Every summer when the sun heats up and temperatures rise, air conditioning can usually save the day. Whether it’s central air or a window unit in our home, or chilled air coming through our car vents, we can easily find a release from the heat for physical comfort and safety. Learning more about the history of air conditioning gives a better idea of its impact on society and how we may not have gotten by without it.
1902: Willis Carrier designs the first air conditioning system for a publishing company in New York as a way to control humidity to keep paper from wrinkling and ink properly aligned.
1914: The first home air conditioning unit is installed in a Minneapolis mansion and is approximately 7 feet high, 6 feet wide, and 20 feet long.
1930s: Window air conditioning is invented but is so expensive that only the wealthy can afford it. Many people flock to movie theaters where air conditioning becomes popular around the time of the Great Depression.
1940s-50s: Bosses believe air conditioning makes workers lazy but eventually learn it increases productivity instead. By 1957, the majority of companies say AC is one of the most important factors in office efficiency, and sales for residential AC units boom post World War II.
1970: Central air is developed using a condenser, coils, and fan along with Freon.
1980: The United States consumes more air conditioning than all other countries combined.
1990s: Ozone depletion is associated with Freon, and manufacturers develop more environmentally-friendly coolants.
Today: Nearly 90% of Americans have air conditioning. AC systems are in another stage of improvement to meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s standards for energy efficiency.
How would you stay cool without air conditioning? Water has been a popular option both past and present, from drinking it to visiting public pools and beaches as a way to beat the heat outdoors.