The innovations that made modern air conditioning as we know it today possible started in the early 20th Century. Before then, people pretty much sweated it out and fanned themselves to keep cool. In the early 1900s, electric fans started to become popular. But early air conditioning systems were once only reserved for the rich. It's hard to imagine a time where only the rich could be cool while the not-so-rich had to sweat it out. With air conditioning becoming more affordable than ever, the distant past was a time we're glad we no longer live in. This applies especially in Florida. Because we can't imagine the Sunshine State without air conditioning!
In 1902, an engineer from New York named Willis Carrier invented what would become the prototype for the first modern air conditioning system. His mechanical cooling system sent air through water-cooled coils to control humidity inside the printing plant where he worked. About 20 years later, Carrier figured out a way to reduce the size of his cooling mechanism via a central compressor. It was introduced in the Rivoli Theater in Times Square, which led to air conditioned theaters. Which then gave birth to the summer Hollywood blockbuster! Air conditioning made it possible for movie theaters to stay in businesses year-round.
Carrier’s early AC system was meant to keep humidity from wrinkling and shrinking paper and ruining the print quality of the ink. Good ole Willis saved the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company a lot of money on wasted materials. Carrier’s invention would later benefit other industrial manufacturers besides printing presses, including textile manufacturers and meat processing plants, as well as medical and pharmaceutical labs.
Do you like to wear cotton clothing? Air conditioning helps keep cotton threads from breaking. What about sandwiches? Air conditioning helps keep bread from molding faster too! Do you enjoy a smoke once in awhile? Guess what helps keep tobacco products moist! Before modern air conditioning was invented, even guilty pleasures like pasta and chocolate would get ruined when temperatures and humidity fluctuated in production plants.
It’s not just the products that benefitted from AC. Workers at manufacturing plants became more productive and less prone to calling in sick. That's because air conditioning improved working conditions and the health of the people who make the products you enjoy today!
Much like air conditioners, today computers and smartphones have become a necessity rather than a luxury. Your smartphones and computers rely on computer chips that must be manufactured in clean, dust-free environments. An AC system doesn’t just keep a computer manufacturing environment cool. It also keeps it clean! So air conditioning essentially made the “Age of Information” possible!
Because early forms of air conditioning were expensive to install, maintain and operate, commercial AC took off a lot earlier than residential. Again, early forms of air conditioning were only affordable to the rich and to businesses that had the money to afford it. According to the Carrier Corporation, as late as 1965 only 10 percent of U.S. homes had air conditioning. Today 3/4 of homes in the United States have air conditioning.
When AC systems started becoming an integral part of the home, traditional architectural features designed to help people stay cool such as deep porches, high ceilings, wind tunnels and cross ventilation were no longer needed. Builders instead started making homes centered around the cooling system. And they began abandoning designs that sought to keep a building cool by way of nature (such as wind tunnels, awnings to block sunlight, etc.). AC also allowed homes to be built facing any direction and for cooler, quieter homes.
By the 1930s, everything from department stores to offices were air conditioned. This of course led to increased sales and productivity during the hot summer months. Would shopping malls even exist without air conditioning? Everything from beauty salons to ice cream shops would go out of business. And the food courts alone would probably not even exist! While some businesses maybe could survive without AC, one of the cool things about having a business in a shopping mall is the comfort of exploring a maze of stores inside an air conditioned building.
Tourism experienced a boom in southern states like the one we call home: Florida! Before air conditioning, who really wanted to travel to a place like the Sunshine State? No AC where it’s humid and hot during what are now busy tourist seasons like summer and spring? No way José! Jobs boost the economy, and tourism creates jobs. So without air conditioning, states like Florida would never thrive during peak vacation seasons, because there wouldn't be peak vacation seasons!
Think about how many jobs would be lost in Florida if it were too hot to visit Disney World in Orlando during the summer. And it’s not just tourism. Who in the hot hell would even consider moving to and living in a state like Florida without the existence of air conditioned homes? (Certainly not the dude writing this post!). The decreasing costs of owning and operating an AC system as time goes on creates thousands of jobs for the HVAC industry and gives birth every year to new air conditioning companies like Super Heat & Air!
Did you catch the information in that cool infographic right above this paragraph? You read that right: air conditioning saves lives! Hospitals require different types of temperature and humidity for various areas. Air conditioning makes hospital environments livable, workable and comfortable. It also keeps hospitals clean and hygienic, keeping patients healthier and happier.
Proper air conditioning also helps treat and prevent diseases. The ventilation and filtration air conditioning creates can dilute and remove contaminants such as microorganisms, viruses and hazardous chemicals. And UV lighting installed in modern hospital air conditioning systems have proven effective at eliminating bacteria from hospital rooms and reducing the risk of infection within hospital environments.