The invention of air conditioning hasn’t just led to improved comfort in the hot summer months – it has made virtually uninhabitable places habitable, kept elderly and sick from their deathbeds, improved indoor air quality for people with extreme allergies, allowed for better working conditions around the globe, opened up new possibilities in manufacturing, and so much more.
While other inventions like tacos and the internet only get only one appreciation day each, air conditioning gets just a little more. July 3rd to August 15th are officially known as the Air Conditioning Appreciation Days, because, well, that’s when we appreciate it the most!
When was Air Conditioning Invented?
Let’s go back to 1902, when a young man named Willis Haviland Carrier was living in New York. Does that name sound familiar? That’s because Carrier was the first inventor of what we now know as modern air conditioning – and his legacy continues on today with their line of residential and commercial HVAC units over 100 years later.
Why did Carrier invent air conditioning?
Like most inventions, it all started with a problem. Carrier was trying to find a way to control humidity within a printing plant in Brooklyn, NY. Carrier discovered that when air passed over water-filled coils, it cooled off. It was only later that Carrier’s air cooling devices began to be used in a residential application. While we now use technologies like electronic sensors, vapor compression, and other energy efficient contraptions, it’s true that Carrier helped to spearhead the entire movement forward. And we thank him for it.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
What was Used Before AC?
In the United States, it’s hard to imagine a time before air conditioning. But, sorry to break it to you folks, air conditioning is a relatively modern invention. If you’ve been without AC for a day or even just a few hours, you know how painful it is (and how dangerous). So what did our forefathers and mothers do to cool off in the summer heat? Here are a few tried and true (albeit far less efficient) alternatives to AC:
- Qanats – Persians have had primitive air conditioners since 3,000 years ago. How? Qanats were a system of underground tunnels used to transport water. Not only did these systems allow for crops to stay irrigated during desperate times, but they also worked to cool buildings. Hot air traveled downwards through an air shaft to the water filled qanat below, allow the air to cool as it came into contact with the qanat. Another air shaft further down led to an underground basement, and as the cooled air escaped via the air shaft, it also worked to cool off the basement room. Wind towers constructed above the basement allowed the hot air to escape into the outdoors. Neat, right?
- Aqueducts – Like the Persians, the Romans used water to cool their homes. Not only did the aqueducts transport cool water, but they were capable of acting like a rudimentary air conditioner. The aqueducts were routed through walls in some homes (usually belonging to the wealthy), and the it cooled off the stone and bricks that made up the buildings.
- Ice – According to history, some people would even go so far as truck in huge mountains of ice to their homes. Emperor Elagabalus of the Roman Empire is infamous for this. For us modern day folks, we sometimes have to resort to placing a bucket of ice in front of a fan to create a poor man’s AC. It ain’t pretty, but it works in a pinch.
- Fans – Of course, there’s always the good old fashioned fan, whether it be motor powered or man powered. Ding Huang of the Chinese Han Dynasty invented a rotary fan made up of seven wheels, making the entire contraption 3 meters wide.
- Damp sheets – James Garfield, then the president of the United States, was able to cool off his room by using a combination of air and sheets soaked in cool water. Essentially, this was the equivalent to the modern day swamp cooler, allowing air to cool off as it passed over the cold water. (We can’t really recommend this method, though, since apparently you’d go through half a million pounds of ice in just a couple of months!)
- Oscillating fans – Nikola Tesla not only brought us alternating current motors, but also the technology that would be required in order to produce oscillating fans.
What is the Purpose of Air Conditioning Appreciation Days?
The whole point of air conditioning appreciation days is to, well, appreciate your air conditioner! What does that mean though, in terms of action? It’s not like you need to take your AC out for a nice meal and give it a good foot rub. The point of this AC holiday is to express gratitude for a technological device that we rely on so much, and truth be told, probably take advantage of.
How do air conditioners help us? Here are a few things that air conditioners have helped make possible:
- Medical advancements – before there were ACs, hospitals were simply cooled off via fans or other less effective devices. The result? Thousands more deaths each year that would have otherwise been preventable. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to overly hot environments. With the inclusion of air conditioners in hospitals, doctors and nurses were able to more effectively combat diseases like malaria.
