A Brief History of Air Conditioning

When your air conditioner breaks down, we are sure we will die if it isn’t fixed right away. It is hard to imagine that people lived without it at one time. We take it for granted, but how long has air conditioning been around?


John Hadley, a professor at Cambridge University, and Benjamin Franklin were both aware that evaporating water had a cooling effect. They discovered that alcohol and a few other volatile liquids evaporated faster than water and could cause water to freeze in a container.


In England, an inventor by the name of Michael Faraday made the same discovery as Hadley and Franklin when he compressed and liquefied ammonia.


Dr. John Gorrie wanted to make conditions more comfortable for patients and staff in the Florida hospital he worked in. To achieve this goal, he built a machine that used compression to make ice and then used fans to blow air over the ice to cool rooms. Dreaming of buildings everywhere being cooled with his invention, Gorrie patented his idea in 1851. He could not get financial backing so his dream was never realised.


On July 2, President James Garfield was shot by an assassin. To keep him cooler and more comfortable, naval engineers designed a cooling unit. The device they designed worked by filling the device with ice and water-soaked cloth and then letting a fan blow hot air overhead, driving cooler air closer to the ground. This device could lower a room’s temperature by 20 degrees but used a huge amount on ice in the process.


A method to keep ink aligned and paper wrinkle free was needed by the Sackett-Wihelms Lithographing and Publishing Co. in Brooklyn, New York was needed so Willis Carrier invented such a device. It was a machine that blew air over cold coils to keep a room cooler and control the humidity. When he learned that other companies were interested in obtaining such a device, he founded the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America.


A textile mill engineer in North Carolina by the name of Stuart Cramer created a device that ventilated the air in textile plants, adding water vapor to it. Yarn was easier to spin and not as likely to break with more humidity added to it. Cramer was the first person to refer to the process as “air conditioning“.


The first home air conditioning unit was placed in the mansion of Charles Gates in Minneapolis. The unit was twenty feet long, six feet wide and seven feet high. Since the mansion was never occupied, the unit was probably never turned on.


Daikin Industries Ltd was founded in Japan in 1924 as Osaka Kinzoku Kogyosho LP by Akira Yamada. Today Daikin air conditioning technology is regarded by many as the world leaders.


The first window mount individual room air conditioner was invented by J.Q. Sherman and H.H. Schultz. The units became available for sale in 1932 but these large units were too expensive at $10,000 to $50,000 each to be affordable to any but the wealthy.


Packard invented the first air conditioner for vehicles. Until dashboard controls were invented later, the only way to turn it on and off was to stop the car, open the hood and connect or disconnect the compressor belt.


With air conditioning units becoming more common, the United States built the first power plant with “summer peaking” to cope with the extra load put on power plants.


In the economic boom after World War II, the sale of air conditioning units soared. In 1953 alone, over one million units were purchased by consumers.


The popularity of window units declines due to the increasing availability of central air. Central air units could send cooled air to each room of a house using the same ventilation system used to heat the rooms in winter.


The Freon used in central air conditioners up to this time was found to have a link to the depletion of the ozone. This resulted in it being banned in several countries. Now there are substitutes for this coolant that are friendlier to the environment.


Stinson Air was established by Brad Stinson in 1995, in just the twenty years until today we have seen massive advancements in energy efficiency improvements and witnessed new technology such as Inverter driven compressors, Daikin intelligent eye, advanced MyAir zone control systems with home hub and wifi control, massive improvements in quality control and design software and so much more.

The history goes back further than most of us realised. Now you know how long man has been trying to keep his cool! What will the future bring? Keep your eye on the Stinson Air blog and watch this space!!