When was air conditioning invented? When was the first time someone turned that dial and felt a refreshing blast of cool air? Find out here.
No longer are the days of sitting at the kitchen table, sweating in your seat, and fanning yourself with the closest newspaper. There’s no need to persevere through unbearable heat—that’s what your A/C is for.
That’s why most Americans have it.
Research shows that 97% of Southern residents have some form of a cooling system, while 91% of Midwestern homes have a cooling unit. Even 65% of the population in Western states (like Nevada or California) own some form of A/C.
But this luxury wasn’t always available. When was air conditioning invented? When did we begin to know its chilly convenience?
Although A/C was invented in the early 1900s, it took until 1973 for there to be 50% penetration nationwide. Until then, A/C only remained a privilege for particular households.
Summer’s right around the corner though, and luckily for you, A/C is now a commonly-used technology. If you’re curious about air conditioning’s inception, we’ve got a brief history lesson!
Let’s get started.
A History of A/C: Pre-1900s
Willis Carrier is praised as the father of the modern A/C unit. But that wasn’t until the early 1900s. Obviously, many a person dealt with high temperatures and craved coolness before then. So what’s the story?
In the year 1758, Benjamin Franklin himself (along with professor John Hadley) touched on the idea of air conditioning. They experimented with alcohol and other such liquids, which were proven to evaporate quicker than water. They discovered that such liquids may be able to cool down an object enough to freeze water.
Of course, frozen water isn’t exactly the perfect solution to fighting severely high temperatures. What can we do with ice, after all? The next person to dabble in A/C uncovered a similar issue.
Let’s turn to physician Dr. John Gorrie (of Florida, no less!).
In the 1840s, Gorrie picked up where Franklin left off. He began to lay the groundwork for what would become our modern air conditioning system. Although his experiments weren’t always successful, they were undoubtedly impactful.
This Florida resident was sick of its grueling heat and wanted to discover a way to offer relief. He experimented with artificial cooling and even developed a machine that creates ice. However, the transportation of ice was a question he couldn’t quite answer before his (and his investors’) death.
When Was Air Conditioning Invented (Officially)?
Now we’ve made our way to air conditioning’s prized inventor: Mr. Willis Carrier. It’s a great story, and it all originated in the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn, New York.
Willis Carrier took a job within the company, which published pages for magazines and more, in 1902. The heat would sometimes affect the paper’s quality, causing it to wrinkle or furl at the edges.
To combat this problem, employees were required to use an apparatus that was revolutionary for its time. It was a machine which blew air over coils, causing cooled air to come out. This allowed workers to have some sway over the humidity in the room, keeping both the pages and ink intact.
Carrier then had an idea.
Couldn’t other companies benefit from this invention? Couldn’t other printing presses use this cooling device to their advantage? And ultimately, he was right—they could.
Thus arrived the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America, where Carrier spread the love of cooling. The company finally made its first residential installation in the year 1913. Mind you, these A/C units are nothing like we’re used to today—they were large, clunky, and burdensome objects.
This all happened despite a lack of initial interest. A/C slowly but surely began a necessary thing for people to have. There were no other viable solutions for the relentless heat. At the same time, ice was rapidly growing in popularity.
Making A/C Modern
Air conditioning got a facelift in the 1920s.
Two inventors soon created something more appropriately sized for the average home. H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman marketed a “room cooler,” or smaller A/C unit, to Frigidaire. The company then proceeded to install units in the windows of homes.
It was a small yet heavy, boxy, and grill-like unit that leaned on your windowsill for support. It kept an individual room cool—not ideal for the home, but amazing nonetheless.
A/C got smaller and smaller until eventually, it was fitting in our cars. And by the 60s, air conditioning had become so popular that it was already installed in millions of homes across the nation. Although they were costly and took a while to gain traction, most homes realized the benefits in due time.
Use A/C Wisely
In the United States, A/C is used more than in other countries, such as India or Brazil. That’s one reason why conserving our usage of it as much as possible will help ensure the longevity of the system itself, our planet, and much more.
There are many ways to save energy when you absolutely can’t forego the A/C unit (and if you’re in Florida, Nevada, Texas—how could you?):
Service your unit frequently to ensure its peak performance
- Use the timers on your unit, so it’s never on when you’re not home
- Check for holes, cracks, or any spaces in your home where the A/C could be leaking
- Consider leaving it at a neutral temperature when possible, around 78 degrees
- Use fans to supplement the flow of A/C
- Check and replace your air filters on a regular basis
Try to remember, for years people survived without using their A/C in an unrelenting way! Be conscious of the impact when running your unit.
Thanks for taking a moment to educate yourself on the history of A/C.
If you’ve ever wondered, “When was air conditioning invented?”, now you know! It’s an interesting story that began with a feeling and evolved over time, bringing us the tech-savvy units of today. They’re smarter, lighter, and more affordable—just what we need with Summer around the corner.
Is your A/C in tip-top shape for the hot months to come? Have you checked that everything is in working order?