Did you know that the first air conditioning system was invented in ancient Egypt? Moistened reeds hung over windows cooled the air blowing in through the process of evaporation. It also added some humidity to the air, which was beneficial in such a dry climate.

The ancient Romans circulated water from aqueducts through the walls of some houses to cool them, while medieval Persians used cisterns and wind towers to cool buildings during the hot season.

The concept of air conditioning has been around for quite a while, but it wasn’t until 1902 that an enterprising young electrical engineer names Willis Haviland Carrier invented the forerunner to the modern air conditioning systems that we know and love today.

First AC

In this artist’s conceptualization, Willis Carrier starts the engine that will drive the world’s first modern air-conditioning system, installed in the summer of 1902 at the Sackett & Wilhelms printing plant in Brooklyn, New York. This illustration appeared in the August 1954 edition of Steelways magazine which noted, thanks to Carrier, that “air conditioning spread through the industry like a cool breeze.”

Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn, N.Y. had a major humidity problem in its building. Paper stock at the plant would often absorb moisture from the warm summer air, which made it difficult to apply the layered inking techniques of the time. Carrier invented a machine that treated the air inside the building by blowing air across chilled, water-filled pipes. The air cooled as it passed over the pipes, and since cool air doesn’t carry as much moisture as warm air, the process reduced the humidity in the plant and stabilized the moisture content of the paper. Reducing the humidity also had the benefit of lowering temperature, and thus a new technology was born.

Carrier had built the foundation for an entire new industry, and in the process, made his mark on history.  He was also quick to recognize the potential of his invention, and it “wasn’t long before air conditioning systems started popping up in theaters and stores, making the long, hot summer months much more comfortable.” Today about three-quarters of homes in the United States have some sort of air conditioning, according to the Department of Energy.

You might recognize the name Carrier, and for a very good reason: it’s one of the biggest HVAC companies out there, and the Carrier name has become synonymous with air conditioning units all over the world!






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