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The History of Air Conditioning

When talking about the most important and impactful inventions of the 20th century, the mind instantly goes to the television, the internet, or perhaps the microwave. Only those living in hot, stifling climates might mention air conditioning in this list, as its influence is only noticeable in its absence. However, the improvement in the quality of life brought about by the introduction of modern air conditioning units is immeasurable, and their story is older than you might think. So where did it all begin?

The Invention of Air Conditioning

Civilizations throughout history have come with inventive ways in which to remain cool in the oppressive summer heat. From ancient Romans redirecting cool water from local aqueducts around their homes, to the simple and iconic hand fans of China, results varied in efficacy.

However, the first incarnations of the air conditioners we would recognise today were invented all the way back in 1902 – that’s two years before the teabag! American engineer Willis Carrier created a method of sending cooled water through coils that proved successful at reducing ambient room temperature. As is often the case with major, world-altering inventions, the initial intention of the unit was not to provide relief from the heat for the human inhabitants of Carrier’s workshop, more for the printing machinery that he used at his day job.

After realising its potential however, Carrier built on his own early work, developing a centrifugal chiller that aided in bringing down the size of the air conditioning units. After making its first public appearance in 1925, air conditioning caught on in a big way in commercial environments, making shopping centres, restaurants and offices far more tolerable throughout the hotter months and helping to increase worker productivity during this time. Cinemas also benefited, with film-goers now able to sit through a 2 hour blockbuster in the middle of summer, and air conditioned cars became the epitome of class and affluence.

Domestic Air Conditioning

From a domestic perspective however, air conditioning was slow to catch on. Even 40 years after first appearing in the public realm, just 10% of American homes were air conditioned, with that number drastically lower worldwide. Compare that to modern day usage, which sees wall mounted, ceiling mounted, ducted and other systems commonplace in hot countries around the planet, with developments in the technology increasing efficacy and affordability for many.

Though remaining largely unchanged, Carrier’s original designs have been adapted slightly over the years. Freon is now used as the coolant instead of potentially hazardous ammonia, while, as with the majority of technological inventions, much work into reducing the initial bulky size was carried out.

The cultural impact of Carrier’s work was immense. Societies that constructed their working days around the mid-afternoon heat found their siestas cruelly snatched away, while major advances in information technology that required temperature regulation to stop mainframes from melting down became possible.

Air Conditioning with BS Air

Here at BS Air, we stock a range of modern air conditioning units for commercial use throughout the South West. Whether for retail, leisure or manufacturing use, our skilled and experienced engineers are available to perform design and installation of the optimal air conditioning system, as well as carry out any necessary servicing or repairs.

Get in touch with the team at BS Air today to find out more.


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