It’s hard to imagine life without air conditioning, especially in Tennessee. We are fortunate enough to experience all four seasons, but our summers can experience intense heat, and our winters can bring a lot of ice. HVAC systems are designed for thermal comfort. But, they haven’t been available as long as we think they have. Versions of the system date back as early as the 17th century, but many people rejected the idea of an air conditioning system because it went against nature. We decide to take a look at the history and how we began to cool America’s homes.

Life Before Air Conditioning

Air conditioning wasn’t invented until 1902, so what did individuals do to keep themselves cool? Much of the cooling process started with the construction of the home. In the south especially, they would focus on adding attributes that would keep the occupants as comfortable as possible. A feature that you might notice in older homes are the high ceilings. Heat rises. Higher ceilings would contain the hot air in a space that didn’t engulf the residents.

Additionally, where possible rooms were designed to include windows directly across from each other to allow for air circulation. If it weren’t possible to add two in this manner to the same room, they would try to incorporate a window in the room adjacent. The structures also had deep eaves that covered windows for shade. Trees were planted on the east and west sides of the house to keep it as cool as possible as the sun would rise and set. These were just some of the different strategies they took in addition to staying outside on the front porch or napping when the sun is high.

Inventing the Air Conditioner

It should be noted that most people didn’t just accept their fate. There had been attempts to keep rooms and houses cool by having ice and snow. Back in the 17th century, Cornelius Drebbel used snowed that he had preserved underground to help keep himself and family cool. Historians believed he probably achieved this by mixing the snow with water, salt, and potassium nitrate. Ice made another appearance a century later after President James A. Garfield was shot twice in the back. Doctors wanted him to be comfortable and utilized ice blocks to keep the temps during the summer at a reasonable temperature. In fact, Dr. John Gorrie put together a system of his own to help keep malaria patients cool assuming it would help level off their fever.

Inspired by the attempts to cool President Garfield’s room, many efforts to develop a cooling system began to pop up. One came from an astronomer Simon Newcomer who developed an apparatus that used six tons of ice and was successful in lowering the temperature in the room by 20 degrees. Other ideas included a balloon being tied to a fire hydrant or towers with carbon dioxide bombs. But, in 1902, Willis Carrier invented a rudimentary version of our air conditioner. He constructed the device for industrial purposes and wanted to have control over the quality control. The fact that the workers benefited was a bonus, not a necessity.

Air Conditioning a Modern Convenience

Air conditioning started making their way into homes for the sake of comfort didn’t really begin to gain in popularity until after the Second World War. Some previous versions just didn’t take off due to convenience or cost. In 1929, there was a model available that leaned against a windowsill looking very similar to the window units we’re used to today. During the World’s Fair in 1939, Carrier displayed a model that presented 65,000 visitors with their first ever air-conditioning experience. But, with the First and Second World Wars, most inventions were put on hold. So, once soldiers returned and started to settle back into domestic life and the U.S. Weather Bureau introduced the “heat index” more people became aware of the convenience that air conditioning could provide. By the 1960’s, millions of air conditioners were being sold annually. As of today, most of the energy consumption in the American household is from the use of the air conditioner.

Air Conditioning Tennessee

Servicing your HVAC system should be considered year round. Regular maintenance check-ups prevent your system from having issues when the seasons start to change. Contact Busy Bee Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning for more information on how to keep your HVAC running smoothly.

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