How the Air Conditioner Defined Modern America

July 9, 2024

Most of us have never known a summer without the cool breeze of a modern air conditioner.

Even if we didn’t have central heating and air conditioning in our youth, we still remember gulping down the cool air from a window unit or mini split.

But before air conditioning was a staple in every home, America was a different place, and people coped with the heat in a variety of ways.

In New York, people put their mattresses outside on the fire escapes to catch breezes as they slept. In Detroit, we went on vacation to cooler parts of the state. And the South? Well, it wasn’t as populated and wasn’t the vacation spot it is today. Too muggy!

Homes had summer kitchens and breezy porches and were even positioned to avoid the southern and western sunshine.

Air conditioning changed all that.

An Impactful Invention

While air conditioning has certainly helped the Southern United States rise in prominence as a summer tourist destination, its invention is important for all Americans. Even the National Academy of Engineering chose the creation of air conditioning as the 10th most important invention of the 20th century.

Surprisingly, AC wasn’t invented as a way to keep us cool: that was a side effect. When Willis Haviland Carrier invented the modern air conditioner on July 17, 1902, he was looking for a way to solve the humidity problem at a printing company in Brooklyn. His machine removed the humidity from the company’s stacks and stacks of paper, but it also cooled the air.

Carrier went on to develop the modern air conditioner and the company that bears his name is still one of the most recognized brands of HVAC units.

It’s Cool to be Cool

But, in addition to cooling us off, air conditioning has also made us more productive in the summer. Can you imagine trying to concentrate on your client’s needs when it’s 100 degrees in the shade?

But mostly, AC has changed our architecture and habits. Stoops are no longer necessary, and most large office buildings no longer even have windows that open.

Americans also began spending less time outdoors, preferring to shop in air-conditioned stores and watch action heroes in air-conditioned movie theaters. This may not be good news for our doctors, who implore us to get more outdoor exercise, but it’s been great news for the economy.

On the downside, AC needs refrigerants to cool the air, and those are notorious for their high global warming potential. Thankfully, climate activists and engineers continue working to improve modern cooling methods with an eye toward finding coolants that aren’t so environmentally threatening.

But for now, we still welcome air conditioning and are thankful our homes and businesses have it.

And, if your air conditioning isn’t keeping your home comfortable, the cooling experts at C & C Heating & Air Conditioning are here to help. If we can get your AC running again or recommend a newer and more efficient AC model, give us a call at (586) 439-3319 or contact us online to schedule an appointment to stay cool this summer.

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