The History of Central Air Conditioning

Central air conditioning has become standard in homes and commercial buildings in the US and other developed countries. But that wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that new homes were standardly equipped with central air in some areas.


As you sit in the cool comfort of your home or office on a hot summer day, consider how the modern central air conditioning system came about and be thankful for the innovative minds that brought the idea to life.


The First Cooling Machine 

The concept of artificial cooling began with Dr. John Gorrie, a physician and inventor living in Florida. Dr. Gorrie theorized that cooling hospital rooms could aid in faster recovery for patients and help control contagious diseases. His cooling concept began by having ice shipped in from frozen natural bodies of water in other parts of the country. In order to combat the expense, Dr. Gorrie came up with a device for creating ice with a horse powered compressor, which was patented in 1851. His invention never made it to market due to the death of his financial backer, but the concept of modern refrigeration and air conditioning was born.


An Apparatus for Treating Air – The Air Conditioner

The first air conditioner, or an “apparatus for treating air” as it was then called, was invented by Willis Carrier in 1902. There was a need to control humidity for a publishing company whose magazine pages were constantly curling up and causing trouble for printing. The concept of heating water to create humidity (steam) was already a well-known concept, but the reverse process of cooling water to dehumidify air had not been explored as a useful procedure.

His first patent was an automatic system for controlling humidity that was used in textile mills. He formed Carrier Engineering Corporation that is now Carrier Global. The company still manufactures air conditioners and other home appliances.


Commercial Cooling Emerges 

Air conditioning was first used in public buildings before it became a household appliance. In 1904 at the St. Louis World’s Fair, the Missouri State Building was cooled using mechanical refrigeration. Movie theaters were next in the 1920s during the silver screen era. The technology was still very rough, as temperatures varied greatly across the same room due to lack of efficiency and effective distribution of air. The details were fine tuned over the next few years as commercial cooling improved and engineers worked to bring air conditioning to the home.


Residential Air Conditioning Becomes Affordable 

The first window unit air conditioner was invented by H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman and marketed in 1932, but due to the high cost they were not widely used. Henry Galson engineered a more affordable version that was widely used in homes by 1947.


From the window unit evolved central air conditioning that became more prevalent through the 1960s and 1970s. The central air conditioner consisted of a single system that could create enough cool air to disperse throughout the home by way of ducts.


Evolution of AC Technology and Refrigerant 

The key element of an air conditioner is a substance called refrigerant. Freon was the original refrigerant, but it was discovered to be hazardous to the environment. Other refrigerant options are in use in today’s air conditioners. Advancements in technology over the years have made central air conditioners more energy efficient and engineers consistently work to further reduce energy consumption for residential and commercial cooling.


Berico: Servicing Air Conditioners Since the Beginning

Since 1924 Berico has been providing home comfort services which now of course includes air conditioner repair and installation. Berico has one of the longest histories of the central air companies in the area, working in the industry. Services include HVAC repair and installation, fuel delivery, air purification systems, duct cleaning and more.


Call 336-273-8663 or request service today.