Air Conditioners Throughout History

Posted on July 13, 2016

It’s hard to imagine a world without air conditioning. This is especially true with the heat and humidity of summer bearing down on us. But while we take it for granted now, air conditioning has only been a widespread convenience for about the last 50 years.

The first modern electrical air conditioner was invented in 1902 by an engineer in Buffalo, New York who was tasked with solving a paper-damaging humidity problem at a publishing company. Like its present day counterpart, the device cooled air and lowered humidity levels via air circulated and treated through cooling coils. The rudimentary invention prompted engineers and businesses to experiment and improve on the technology, and the American public got its first taste of air conditioning at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

In the 1920s, air conditioning advancements allowed Americans flocking to movie theaters during Hollywood’s Golden Age to watch their favorite matinee stars while relaxing in climate controlled comfort. But air conditioning units were too large and expensive for public consumption. In the 1930s, smaller residential units were built, but still remained too costly for most consumers. That began to change in the late 1940s, when inexpensive versions of residential air conditioners became available. As America prospered in the mid-to-late 1960s, most new homes were equipped with central air conditioning. Window air conditioners were also more affordable than ever for older homes, which helped to spark population growth in hot-weather states like Arizona and Florida. According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2015 nearly 100 million American homes had air conditioning, representing 87% of all households.

Today’s air conditioners use the same basic principle as the first versions….with decades of improvements, of course. Systems chill indoor air, utilizing a process that forces special chemical compounds to evaporate and condense over and over again in a closed system of coils. The compounds involved are refrigerants that have properties enabling them to change at relatively low temperatures. Air conditioners also contain fans that move warm interior air over these cold, refrigerant-filled coils. Central air conditioners have a whole system of ducts designed to funnel air to and from these serpentine, air-chilling coils.

Your friends at General are proud to be a part of more than 100 years of the home comfort industry. Call us today for all your air conditioning needs.

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