Air conditioning has come a long way since the days of harvesting ice and saving it for summer. From evaporative cooling, to mechanical cooling, to electromechanical cooling and refrigerant cooling, the process of keeping humans cool when it’s sweltering hot has undergone significant development.
The first form of air conditioning is thought to have been devised in Egypt, where reeds were hung in windows and moistened with water as a form of evaporative cooling. As the wind blew through the window, the water evaporated from the reeds, cooling the air. Ancient Rome used water from aqueducts to the same end, and Persian cisterns and wind towers were deployed to cool buildings during the hot season. Similar methods were deployed in ancient civilizations around the world.
The first steps forward from evaporative cooling were made with the emergence of advances in chemistry in the 1800s. Willis Carrier invented the first, large-scale electrical air conditioner in 1902, meant to control the air temperature at a publishing company where humidity and air temperature was affecting the manufacturing process. By the 1920s, his invention had been adapted for residential use and gained widespread use, particularly in the American Sun Belt. The first houses to be outfitted with air ducts for air conditioning were built in 1914 by Davit St. Pierre DuBose, who recognized that air conditioning would become a staple in private housing in the years to come. In 1945, the portable, in-window air conditioner was invented.
Since then, improvements have been made to Carrier’s air conditioner, building atop the advancements before them. Older variants of the air conditioner used dangerous chemicals that could cause potentially fatal accidents when they leaked, and much of the focus on air conditioner innovation has been on eliminating such hazards.
The air conditioner has seen a lot of changes in the time since its development. It’s quieter, more efficient, can be put on time cycles and humidify and de-humidify a space. So when the weather gets hot, kick back with a cold drink, turn down the AC and be glad there are no reeds in your windows!