Modern air conditioning is a lifesaver. On a sweltering summer day, fewer things comfort us more than a nice, cold air conditioned room. From small, residential homes to massive, multi-floor commercial buildings, air conditioning is an integral part of keeping our interiors cool and comfortable.
You’re not alone in wondering, “Who came up with air conditioning, anyway?”. Who was the person who invented the refrigeration cycle that is now the standard for the most efficient air conditioners in existence? As it turns out, a single man can be credited as being the ‘Godfather of Modern A/C’.
However, before we learn about the the man who invented modern air conditioning, let’s explore the history of this impressive technology.
Before There was Freon, there Were Wet Mats
Technically speaking, air conditioning is simply the modification of the heat or humidity of an interior air volume. So, the argument could be made that a desk fan is an air conditioner, as it conditions the air to be more even in temperature distribution. A desk fan won’t, however, objectively reduce how hot or cold a room is. For that, you need either air refrigeration, free cooling, or evaporative cooling, the latter of which have been around for centuries.
The ancient Egyptians figured out that they could reduce the temperature of their living spaces by a few degrees simply by hanging wet mats above their doorways. The sharp increase in indoor humidity made the harsh, arid environment much more liveable, and thus evaporative cooling was born.
Later on in the development of cooling systems, subterranean air ducts would be used to geothermally cool air that would then be distributed indoors. Also, when outside temperatures were lower than indoor temperatures, water could be used as a thermal carrier to ‘store’ coolness for later use.
Even with the advent of evaporative and free cooling, nothing was really capable of bringing indoor temperatures down by more than a few degrees. What’s more, both evaporative and free cooling techniques rely on certain environmental factors that aren’t uniform throughout the world. Moreover, evaporative cooling specifically relies on water as a resource—something that needs replenishing on an ongoing basis.
It’s for these reasons why refrigerant-cycled air conditioning technology was invented.
The Cool Operator Himself
The man who is credited as having invented modern air conditioning is Willis Carrier, who thought up a way to string a series of cooled coils together, blow some air through them, and viola! Air conditioning. Willis Carrier can be said to have single-handedly revolutionized modern air conditioning.
His legacy lives on not just with every air conditioner that makes our lives better every day, but also with the Carrier company, which today manufactures commercial-grade air conditioning equipment used by millions across the globe.
What exactly was it that Willis Carrier figured out? Surely, someone had thought about cooling down the fluid within some coils and running air through them. What made Willis’ invention so remarkable?
How Refrigerated Air Works
As it turns out, it was the act of compressing and evaporating a fluid in a pressurized space that meant all the difference. This was the ‘silver bullet’ for the commercial cooling industry, and it’s what made Willis Carrier’s development such a landmark one.
Here’s how this process works:
- A chemical refrigerant with known cooling properties is compressed by—you guessed it—a compressor. This compressor relies on electricity to operate.
- Once the refrigerant is compressed, it will rapidly cool whatever air is near it if it is left to evaporate. This evaporation is done in a 100% contained environment within the air conditioning unit itself.
- Air distribution channels near the refrigerant send the cooler air out for circulation, bringing in warmer air to be cooled, simultaneously.
- The evaporated refrigerant is ‘recollected’ to fuel the cycle over and over again. The result is an electrically powered device that relies on a single ‘charge’ of refrigerant to keep a set volume of air at a desired temperature and humidity.
Modern air conditioning wouldn’t be possible without the use of thermostats, which are small, integrated signaling devices that automatically initiate the air cooling process once a temperature threshold is reached.
When thermostatic computer hardware is paired with efficient, powerful air cooling, the result is set-and-forget air conditioning solutions that give us all the comfort we need without any of the hassle, mess, or expense of older technologies.
For AC Expertise, Contact Front Range HVAC
At Front Range HVAC, we tap the power of proven HVAC technology to improve the lives and businesses of those we work with, whether that means installing a single window unit or building out the AC system for an entire office park.
To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.