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Cooling the World: The Birth of the Modern Air Conditioner

September 20, 2013

There’s a keystone in every great invention

Even with the transition from summer to fall, many locations of the U.S. and around the globe still require a need to stay cool from nature’s brutal heat, so a celebration of the 111th birthday of the air conditioner is still in order.  It is hard to imagine that just over a century ago, people worked, lived, and played all without the benefit of even a moment of relief from the stifling summer heat. If you live in a big city like New York, just the thought of a 90-degree day (let alone 100!) will rev up the sweat glands.

While waiting for a train one foggy night, at the turn of the 20th century that visionary Willis Carrier, first hit on the idea that you could pass dry air through water to create fog, thus controlling humidity levels.  From this simple, but brilliant observation, came the building blocks for the modern air conditioning. Soon after, Carrier installed one of his groundbreaking humidity control units in a Brooklyn, NY printing plant.

Twelve years later, millionaire Charles Gates installed the first residential A/C unit in his Minneapolis mansion, and the residential revolution began in earnest. In the 1920’s commercial and public establishments, like movie theaters and the U.S. House and Senate chambers, began cooling with Carrier’s invention. To understand how exclusive units where early on, it cost up to $50,000 to buy a room air conditioner in 1931, which is about $770,000 today!

Of course, Carrier did not just change the way we live at home; he also allowed businesses to operate year-round at maximum capacity. It would be impossible for the modern computer or electronics industry to even exist without a vast array of high-powered cooling systems.  While Willis Carrier might not have invented the computer you are reading this blog on, he did directly make the technology of the present and future possible.  

The next time walk into a air conditioned room after a long walk out in the heat, make sure to say a silent “thank you” to Willis Carrier and his brilliant invention. Keystone components like the
mounting brackets, fuse clips & fuse holdersquick-fit terminals, screw terminals & terminal blocks, and spacers & standoffs can be found in today’s A/C units large and small!