How Air Conditioning Changed America
Air conditioning is a relatively new invention and didn’t become a fixture in American homes until after World War II. We’ve all experienced the relief of air conditioning on an extremely hot day — upon arriving at home after a day outside or when ducking into a store or restaurant to escape the heat. In many areas, however, air conditioning is more than comfort, it also increases health and safety.
A brief history
The first “air conditioner” was created by naval engineers for President James Garfield in 1881 when he was dying. It consumed half a million pounds of ice in two months.
In 1902, Willis Carrier, an American engineer, made the first machine that resembles modern air conditioners. In the 1920s and 1930s, mechanical cooling appeared in theaters, the first places to adopt the idea. Air conditioning was brought into homes after WWII.
Benefits of home air conditioners
By the 1950s, air conditioning had begun to be considered essential for modern living. Manufacturers claimed multiple benefits:
- better sleep
- healthier air quality
- cleaner interiors
- reduced risk of dehydration and heat stroke
- reduced asthma attacks
- ability to exercise indoors
Consequences (good and bad)
The widespread adoption of air conditioning changed the design of homes and led to the demise of the front porch, wide eaves and high ceilings. Thick walls, attics and cross ventilation were also no longer necessary for natural cooling.
Air conditioning changed how Americans live, work and play. Families spend more time indoors, perhaps leading to the rise of the television industry and indoor entertainment centers. Geographical difference became insignificant in terms of environment. Homes in sunbelt cities became more popular. The development of the IT industry was only possible with the advent of air conditioning to keep computers and other electronics cool.
On the downside, energy use increased dramatically. Today, the push to make all devices more energy efficient is critical to many industries.
It is unlikely that anyone wants to give up the many benefits of air conditioning. Thankfully, HVAC technology is constantly improving and equipment is more efficient than ever. If your A/C is more than 10-15 years old, upgrading your equipment can provide better performance, more convenience, and greater savings over the life of the system.