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The History of air conditioning: a fairly new invention, but an ancient practice

By:   |   Jul 08, 2018   |   Views: 22   |   Comments: 0

We use air conditioning systems in our daily lives, sometimes without even knowing it. When we enter stores, shopping centres or offices in the midst of the sweltering summer months, we breathe a sigh of relief as the cool air hits us and we wish we could stay inside forever. Most of us go out and buy portable air conditioning for our homes as the warmer months approach, whereas other settle for portable air conditioner hire, seeing no use for them during the cold winters. Air conditioners are a fairly recent invention, but the act of air cooling originated further back than you may think.

The  use of air conditioning systems goes as far back as Roman times. The wealthy elite used to circulate aqueduct water through the walls of their homes in order to cool them down in the tropical summers. The next development in air conditioning design was in the second century in China. A Chinese inventor by the name of Ding Huan invented the first air conditioning unit that consisted of a rotating fan and had to be powered manually. The fan was such a success that the emperor, Xuanzong, integrated the fans into the wall of the palace. The medieval period also saw the use of fans for cooling, and cisterns (open pools) and wind towers were used to generate cool air for buildings.

The first attempt at building a self-generated air conditioning system was made by another inventor, Dr. John Gorrie in America. He used a cooling ice box design that was simplistic yet practical. The closest invention to the modern day air conditioner was by Willis Carrier. Aptly named €œThe Apparatus for Treating Air, the air conditioning system consisted of coils that cooled air and lowered humidity. This conditioner could also be adjusted.

After the invention by Carrier, others began to develop and produce air conditioning that benefitted industrial areas such as large buildings and factories as well as hospitals. Air conditioning was still limited to the wealthy, with the first person to own a home air conditioner being the son of a successful gambler. Air conditioning was not what it is today, as the systems were large and expensive and produced toxic ammonia fumes. Later inventions replaced the ammonia with benign coolant dielene and reduced the size of the air conditioning system with the use of a central compressor. Carrier eventually sold his invention and the central air conditioning boom began.

Air conditioning innovation continues today, as developers attempt to create air conditioners that are smaller, safer and consume less electricity. Air conditioning is a practical invention that many of us would find hard to live without.

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