Today, homeowners everywhere take their heating and cooling systems for granted. While you might pay attention to utility bills during particularly warm or cold months, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how far HVAC technology has come in the last 112 years. Since they were first introduced in 1902, air conditioners have gone from bulky devices made up of coils and huge fans to much smaller devices that use the same basic logic but more sophisticated technology.
HVAC: The Early Years
The first air conditioning system installed in New York City was designed by Willis Carrier. His innovative machine was installed in a printing plant in order to keep temperature and humidity levels even so the printing process could go on no matter the weather outside. Carrier’s invention was quickly adopted by many factories thanks to its ability to provide for better production and working conditions.
In 1914, the first residential HVAC systems were installed. However, these units were generally too large and relied on too many dangerous chemicals to be popular with average homeowners. AC units became more popular in luxury hotels and cars during this time, but most Americans simply couldn’t afford to enjoy chilled air on a regular basis. Innovations bringing modern air conditioners into homes were still a few decades away.
Regular Folks Get Familiar with Air Conditioning
During the 1930s, Carrier sold air conditioning units to theaters at the whopping price of $10,000 to $50,000 per system. It was a hefty investment for theater owners, but many sprung for air conditioning because they knew it would attract larger crowds. In fact, many Americans first became familiar with the pleasures of cooled air in movie theaters during the Great Depression.
Throughout the ’30s and ’40s, AC systems remained a luxury. HVAC providers such as this company still didn’t exist, but homeowners were just a few years away from embracing cooling power in their own homes. In the post-war 1950s, HVAC systems truly took off in the U.S. More than one million window AC units were sold in 1953 to eager consumers across the country.
HVAC Comes Into Its Own
Window cooling units were and are still popular, but their dominance in the HVAC market began to decline in the 1970s. At this time, modern central air systems were introduced. These systems relied on coils cooled by the then-popular refrigerant Freon to provide cooling power in homes and businesses. Thanks to their increasing popularity, the price point on these units slowly declined and they became commonplace in homes around the world.
Then, in 1994, scientists discovered that Freon could lead to problems with ozone depletion. Eager to correct the problem, engineers began promoting the use of new refrigerants and heat pump-based systems. Providing both heating and cooling power, modern HVAC units have come a long way since their introduction in the early 1900s.