HVAC 101: Chronicling the History of Air Conditioning

Time has certainly changed since physician and inventor Dr. John Gorrie proposed the idea of temperature regulation to rid diseases from hospitals and keep patients cool. Gone are the days of the availability of air conditioning as a luxury item for only members of the upper class.

With the evolution of modern air conditioning, people from all socioeconomic background can now cool their homes and businesses. In fact, air conditioning has become such a convenience that nearly half of our in-home energy consumption comes from heating and cooling. But we didn’t reach this cooling milestone without a lot of research and trial and error.

Dr. Gorrie’s first attempt at keeping patients cool in their hospital rooms failed in the 1840s. Geography severely limited his success because cooling the rooms required the transportation of ice from frozen lakes in the Midwest. Next, he worked to make the process of artificial cooling less expensive with the invention of the machine that created ice with the power of a horse, water, wind and steam. The mild success of his invention paved the road to modern air conditioning.

The idea of air conditioning continued to progress a few years later with the development of a system to combat the curling of magazine pages in the humidity. The new system revolutionized the printing industry and birthed modern air conditioning through the use of coils that could heat or cool the air based on the temperature of water flowing through them. Dr. Willis H. Carrier, also known as the father of modern air conditioning, expanded on Dr. Gorrie’s research and developed the first modern air conditioner for a printing plant in Brooklyn, New York in 1902. In fact, some of the first people to experience modern air conditioning were the printing plant’s employees. Dr. Carrier’s engineering firm went on to install some of the first modern air conditioners in stores and theaters in the 1920s.

With the success of air conditioning systems in theaters, new innovations propelled compact window air conditioning units into residential homes in 1947. The less expensive window unit made air-conditioning a regular feature in most American homes by the 1960s. The rise of in-home energy consumption in the 1970s and 1980s convinced the U.S. Department of Energy to introduce legislation that regulates carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to protect our air quality.

As new technology emerges, HVAC experts continue to develop more energy efficient systems that save customers money. At ALPS, we implement systems of all brands and models, customized to fit your unique needs.

Are you in the market for a more energy efficient HVAC unit? Request a free estimate from Alps!