into the future.
2011 The EPA identifies the Rheem Prestige Series A/C equipment among the ENERGY STAR most efficient air conditioning products.
2012 American women voted Trane indoor comfort system air conditioning and heating equipment as the best on the market. Also in 2012, Daikin Industries, Ltd. initiated a major move in the residential HVAC U.S. market place by acquiring Goodman Global Group, Inc. for a price of $3.7 billion.
2014 HVAC technology continues to introduce systems with better energy efficiency, performance per dollar of cost, and extended durability. Let’s see how the year plays into the story of air conditioning history.
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