The History and Evolution of Air Conditioning in Wrightsville Beach, NC

When asked to think about the most impactful inventions of the modern world, few thoughtful people would leave air conditioning off their list. Air conditioners are widely used these days — in Wrightsville Beach, NC and countless other places — and they have an interesting history that not many know about. To increase appreciation for this crucial convenience, we’ll run through some of the important points in the AC’s evolution.

The Prehistory of Air Conditioning

The first recorded attempts to tackle the problem of cooling indoor environments were rather humble. In ancient Egypt, for example, architects designed buildings with large, expansive courtyards and high ceilings, which allowed heat to dissipate evenly. Throughout the ancient world, efforts at indoor climate control typically employed such passive methods.

One notable exception occurred in the Chinese Han Dynasty during the second century CE. At that time, the inventor Ding Han created a large rotary fan powerful enough to cool a massive imperial hall. The fan worked via a mechanical hand crank and clever exploitation of the principle of evaporative cooling, but the invention languished, and no one followed up on it for many centuries.

Important Experiments

People didn’t begin experimenting systematically with artificial cooling again until the mid-16th century. In 1558, Giambattista della Porta found a way to cool ice to far below its freezing point using potassium nitrite. In 1620, the inventor and engineer Cornelis Drebbel conducted an impressive demonstration in which he cooled the Great Hall of Westminster Abbey using an apparatus of his own design.

In 1758, Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley discovered that when volatile liquids like alcohol and ether evaporate, they can drive temperatures down very rapidly. Building on this, Michael Faraday showed in 1820 that compressing, liquefying and evaporating ammonia could greatly chill the surrounding air.

Things Start to Pick Up

The history of air conditioning began to evolve into something resembling its modern state when Florida physician John Gorrie arrived on the scene. In the 1840s, Gorrie theorized that excessive heat exposure caused an array of adverse health conditions. He then created a device that horses, wind, water or steam could power to manufacture ice.

He secured a patent for this in 1851, but his financial backer died shortly thereafter, cutting short his work. In any case, Gorrie’s schemes for using his machine to cool hospitals were logistically impractical at that point.

In 1902, to help a Brooklyn, NY lithography and publishing company reduce the humidity in its offices, the engineer Willis Haviland Carrier invented the first electrical air conditioner. It used a system of coils and fans to cool the air. Three decades later, Carrier had refined his design to use ducts, blower motors and various sensors and controls.

The Invention Spreads

After this, ACs started spreading, first to commercial properties and then to homes, as designs became smaller and cheaper. By the 1920s, places like the Metropolitan Theatre in Los Angeles and the Rivoli Theatre in New York City were using air conditioning. In the 1940s, Harry Galson found ways to build smaller and smaller units until they eventually became small and cheap enough to be within the reach of many working people.

The federal government provided an unexpected spur to AC evolution in the 1970s. Reacting to the energy crisis that occurred late in that decade, the government began incentivizing — and in some cases, ordering — companies to build more energy-efficient systems, thus starting the development of AC technology down a path it would follow from that point on. Now, the AC industry is mature and employs countless skilled technicians ready to provide maintenance, repair and installation services.

We’re proud to be part of the HVAC industry and to have provided outstanding service for over 20 years. For the best in modern AC technology around Wrightsville Beach, NC, call Airmax Heating & Cooling and ask for our air conditioning installation services.

Image provided by iStock

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