The U.S. government granted the first patent for an air conditioning unit to Wills H. Carrier in 1902. From then, Carrier and other inventors continued to work on the AC to make it better and installable in homes and offices.
There are so many people who played a part in the invention of the modern AC, but Carrier gets the most credit.
Long Before Carrier
Before Willis Carrier, other inventors had tried creating a cooling system. In 1840, John Gorrie, a medic and inventor from California, created a system that would cool hospital rooms. Gorrie believed that bringing temperatures down was key to fighting several heat-related diseases that affected people. He created a system that involved using huge ice blocks from the lake in hospital rooms.
The system worked, but it was untenable. After the ice in the lakes melted, the system was useless. He later focused on refrigeration and was successful. He created a machine that produced ice using steam, wind power, or horsepower. He received a patent for his ice-making machine, but he never got to the production stage. He had hoped to use the technology in cooling buildings and even entire cities, but his backer died and he never actualized his plan.
It is this ice-making machine that the modern AC and refrigeration system borrows from.
In 1851, James Harrison from Australia designed the first commercial mechanical ice-making machine. In the same year, he was granted a patent for his vapor-compression refrigeration. His machine was able to produce about three tons of ice every day. He later created his second ice company in 1855. He hoped to compete with the Americans who were already selling refrigerated beef to the U.K.
Electricity opened new opportunities for inventions, and this is where Willis H. Carrier came in.
Carrier and His Contribution in Making the AC
Carrier was the chief engineer of Buffalo Forge Company, based in New York. He was responsible for finding a solution to the humidity problem that ravaged the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company. His task was to find a way to ensure that moisture did not affect the pages of magazines.
He submitted his drawings of the solution and his work became the basis for the modern AC system. He was granted a patent for the first modern air conditioning system. His system was meant to regulate humidity, temperature, air circulation, and ventilation. His was named as the “Apparatus for Treating Air.”
This apparatus was designed in the form of a spray. It would heat water to dehumidify a room and cool the water to humidify a room. Although the system was successful, he wanted to make it more automatic and keep improving it.
He discovered that he could generate constant relative humidity with constant dew-point depression. He used this discovery to create an automatic control system for which he was granted a patent in 1914.
Before he was granted the patent for dew-point depression, he wrote the paper “Rational Psychometric Formulae,” which he presented during the American Society of Mechanical Engineers meeting of 1911. In the paper, Carrier explained the concepts of dew-point temperature, relative, and absolute humidity. He then tied these three concepts together. It is from this paper that engineers could create air conditioning systems that would fit the needs of different buildings.
The Buffalo Forge Company turned into a full manufacturing company in late 1914. Carrier, with six other engineers, left the company to start Carrier Engineering Corporation.
The company survived the war. It merged with York Heating & Ventilating Corporation and Brunswick-Kroeschell Company to create the Carrier Corporation. Willis Carrier was the Chairman of the company’s board.
The First Air Conditioner
The term air conditioning was coined by Stuart Cramer in 1906. Before that, engineers had tried installing commercial air conditioning systems, some of which were successful.
In 1904, engineers cooled the Missouri State Building for that year’s St. Louis World’s Fair. They used mechanical refrigeration to circulate about 35,000 cubic feet of cold air every minute. This was the first time that the public witnessed what cooling for comfort felt like in public places.
From here, more theaters and public places started installing a modified version of the AC. They did this by forcing cold air through floor vents. However, this only created a cold floor while higher areas were still very hot.
The first residential air conditioning system came in 1914. This system was so big, standing at 7 feet. It was 20 feet long and 6 feet wide. It was also an expensive unit and only the wealthiest people could afford it.
In 1922, Carrier Corporation installed the first effective cooling system for theaters. In this system, the air was pumped through higher vents, which resulted in cool air being well distributed in rooms. Later, the company introduced the centrifugal chilling system. However, the system was still huge and too costly for large-scale production.
When Did Modern Air Conditioners Became Popular?
Until 1947, air conditioners were huge and expensive. They were a reserve of wealthy people and institutions. However, Carrier Corporation and other HVAC companies had come up with a design for smaller and more affordable units.
In the same year, more than 43,000 AC systems were installed. By the 1960s, almost all new homes had AC built-in. The window air conditioner units were also affordable and homes with no built-in systems would go for these units.
Homes continued installing the systems, and in 2009, more than 87% of homes in America had AC units. This also saw the rise of HVAC companies all over the country. Today, Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning is one of the most popular air conditioning system installers in the country.
The Efficiency Standards That Shaped ACs
The popularity of ACs in the 1970s resulted in an energy crisis. The crisis was critical that lawmakers set laws that regulated how AC consumed energy. The Energy Department’s Appliance and Equipment Standards Program set the federal standards that the AC manufacturers needed to follow to reduce energy consumption.
The Energy Department took over setting the standards for AC manufacturers in 1992. Its first standard is estimated to save homeowners about $29 billion in 30 years, between 1993 and 2023.
There are many other standards meant to increase the efficiency of ACs and make them more environmentally friendly. Its 2006 standard is meant to save homeowners about $70 billion in utility bills between 2006 and 2035. At the same time, the standard will avoid 369 million metric tons of CO2 emissions within the same period.
Newer air conditioners are 50% more efficient than they were in 1990. There are also more energy-saving features in these systems such as programmable smart thermostats with variable speed motors.
The Emerging Technologies Program run by the Energy Department is meant to make ACs and other appliances more efficient. The program is working on non-vapor compression technology that will make ACs more environmentally friendly and more efficient.
Call Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning Today!
At Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, we offer services on air conditioning, heating, and plumbing. Whether you need installation, maintenance, or repairs, we are here to help you get your system running optimally. We also work with newer systems such as ductless mini-splits and newer indoor air quality technologies. Our company offers to finance new and existing customers in the Northern Valley and greater Sacramento areas. Call Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning today and ask to speak to our technician. We look forward to serving your home climate comfort needs.