Air conditioning was once a luxury enjoyed only by the privileged few, while the rest of us sweltered in the stifling heat of an office, factory or our own home in the summer months.
It was invented by New York engineer Willis Carrier in 1902 and patented in 1906, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that it became commonplace in most workplaces.
Today, we can all enjoy the benefits that air conditioning offers, thanks to modern systems being readily available for the workplace, public transport systems and private properties.
Studies have proved that working in a comfortable temperature has many benefits. Extreme heat has a negative impact and makes us feel sluggish, tired and generally uncomfortable, so air conditioning can go a long way towards rectifying this.
At work, it improves comfort levels and job performance, making us feel sharper and more alert. When we go to a gym or leisure centre, it improves our ability to carry out physical activities without sweating too much and becoming dehydrated.
A lower temperature can reduce the number of insects indoors and can help reduce allergens, such as pollen. When properly maintained, an AC unit improves the air quality. So installing an air conditioning system and keeping it in a good state of repair has all kinds of benefits.
Did you know that air conditioning has also been instrumental in the creation of one of the movie world’s biggest money-spinners: the “summer blockbuster”?
In the early years of cinema, at the beginning of the 20th century, going to the cinema wasn’t always such a pleasant experience, as no one enjoyed sitting in stifling heat in a crowded auditorium. In the summer months, cinemas traditionally weren’t as busy if it was very hot.
In 1925, the first cinema air conditioning was installed by Willis Carrier at a cost of $100,000, at the Rivoli Theatre in Times Square, New York. This marked a new age of summer entertainment, as it was discovered the box office receipts were normally higher in cinemas that provided air conditioning.
The Rivoli’s new “refrigeration plant” was launched to great aplomb and customers piled in to experience the cool interior for themselves. Among the audience members was the head of Paramount Pictures, Adolph Zukor, who was very complimentary, telling reporters afterwards that people were going to love air conditioning.
Normally, cinema-goers would try and keep themselves cool with hand-held fans, but there was now no need. By 1930, the trend for air conditioning had spread and more than 300 cinemas had installed it, using it as an advertising point on a banner outside.
Air conditioning systems helped coin the term “summer blockbuster”, as taking advantage of the fact cinemas now had a cool and comfortable climate, film companies would release their next big movie to coincide with the traditional holiday season. These films became known as “summer blockbusters” and the term entered our general vocabulary.
The first air-conditioned car was invented in 1939 by the vehicle manufacturer, Packard. However, it didn’t prove very popular at first, as the required evaporator and blower equipment took up half of the boot space, leaving little room for anything else!
Before air conditioning for vehicles was invented, there was only one way for motorists and their passengers to keep cool in summer and it was known as “four and 60” in Tennessee. This was an abbreviated term which described having all four windows wound down and driving at 60mph to create a cool breeze through the car!
Packard tried out a number of unsuccessful air conditioning systems in the early days, including using liquid nitrogen, a vapour jet of water mixed with alcohol, a turbine-powered compressor to blow out cool air and a system of “gasoline vaporisation” that turned out to be a non-starter – because it needed 26 gallons of petrol an hour to function!
It took a decade for Packard to devise a fully functional vehicle air conditioning system, that was unveiled at the 1939 Chicago automobile show. It ran on a compressor, with refrigerating coils behind the back seat and infringing on the boot. Although the system was cumbersome, it worked. It was 1969 before major auto manufacturers installed air conditioning in their vehicles.
First air-conditioned home
In the early 20th century, the first house to have air conditioning installed was owned by Minneapolis resident Charles Gates. His nickname was “Spend-a-Million Gates”, as he was the millionaire son of the pioneering barbed wire manufacturer, John Warne Gates.
The installation began in 1913, but unfortunately, Gates Jnr didn’t live long enough to see the project completed. He died on a hunting trip in 1913 before the air conditioning was up and running.
In the workplace, the early customers included flour mills and the Gillette corporation, as the razor blades were going rusty during the manufacturing process because of the excessive moisture.
In public buildings, air conditioning was installed in the United States House of Representatives in 1928. The Senate and the Supreme Court followed suit. President Herbert Hoover put air conditioning in The White House, at a cost of $30,000 – just months before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, leading to the Great Depression.
After World War II, window unit air conditioners were unveiled. Sales escalated quickly from 74,000 in 1948 to an incredible one million in 1953.
Air conditioners don’t just cool the air – they also remove humidity, thus making the environment more comfortable.
Rather than setting your thermostat fan constantly to the “on” position, choose the “auto” position instead. This means it will blow air only when the cooling system is running.
If you’re leaving the fan blowing air continually, moisture will be blown back into the house and this will affect humidity levels. Using air conditioning units can help to prevent mould and mildew growth.
Today, it would be hard to imagine life without air conditioning – the experience of walking into a room in the height of a heatwave and feeling the refreshing blast of cool air on your face is one to be savoured!
Manufacturing and supplying air conditioning systems, to commercial and residential properties, Gree UK is an international air conditioning enterprise with more than 25 years’ expertise. Contact us for further information on our high-quality products and services.