JAC Services provide dependable service and expert installation of residential and commercial HVAC systems and commercial refrigeration systems. We also offer superior preventative maintenance services to our residential and commercial clients.
Today air conditioning of some kind is a must-have for most people. Summers especially can be extremely hot in the South, creating a real need to escape the heat. The heat of the South combined with its high humidity levels make the relief that air conditioning provides something most people simply can’t do without.
At J.A.C. Services we understand the deep appreciation we all have for this modern marvel better than most. Even though we’re fortunate enough to be surrounded by cooling devices these days, do you ever wonder how on earth we survived before this handy invention? If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have your A/C breakdown on a hot, humid summer day then it’s easy to question how we ever even got by without air conditioning.
Well, not only did we survive without air conditioning, but we got creative with our solutions too. Keep reading for a peak into the history of home cooling and how we used to beat the heat.
Before Home Cooling
Before the invention of air conditioning – and even after air conditioning was invented but before it was popularized, people had to get creative to stay cool – especially those living in the balmy South. Even when air conditioning was first invented it was still several decades before it was accessible enough for most of the population to have it in their homes. In fact, during the 1960’s – decades after air conditioning was invented, only 10% of homes in the United States had air conditioners installed in their homes.
Without being able to rely on air conditioning there were a few things that people would do to stay as cool as possible. One of the most common things people did was rely on the outside air to cool their homes (when it was available). At night, most people would leave windows open to cool their bedrooms, while during midday, when the sun was at its peak, people would keep windows and doors shut to try to prevent warm air from getting in.
People also had to plan their lives around the temperature a lot more than we do today. During periods of hot temperatures, people would delay cooking, baking and other kitchen chores until evening time to avoid heating their houses up even more.
The lack of air conditioning also influenced how homes were built. You may have noticed this, especially in cities like Charleston where there are a lot of old homes, but before the convenience of air conditioning, homes were designed to promote air circulation and allow heat to escape. Higher ceilings gave rising heat a place to go, deep front porches shaded windows from the sun’s rays and windows were thoughtfully placed to promote cross-circulation of air. Also, unlike today where we go inside to escape the heat, back then, people would opt for the outdoors instead to at least enjoy a breeze. This was another reason homes in the South often had large porches – to give people a place to enjoy the fresh air (and hopefully a breeze) in the shade.
Early Trial & Error
It was in the 1840s that the idea for controlling our temperature – specifically being able to artificially cool air, was first proposed. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t out of a desire for comfort, but rather to promote public health. You see, Dr. John Gorrie of Florida (no wonder he was interested in this idea) thought that cooling the air could help people avoid diseases and support the healing of patients by making them more comfortable. He first introduced a cumbersome system that was used to help cool hospital rooms. However, this system depended on ice from frozen lakes up North to be shipped to Florida, so it didn’t take off.
Despite his first idea fizzling out, Dr. Gorrie didn’t give up and attempted to pursue other variations of this idea. Dr. Gorrie thought that if he could remove the need to import ice from other states and instead create his own that he could artificially cool air. His next invention utilized a device that would create ice. While it sounds more advanced, the compressor that created the ice had to be powered by steam, water, wind, or a horse, but it was enough to earn him a patent for his invention.
Air Conditioning is Introduced
While Dr. Gorrie’s method for creating ice to cool the air stalled, it did do a lot in terms of laying the foundation for what would eventually become air conditioning. The idea for artificial cooling was still alive, however, it wouldn’t take off until the right inventor came along. In 1902 Willis Carrier was attempting to solve a humidity issue for a publishing company. Carrier eventually created a system that could control humidity using cooling coils. This system was patented as an “Apparatus for Treating Air” and eventually became air conditioning.
Carrier’s apparatus was capable of both humidifying and dehumidifying air by either heating or cooling water. After a few iterations, Carrier figured out how to have more control over the humidity levels the device produced. This led him to invent an automatic control system that could regulate the humidity and temperature of the air. At the time, this was all done to protect the products being produced in textile mills, but eventually, this invention would be used for much more. After implementing his technology in textile mills, Carrier left his employer at the time to start his own company: Carrier Engineering Corporation. With his new company established, he sought out to bring air conditioning and humidity control to other industries that he thought could benefit from his inventions.
It may be hard to believe now, but people still worked and lived even before the modern convenience of air conditioning. During the summer, people would get creative to stay cool and stave off the extreme temperatures, but in 1902 that would begin to change. Carrier’s invention would go on to bring air conditioning to the masses.