The US Labor Movement

It’s that time again, another Holiday and therefore another look at something cool and interesting outside our usual cooling comfort zone. We previously covered the origins of labor day, rather than repeat that, we’re going to explore the labor movement in the century since then!   Labor Movement? From some of the earliest days of the United States, there has been some form or other of labor movement to improve the conditions of workers. This covers everything from the push to a 40 hour work week to unions negotiating for benefits. Groups of workers, lobbyists, and whole organizations have pushed for better working conditions, laws, and benefits to the working person. During the 1800s, the labor movement was massive. At the time, there were few protections for workers of any kind. A person could be expected to work six days a week for however long the employer wanted in whatever conditions they created. It was common and expected to work for pennies a day, doing back-breaking work, in suffocating heat, while potentially being exposed to toxic substances like asbestos or being around machines that could rip your leg off. There was no workman’s compensation either, on the job injuries were only the worker’s fault for messing up. This movement was big enough that by the 1880s, there were ideas being discussed about a Labor Day. It would be a day to celebrate the workers of the country and the work […]

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Engine Driven Air Conditioners

The world of HVAC is a very strange place to live some days. We commonly think of air conditioners as being electrical devices. Perhaps the only real exception to that is the air conditioner in your car, which is essentially powered by your car’s engine. In the early days of air conditioning and refrigeration however, the opposite was true: cooling systems were mainly mechanically powered.   The World Before Electricity It’s the early 1900s. The telephone is still considered cutting-edge technology and you can go down to the local train station to send a telegram anywhere in the country. Electricity however, was not quite so common. In 1900, 3% of US homes had electricity. It wasn’t entirely feasible to just throw an air conditioner in your back room. Even businesses wouldn’t have had the easy option of just plugging in an air conditioning system, even if it occupied half their building. At this point, most working-power was mechanical. Factories would have massive boilers, which produced steam, that turned enormous turbines or ran crank systems, that ultimately ran everything in the facility. In order for any particular innovation to take off, it almost had to be mechanically driven. If you couldn’t throw some coal and water in a machine to power it, you probably couldn’t have it.   Steam Powered AC How exactly do we run an air conditioner on steam alone? Every motor in an air conditioner is doing just […]

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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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The History of Presidents’ Day

Another holiday, another deep dive into History. Today we’re celebrating Washington’s Birthday, before his Birthday. We’re also celebrating all the Presidents we’ve had over the past two hundred years or so. Let’s take a trip through History.   George Washington We could spend weeks posting about our first President. He began life as a humble surveyor in Virginia. By 1752 he would survey over 60,000 acres and continued the trade throughout his life. For an era of riding on horseback and careful hand measurement, this was no small feat. Washington’s strong work ethic would eventually see him appointed a Military Adjutant in the 1750s. Washington’s first military action would come as a Major in the Virginia Militia during the French and Indian War. His service would eventually see him appointed the a Colonel and the commander of the Virginia Militia. Despite his service the British Army would refuse to grant him Officers’ status and pay in their ranks. Washington was a colonial soldier through and through. There would be a brief, peaceful period for Washington after his retirement in 1758. He would go on to get married, run his plantation, and slowly get involved with politics. He would serve as a representative in the Virginia House of Burgesses as an outspoken critic of the British, their taxes, and eventually would try to ban British Imports outright. At the start of the Revolutionary War, Washington approached the Continental Congress in full […]

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A (Brief) History of Christmas

Merry Christmas, one and all! Today we’re going to take a look at the history of possibly the biggest holiday in the world. For this particularly holiday, we’re going to have to cut back on some of the details. The particular origins and specifics of Christmas are more than enough to fill a couple books even when summarized.   The Old Christmas Christmas was first affixed to December 25th somewhere around the year 336 A.D. At the time, there was no holiday celebrating Jesus’s birth. There were however, numerous other holidays from other religions. This meant Christians would celebrate Christmas along side Pagans celebrating the Solstice and Romans celebrating Juvenalia. These other holidays, combined with plentiful food from the recent harvest, made early Christmases more like Mardi Gras. It was a wild festival full of excesses. In these days, social orders were turned upside down. The poor demanded fine food and drinks from the rich. There were extended periods of businesses closing, for weeks to celebrate. There could be feasts lasting nearly two weeks. It was a time to drink and be wild, with no real emphasis on gift giving or any of the holiday’s current focuses. These excesses weren’t shared by everyone. The varied sects of Christianity took different approaches to the holiday. Some groups were in favor of celebration. Some were intent on banishing the holiday entirely. In the 17th century, Puritans taking political control in England would […]

