HVAC History: Who Invented the Air Conditioner?
Willis Carrier of Buffalo, New York, is credited to inventing the modern air conditioner, but the air conditioner was an invention several thousand years in the making.
Before the common era, Ancient Egyptians used a form of air conditioning using simple methods. The Egyptians would hang wet cloth or curtains in a window or opening to a home. When a breeze would blow by, the air would come in contact with the cloth doused in cold water—thus cooling the room.
In around 200 CE, the Chinese began experimenting with inventions that are very similar to our modern air conditioning systems. They created massive manual fans that were turned using hand cranks. The air would effectively circulate around the room. Sometimes they’d install the fans near water fountains. As the water jetted up into the air, the fan would blow the cooled air through the room.
The 18th Century brought new advancements to the world of air conditioning. Famous American and inventor Benjamin Franklin began experimenting the effects of evaporation with chemicals, such as alcohol and ether. Franklin and his partner, John Hadley, were able to conclude that the evaporation of certain chemicals could freeze surfaces and even cause frostbite.
Michael Faraday and John Gorrie
In the 19th Century, famous English inventor Michael Faraday used similar tests to prove that liquid ammonia could also have the same effect as liquid alcohol and ether if evaporated. At the same time in Florida, John Gorrie began experiments evaporating huge blocks of ice.
Finally in 1902, the first modern air conditioning unit was invented by Willis Carrier. Carrier wanted a way to cool down the rooms of a lithograph company in Brooklyn, New York. He used similar technology to that of a heater; to heat a room, one could push air through hot coils. Carrier reversed the process to push air through cold coils. This not only cooled the room, but it also lowered the humidity.
Today: Modern A/C is Almost Everywhere
Now air conditioners are available for everyday use in modern homes. Most modern buildings even use a more complex system, called HVAC, which stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. These sophisticated systems can process an entire building’s need for all three types of air flow. Thanks to people like Carrier, Franklin and Faraday, we now lead more comfortable lives.
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