What’s the history behind your home air conditioner?

August 15, 2021

history behind your home air conditioner
Image Credit: One Beautiful Life Photo

We take it for granted, but the ability to easily cool the air in our living and working spaces with air conditioners for comfort is a relatively modern phenomenon. 

Prior to the presence of central air conditioning in homes, people had to deal with the heat any way they knew how. They took trips to the mountains. They spent days swimming in lakes and streams. They dunked their heads in public troughs. They blew fans across blocks of ice. They ate cool foods and delayed baking or cooking until cooler evening hours. Many buildings incorporated high ceilings to give the hot air somewhere to go.

The first modern air conditioning system wasn’t designed until 1902 when Willis Carrier was asked to solve a humidity issue at a publishing company. He delivered, with a design that used cooling coils to either add or subtract humidity from the air. Soon, businesses beyond the publishing industry were seeking out the new apparatus. 

Very few homes, however, had air cooling systems until many decades later. Air conditioning  systems were simply too bulky and expensive for the everyday household. 

Frigidaire and General Electric introduced the first room-cooling products for homes between 1929 and 1931. In 1931, two inventors filed a patent for the first air conditioning window unit. In that same year, Frigidaire started marketing central air conditioning systems for homes. 

These innovations were significant but still too expensive for the general public. But by 1947, that changed when a new type of compact window cooling unit became available. By the end of that year, 43,000 units had been sold. 

The technology continued to develop. In the mid-1970s the first heat pump was designed. In the early 1990s, the industry started phasing out CFCs or chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants (invented back in 1928), based on evidence that the chemicals deplete the ozone layer. 

Today, the HVAC industry develops modern air conditioning systems to comply with evolving EPA regulations in order to cut back on carbon emissions. They’re also embracing new, more efficient technology to bring down energy bills for customers and to improve the impact on the environment.

A great example is variable speed technology, which allows your system to run at pretty much any speed between 30% and 100%—making air comfort more efficient. Trane—the brand our company has represented for decades—was the first to bring variable speed technology to the market after the it was developed in the 1990s. Since then, it’s become better and even more affordable, bringing high tech-high efficiency comfort to homeowners.

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