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The Story of my Furnace Failure

The most important thing for your HVAC System is preventative maintenance. We’ve advised you not to panic when things go wrong. Instead, the time to panic is when you notice something is off. If the furnace makes a really bad sound, treat it for the cancer that it is. When something’s not running, you can calmly poke it and see what happens. It’s not going to get any worse because you knocked on the fuel tank to see if it was really full. When there’s symptoms of trouble however, every day is going to make things worse. The First Symptoms It’s 2012. I’m living with my parents, about to set off for college. The furnace kicks on and immediately something isn’t right. I can hear the water trickling into the baseboards. On the surface, this might not seem bad. You hear water all the time. You should never hear water in a baseboard or a radiator. Your radiators should be filled to the brim with water. At the most, you might be able to hear a sort of hissing noise, the sound of water moving. I heard a dripping noise. If water can drip, there’s air in the line. If there’s air in the line, the heating system isn’t running under pressure, it isn’t sealed like it should be. The furnace and water tank are pretty much filled with just water. Water flows into the heat exchanger. Water flows out […]

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The History of Thanksgiving

It’s time for another deep dive into the History of a Holiday. Today we’re going to cover Thanksgiving. Luckily, this is something a little more straight forward than Halloween’s two thousand year history.   The First Thanksgiving There is a long history to the holiday pre-dating what we’ve often be taught was the first Thanksgiving. Among the religious Separatists and the Puritans, there was a tradition of providential holidays. In times of great challenge, it was traditional to declare a religious fast and appeal to God for deliverance. In times of great success and abundance, great feasts to Thank God were a common occurrence. Going farther back, harvest celebrations can be found among the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans who feasted and gave thanks to their respective gods for a successful harvest. Throughout the colonization of America, there were multiple “Thanksgivings” held. In 1565 there was a Thanksgiving in St. Augustine, Florida to thank God for the crew’s safe passage from Europe. Another was held in 1619 in Virgina, proclaimed as a “Day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God,” by the British Settlers there. Our traditional “Thanksgiving” featured in numerous TV Specials and elementary school history classes was’t held until 1621. Perhaps the success of the Plymouth Colonists has made it a better recorded and remembered celebration. Those colonists, commonly known as the Pilgrims, had just taken in their first successful harvest. Per the tradition, it was a time of abundance and […]

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Happy Halloween!

Tomorrow is Halloween! As we do for all holidays at Procure, we see this as an excuse to learn something new. For Halloween, this turns out to be a complex and twisting tale of holidays evolving and changing over thousands of years.   2,000 Years Ago We can trace Halloween to the Celtic Festival of Samhain from about 2000 years ago. It was celebrated around what we now call Ireland, France, and the United Kingdom. For the Celts, this was the “New Year.” It was believed that on the night before the New Year the boundary between the world of the living and the dead was blurred. At this time, ghosts and spirits could walk on the Earth once more. The spirits were believed to be a mixed-blessing. They could destroy crops with frost and blight before they were harvested or help Druids and Priests predict the future. In those dark days, winter was seen as a cold, long, dangerous, and miserable time. Misfortunes were blamed on the supernatural and likewise, hope to survive needed to rest in the super natural as well. Roman influence in the period would further add a celebration of the dead when their holiday of Feralia would become intertwined with Samhain. This influence would carry forward,  deeply altering the holiday by the time Christian Influence entered the area. The celebration consisted of bonfires, sacrifices, and costumes made of animal heads and skins. Some of these […]

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