Did you know?
- One of the earliest air cooling systems was built in China nearly 2000 years ago. Attempts to cool indoor spaces didn’t start in the twentieth century. For instance, in 180 AD, an inventor in China designed a ten-foot rotary fan that could be turned by a crank and cool a hall full of people.
- Refrigeration was originally invented to cool the hospital rooms of yellow fever patients. In 1842, physician John Gorrie invented an air cooling apparatus that became the basis of modern refrigeration. It used compressed gas that was passed through radiating coils. Gorrie tried to get funding to build a factory to manufacture this invention, but failed.
SEE ALSO: AIR CONDITIONING AND YOUR HEALTH
- An improvised air-conditioning system was used in the White House as early as 1881. When President James Garfield was mortally wounded by an assassin, the US Navy improvised an air-conditioning system for his sickroom. This system used an electric fan to blow air through thin cotton screens kept wet with ice water. This improvised AC kept the room’s temperature at about 80 degrees.
- The modern air conditioner was originally invented for humidity control, not cooling. When Willis Carrier invented the modern air conditioning system in 1902, he was actually trying to remove humidity from the air at a printing plant. But he quickly realized that his industrial humidity-control system could also be used for cooling people.
- Air conditioning gave rise to the phenomenon of the summer blockbuster movie. Movie theaters were some of the first businesses to widely adopt air conditioning, back in the 1930s. Since only the wealthiest people could afford to air condition their homes at the time, going to the movies became a very popular pastime on hot summer days. Summer went from being the movie industry’s slowest season to being their biggest—and the summer blockbuster was born!
- The first major building with air conditioning was the New York Stock Exchange. Another early adopter of modern AC was the New York Stock Exchange, which had Willis Carrier’s brand new invention installed in 1903.
- The first fully-air conditioned home was built in…Minneapolis??? You might expect that the first home with air conditioning would have been in a hotter state, but the first home with full AC was actually a mansion in Minneapolis, built in 1913. It also had gold plumbing and a full-size ballroom!
- Modern air-conditioning came to the White House in 1929. President Herbert Hoover had Carrier’s central air-conditioning installed in the Oval Office during reconstruction of the West Wing after a fire. In 1933, air conditioning was added to the private living quarters.
- The first cars with factory-installed air conditioning were produced by Packard in 1939. Unfortunately, the system was expensive, unreliable, and took up half of the trunk, so car air conditioning didn’t really catch on until major improvements were made in the 1950s.
- Air conditioning caused significant population growth in the South and Southwest. Over the second half of the 20th century, the population of the United States made a major shift southward. The spread of modern air conditioning is generally considered one of the biggest factors contributing to this change.
- Air conditioning changed architecture in the United States. Keeping inhabitants cool used to be one of the major challenges facing architects who designed homes and other buildings. Homes were built with features like large eaves, porches, breezeways, cross-ventilation, and high ceilings to help people survive the stifling summer heat. But with the spread of modern AC, these “passive cooling” features became less popular, and our homes became more dependent on AC to keep cool.
- Air conditioning makes major technological advances possible. Computing systems generate an enormous amount of heat and must be kept cool. Without modern air conditioning, modern computing would not be possible. Additionally, air conditioning and humidity control have been extremely important in the development of medicine and other high-tech industries.
- Air conditioning has significantly reduced the risk of death from overheating. Over the last fifty years as air conditioning has become more and more common, the risk of death in the US on hot summer days has decreased by eighty percent.
- Air conditioning reduces heat tolerance. However, while AC saves lives, it also makes us more susceptible to the heat. Research by scientists around the world has found that people’s heat tolerance decreases when they spend a lot of time in overly air-conditioned environments.
- The United States uses as much energy for air conditioning each year as the entire continent of Africa uses for everything. As we’ve become more dependent on air conditioning, we’ve increased the amount of energy we use for it. Today, about 12% of US household energy consumption is for air conditioning—about 261 billion kilowatt hours per year. Increasing the efficiency of air conditioning can have a major impact on our energy use as a nation.
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