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How Air Conditioning Was Invented

The compelling history of central A/C and ductless cooling.

air conditioning Needham, ma Today, it’s easy to think of air conditioning as a fact of life, but it took many years (centuries, really!) to develop the efficient, effective cooling systems we enjoy.

Whether your Massachusetts home has a central air conditioning or ductless mini-split system, Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling’s team can help you get the most out of it. We also know a thing or two about the history of cooling systems.

Early Air Conditioning innovations

Believe it or not, air conditioning existed in some form long before humans harnessed electricity:

  • There was an air conditioning system in ancient Persia. Wind-catching towers called bâdgirs could draw cool breezes from up in the air and channel them into dwellings. You can still see bâdgirs on structures in Iran today.
  • By the 19th century, many innovators were working on mechanized cooling systems. One individual was a Florida physician called John Gorrie. He developed plans for hospitals that involved ice from northern states and compressors powered by water, horses, sails and steam.
  • The term “air conditioning” came from Stuart Cramer in 1906. This textile mill owner from North Carolina held 60+ patents for ventilation and humidity-control inventions.

The Central Air Conditioning Revolution

The early 20th century saw an acceleration in the development of indoor cooling technology. A major move forward happened in Brooklyn, where the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographic and Publishing Company needed help to control the summer heat and humidity that were hampering its printing operations:

  • A young engineer named Willis Carrier (the same Carrier whose company makes A/C products today) created a revolutionary cooling system. It had coils filled with cold water and a fan blowing air over them, lowering humidity and the temperature.
  • By 1922, Carrier improved his initial designs with a smaller, safer Centrifugal Refrigeration Compressor. These cooling products were a major draw for movie theaters. Americans flocked to cinemas not only for entertainment but also to escape the summer swelter.
  • In 1929, Frigidaire rolled out an A/C product that was small enough to use in homes. However, its high cost meant only the wealthiest families could take advantage of the technology.
  • General Electric further reduced the size and cost of A/C units. General Motors synthesized chlorofluorocarbon coolants (CFC), making these units safer. Today, CFCs have been discontinued because they are bad for the environment.

Advances in Ductless Cooling

While central A/C came into being in the U.S., ductless cooling emerged in Asia.

  • In the mid-20th century, Japanese homes tended to be smaller and couldn’t easily accommodate ductwork. Japan’s high energy costs also made central A/C untenable for most families.
  • In 1959, Mitsubishi introduced a ductless mini-split system. It quickly became popular in Asia and Europe, but American consumers remained wary until recent decades.

Premium cooling services in the MetroWest region!

Is it time to step up your home’s cooling capacity? In Norfolk and Middlesex Counties, Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling can upgrade your HVAC equipment. We can also help you qualify for rebates through Mass Save and tax credits for energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment.

Are you interested in receiving a free estimate on central A/C or ductless mini-split products? Contact us today!