Erin Doman on June 17, 2015 2 Comments Over the course of human history, we have created technologies of varying degrees of sophistication to help us keep cool in the summers. Many years ago, people tended to migrate to cooler climates in an effort to avoid sweltering hot temperatures. These people slept outside, wore less clothing and swam frequently to keep cool. As civilization and science began to advance, devices were developed that would act as primitive air conditioners. Although the modern air conditioning unit is known as the device that lowers temperatures in a room using evaporative methods, its beginnings are much simpler. Primitive Air Conditioning Concepts In ancient Egypt, long before the development of electricity, the air conditioning unit was comprised of wet reeds. These wet reeds were hung in windows and doorways, so any time a breeze flowed through the air, the room was cooled. Since the air in Egypt is dry, this cooling process was very beneficial and helped to keep much-needed moisture in the air. Another method that was often used in ancient Egypt was wind-catching. Civilizations in the Middle East were known to have created towers that caught wind and funneled it down into their cities, keeping the citizens cool. The Romans were a little more advanced in their air conditioning technique. They kept themselves cool by running cool water through pipes and water systems inside of their walls. The water kept the homes cool by reducing the temperature of the walls, which cooled the rooms once the hot air came in contact with the walls. A common technique seen in multiple ancient civilizations was the use of landscaping and gardening to cool the nearby buildings. Landscaped ponds and towering trees brought moisture and shade which protected people from the heat. Fast forward to the second century in China. Ding Huan, a Chinese inventor, developed a manual rotary fan. This device was compromised of 7 wheels. The rotary fan was so large that it required 7 people to operate it to generate cool air. Eventually, improvements were made to this device and they ultimately created a water-powered fan. It wasn’t until the 17th century that salt was added to the water in primitive air conditioning units to generate cooler temperatures. The United States Enters the Market In 1758, more research was done in the United States to explore the relationship between using evaporative methods to create cooler temperatures. Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley established that volatile liquids could be used to rapidly cool an object to extremely low temperatures. This breakthrough set the standard for many future experiments and early air conditioning units. However, it wasn’t until 1820 when inventor Michael Faraday discovered compressor technology and used it to create an early prototype that was effective at rapidly cooling a room. The downside was that the device leaked. Then, in 1842, an American doctor named John Gorrie used this same technology to obtain a patent to create ice for use in his medical practice. Although he continued to use this technology and practice medicine, Gorrie eventually hoped to create the ultimate air conditioning unit that could cool whole cities. Due to a lack of financial support his dream was not realized, and the air conditioning concept was abandoned for several decades. Development of Modern Day Air Conditioning Units Another major development in air conditioner technology came in 1881. When President James Garfield was shot, engineers in the United States Navy developed a makeshift cooling device that could lower the temperature by 20 degrees to help keep him cool. While this was the most successful air conditioning unit created to date, it wasn’t until 1902 when Willis Carrier created a cooling system for his Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company. This device could lower the temperature and humidity of lithograph paper by blowing hot air over cold coils to keep the paper straight and the ink in place. Once businesses got wind of how successful this device was, Willis created the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America to start production on factory based air conditioning units. At this point, air conditioning units were not built safely or small enough for personal use. They were used in factories to keep production machinery cool. They were also used in certain food storage applications as well. In 1931, H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman created the first residential-sized air conditioning unit. Today, their design is still widely used in many commercial and residential buildings all over the world. These devices were mass produced in 1932, but only wealthy people could afford to purchase them. These air conditioning units were so expensive that even though they were revolutionary, they were widely considered a luxury that most could not afford for several more decades. Introduction Into the Automobile Market Of course, the development and advancement of the air conditioner did not stop there. By 1939, Packard Motor Car Company began to install air conditioning systems into their automobiles. While this development was highly anticipated, it was not a commercial success for many years for several reasons. For example, the units were so large that they took up most of the trunk space, they were too expensive for most people to purchase, and they were highly unreliable. Effect on the Economy The development of air conditioners helped to facilitate the population shift to the Sun Belt cities and transform the face of the United States economy forever. The rest of the world is slowly starting to join the bandwagon, with Europeans taking the lead and other countries slowly following suit. Although the use of air conditioners was slow to take hold, at least 87 percent of the U.S. population was using air conditioners by 2013. With recent advances in technology, the portable air conditioning unit was created, and the price of air conditioners has dropped drastically, making them much more affordable to purchase. Now that there are portable air conditioning units, homeowners have the ability to choose which rooms or areas of their home they want to cool off. They are no longer restricted to spending a great deal of time and money on the purchase and installation of large and immovable air conditioning systems.