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The History of Air Conditioning

The History of Air Conditioning

Air conditioning has been a staple appliance of many American homes since the late 1960s. According to the Energy Information Administration, 48% of the energy consumption of American homes is the result of heating and cooling efforts.

While many of us can’t imagine life without the cooling efforts of an air conditioner, for a long time that was the reality.

Is It Hot In Here?

One of the first concepts of air conditioning came in the 1840s. A doctor by the name of Dr. John Gorrie theorized that higher temperatures were a breeding ground for bacteria and germs and wanted a way to cool his hospital rooms so sickness wouldn’t spread as easily. He was right of course, but his initial solution was a little ways off the mark. He wanted to ship ice from the Northern United States and store it in the rooms in a hospital in Florida to cool them down.

When this method was deemed too expensive to work (to speak nothing of the logistical challenges it posed), Gorrie began looking into artificial methods of cooling. He patented an invention that created ice using a compressor that could be powered by water, a horse, steam, or wind-driven sails. While his invention never made it to the larger market, it helped to pave the way for modern refrigeration and air conditioning.

Early Carrier Models

The first electrical air conditioner was not created for human comfort but was created to solve a logistical problem at a publishing house. In 1902, engineer Willis Carrier was tasked with solving a humidity issue that caused magazine pages to wrinkle before they could be used. His invention of the “Apparatus for Treating Air” produced humidity by heating water and absorbed humidity from the air by cooling water. As Carrier continued with his experiments, he developed an automated system for controlling the regulation of air temperature and humidity for a textile mill.

Carrier eventually formed the Carrier Engineering Corporation with 6 other engineers.

Summer Blockbusters Are Born

After a public showcase of comfort cooling technology at the World’s Fair in 1904, Carrier was ready to debut for the big screen. Public movie theatres had inefficient cooling systems that were in essence, poorly modified heating systems--the refrigeration equipment would distribute cold air from floor vents which left the lower levels freezing while the upper levels stayed hot and muggy.

Carrier presented a solution in 1922 and installed the first theatre-designed cooling system at the Metropolitan Theatre in Los Angeles. The new system pumped in cool air at a higher level, so the cold air was more evenly distributed throughout the building. With these new comfort controls, more and more people flocked to movie theatres to gain access to cooler temperatures during the day. The higher number of movie go-ers during the summer helped create the term “summer blockbuster”.

Air Conditioning in The Home

Once public buildings had more comfort control, the idea of home comfort took off. Many different manufacturers introduced different kinds of home cooling technologies, but it wasn’t until engineer Henry Galson created a more compact version of the air conditioning window unit that many American homes saw real comfort control. By 1947, 43,000 of Galson’s systems were being enjoyed in homes across the United States.


By the 1960s, most new homes had air conditioning. This influx of comfort control systems helped kickstart population growth in hot climates such as Florida, Arizona, and Texas. Today, 87% of American homes have air conditioning systems in them. There are still advancements being made in types of refrigerant, energy-efficiency, and conservation standards, but we’ve already come such a long way in a fairly short time.


Texas AC & Plumbing Specialist has been providing dependable air conditioning services to Round Rock and the greater Austin area since 2005. We can assist you with any maintenance, installations, replacements, and repairs your cooling system may require. Contact our team online or by phone at (512) 580-7551 to schedule an appointment.


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