Evolution of Air Conditioners

When Air Conditioners first came out, they were a commercial-only piece of equipment. They were almost always custom designed and installed equipment. The first major system was built by Willis Carrier to regulate humidity for a printing company. There was no going out to the store or your contractor to buy this technology. It was made from scratch.   Public AC The first air conditioners were installed in factories. These started out with textile mills and pharmaceutical companies in the 1910s. In the 1920s, department stores and movie theaters would start investing in air conditioners. In these days, a large department store could get hot enough for customers and workers alike to faint. Cool stores attracted customers looking to escape the heat. The Milam Building, in San Antonio, Texas would later be built specifically to be air conditioned from top to bottom. The entire building had special accommodations built-in to ensure consistent airflow to every floor, room, and store. This custom system was first put to use in 1928 and would not be retired until 1989 after a full 60 years of service. These innovations all lead to better technology, but it still was not accessible. These 1920s systems were hand-designed, in many cases by Willis Carrier himself. His sales team could pitch an air conditioner to any client for any purpose and he would design whatever it took to make it work. This isn’t entirely unique today, but at […]

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The Fridge Came First

Every now and then, we discover the weirdest facets of fate and history. We’re all familiar with Carrier’s major break through in creating air conditioning in the early 1900s, but it turns out, he wasn’t exactly the first. There were working, mechanical refrigerators before we had working air conditioners.   The Ground Work The first artificial refrigeration was done by a Scottish professor in the 1755. He used a vacuum chamber and ether to lower the temperature inside the chamber. When the ether boiled, it removed energy from the chamber, cooling it down. The effect was just powerful enough to produce some ice inside. In 1758, Ben Franklin and John Hadley at Cambridge University would conduct similar experiments with volatile liquids. They were able to cool a  chamber now to 7 degrees fahrenheit, from an ambient 65 degree starting point. Franklin wrote, “From this experiment, one may see the possibility of freezing a man to death on a warm summer’s day.” At that point in time, there wasn’t yet a practical way to actually freeze anyone. This refrigeration involved a vacuum chamber. Anyone cooled down would be all but freeze dried in the process. Further refinements would come over the next century. In 1820 there was a closed-cycle system that could continuously cool a chamber and condense it’s refrigerant, it would be able to keep cool indefinitely. In the 1860s, German researchers began work on refrigeration for breweries. During the […]

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Why Are Compressors Measured in Tons?

When we look at compressors, there are a lot of numbers going around, but one of the bigger ones is the Tons. We sell compressors in all manner of weight-ratings, from less than a ton to hundreds of tons. The thing is though, this doesn’t mean we need a crane and a massive truck to load the compressor before it ships out. Compressor tonage is not actually a measure of weight. In fact, it is the result of some weird and convoluted math and history.   Old Fashioned AC Before we had the modern air conditioner, there were just a handful of ways to actually cool a room or a building. You could open a window, sit in front of a fan, use an evaporative cooler, or get a block of ice. That’s right, once upon a time we didn’t just have “ice boxes”, we had ice-conditioning too. The precursor to modern refrigeration was massive chunks of ice, usually cut from frozen lakes in the north and hastily delivered anywhere cooling was needed. You would go down to your local ice house and buy however much your fridge or cooling system needed. For building-scale cooling, there would be a block of ice essentially placed in a special cabinet in the air ducts and fans would blow air over it. The ice would remove heat from the air and melt. The air would be cooled and circulated around the room or […]

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