- Summer blockbuster movies – did you know that the summer blockbuster phenomenon first started because of air conditioning? That’s right – people needed a cool place to go during the summer, so establishments with air conditioning started showing movies. People flocked to the theater to cool off, kick back, and enjoy the latest and greatest from Hollywood.
- Comfortable work environments – can you imagine trying to work in a room that was 90 degrees and humid? Air conditioners make it so we are able to stay active and productive throughout the day, allowing us to make advancements in areas like biomedical research, neuroscience, astrophysics, and more. And to think it all started because of a simple air conditioner.
- Homes where you can relax on a 100 degree day – before air conditioning became standard, you wouldn’t want to stay at home on a hot summer day. Instead, you’d go out to the lake, seek shelter at a local theater, or hide away in a basement if you were lucky to have one. ACs allow us to stay in the comfort of our own homes if we want to. Central air also recirculates the air inside your home, which keeps your air breathable when outside air quality is bad.
- Treated air for those with extreme allergies – air conditioning has also allowed people with severe allergies to find a little relief. Your AC isn’t just giving you cold air – it’s also filtering out pollens, dust, and other debris that can cause sneezing and wheezing attacks in the less fortunate. If you know someone with bad allergies, you know that just a few minutes outside can set off a coughing attack.
How to Celebrate Air Conditioning Appreciation Days
So, what do we do to celebrate our air conditioning? Honestly, you are already unknowingly a participant in the festivities just by turning on your AC when it gets too hot out. But it’s about more than just running your air conditioner – it’s about doing the extra work in order to find out how to run your air conditioner wisely.
Tips for showing air conditioning appreciation:
Get regular checkups
Show your AC the TLC it deserves by investing in regular checkups and maintenance inspections. Even if you don’t think there’s anything wrong with your unit, having a professional perform a full system inspection will allow you to catch little tiny problems before they become big nasty ones. And trust us – your AC will thank you for it.
Change your air filters often
Your air conditioning will work harder if it has a clogged air filter. This will cost you more money but also deteriorate the overall life expectancy of your AC. Make sure to change your filters every three months (or more frequently if you have a HEPA filter).
Give your AC a break
Don’t need to run the air conditioner today? Then give it a rest. If it’s only 75 degrees outside, consider leaving the AC off and just opening the windows. You’ll enjoy the fresh air and also being able to cut down on your energy consumption a little each month. Also try to avoid doing super hot things indoors during the day, like cooking or baking. Wait until the evening to run the oven so your AC doesn’t have to work overtime.
Keep your curtains and blinds closed
Just this little extra effort can help insulate your home, keeping the cold air from the AC in and the hot air out. This will allow your AC to turn off more frequently instead of running all day long.
Shade your home
If you want to go the extra mile, try planting shade trees around your home. Reducing your home's sun exposure can help naturally regulate your home's temperature, reducing your need for heating and cooling.
Set the thermostat to a reasonable temperature
Does your house really need to be at 60 degrees all summer long? Try setting the temperature to 72 degrees and adjusting from there. You’ll notice that you get along just fine with keeping your home a little bit warmer.
Know when it’s time to call in a professional
It’s true that you can’t always fix it yourself, especially when it comes to your air conditioner. If you’re an avid DIYer, make sure to know your limits. You can easily do more harm than good if you try to fix your AC without properly understanding the entire system, and no one wants to suddenly shell out money for a new unit, even if new air conditioners have come a long way.
Long story short, if your air conditioner is acting up, call in a professional.
Thanks to All the Air Conditioning Manufacturers
Thank you to those of you who keep making, installing, and repairing our air conditioners! We appreciate everything you do for us. Without you, we’d be sweaty, grumpy, or living in Alaska.
Carrier - Goodman - Day & Night - Bryant - Payne - Mitsubishi - York - Amana - Trane - Rheem - Lennox - American Standard - Gibson - Weather King - Tempstat
Don’t forget to show your love for your AC! Air conditioning appreciation days are July 3 – August 15 every single year.
Run your air conditioner wisely, schedule regular preventative air conditioner maintenance, and make sure to have fun and stay cool all summer long.
(and if you really love your air conditioning, enjoy this 10 hour video of an air conditioner running.)