Recently, The Atlantic has introduced the history of air conditioning technology. It points out that air conditioner has been widely popularized right now but before long people regarded it as a sin. Even now, some people think that air conditioner is not only a demonstration of human intelligence, but a symbol of human vulnerability. It seems that people is unable to bear the high temperature in the scorching summer without the help of air conditioner. The following are original content:
Before 20th century, only the rich and sick could stay in the cooling chamber. It was usual for people to warm themselves by the fireplace in cold winter, however, many people think that people ought not to fight against the natural heat wave. And it is also a sin to control temperature by machine. Even at the beginning of 20th century, members of the U.S. Congress still avoided using air conditioning in the room because voters might laugh at them for not sweating like others.
The application of air conditioner requires industrial innovation. Meanwhile, it needs to erase the negative stereotype. However, it will indeed bring negative influence to earth from a certain degree.
Air conditioning still made a breakthrough under the shade of morality because some people really need it, especially doctors who hope to heal patients. In 1851, John Gorrie, a doctor from Florida, was granted a patent of the first ice machine. The author of Air Conditioning Changes Everything stated that Gorrie was not intended to invent ice machine in the very beginning, and he just wanted to bring down fever for malaria patients. For this purpose, he designed a set of equipment which could take in air, compress it and cool indoor air through pipeline.
However, people don’t need this equipment outside the ward. He found a new opportunity (ice machine) until the pipeline was accidentally frozen to ice cube. Nevertheless, his achievement was satirized by the media.
“Ancient” Air Conditioning Technology
It is nothing new to make cold drink and cool the room by using ice cube. In 17th century, inventor Cornelius Drebbel “turned summer into winter” by using ice cube stored in the basement. Tom Shachtm speculated in his books that Drebbel mixed snow with water, salt and nitrate to form ice cube and cooled indoor temperature. King James once invited Drebbel to demonstrate his innovation in Westminster Abbey. It is said that King escaped from the room because of the cold.
Two centuries later, the U.S. President James Garfield also experienced a freezing journey. On July 2nd, 1881, Charles Guiteau shot Garfield with a revolver. Some engineers invented a way to help to lower the temperature for injured president, but he still died.
The equipment in Garfield’s ward was invented by the team led by astronomer Simon Newcomb. Newcomb connected an engine with pipeline, letting the fan blow giant ice bucket. Newcomb explained in his written report that his device was loaded with approximately six tons ice cube and air could enter from one direction and return from another one. This device could lower the indoor temperature from 95℉(35℃) to 75℉(24℃), but it would consume several hundreds of ice cube per hour.
The news media reported Newcomb’s device, which gradually attracted public’s interest, and people’s distrust towards air cooling began to decrease. Some people began to put forward some interesting heat resistance plan, and others thought they could cool the air by using carbon dioxide bomb. Some of these ideas were granted with patents. However, it turned out that they couldn’t work in practice.
Shaping of Air Conditioning Technology
Twenty years after Garfield passed away, Willis Carrier created the term “air conditioning”. In July, 1902, his device was installed in a press in Brooklyn, which was a great breakthrough. This device let the air pass through the pipeline containing refrigerant. Precisely, it aimed to dehumidify instead of reducing temperature. The extra moisture in the air led to the distortion of the paper.
In fact, in 1899, Alfred Wolff installed a cooling device in a dissecting room in New York City. Later when Carrier installed his device in Brooklyn, Wolff also installed his machine New York Stock Exchange, which greatly improves the working environment of businessman.
Air conditioning technology began to spread and develop. Frigidaire launched the first domestic “room cooler”. Schultz and Sherman launched a kind of air conditioning mounted on the sill. However, the first sill cooling device that we know today was Thorne indoor air conditioning in 1932, which looks like an old car passing through the window.
Popularity of Air Conditioning
Air conditioning first appeared to the public in 1939’s Expo. Carrier designed an exhibition hall named “Future Expo”. There were about 65,000 audiences firstly enjoying the air conditioning here, which ignited consumer’s interest. In the next ten years, with the reduction of air conditioning’s volume, advertisement shifted its importance from businessman to housewife.
Basile pointed out that one humble thing improved the popularity of air conditioning: in 1959, the U.S. Weather Bureau proposed “discomfort index”, which combined temperature with humidity, and later it was called “stuffiness index”. Basile stated in his book that this index unexpectedly drove the popularity of air conditioning, enhancing people’s awareness towards the benefit of air conditioning. People could get aware of whether it is stuffy or not by this index. If you had enough money, you could buy a set of air conditioning to relieve from the hot weather.
The sale of air conditioning amounted to several million units in the 1960s in America. Both urban and suburb houses could be seen with air conditioning on the sill. According to the survey on residence energy consumption by Energy Information Administration, up to 2011, 87% of American families own air conditioning. Compared with this figure, Brazil is 11%, and India is 2%.
Negative Influence of Air Conditioning
Although public’s doubt towards air conditioning may hinder its early development in the very beginning. In fact, its final popularity is harmful to atmosphere.
Montreal Protocol went into effect in 1989, aiming to reduce the emission of the CFC refrigerant such as dichlorodifluoromethane, which may destroy ozone.
In order to avoid destroying ozone, refrigerant has been changed from chlorine to fluorine, but it still has great influence on environment. Daniel Morrison, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Energy, stated that the electricity consumption of air conditioning exceeded 500 billion KW only in 2015, nearly 20% of the construction total electricity consumption, and annual electric charges are 60 billion dollars. Meanwhile, it drives up the electricity demand in the peak of summer, which may lead to power failure.
Attempt to Personalize Air Conditioning
Among all our current used devices, air conditioning doesn’t experience such great changes as television and telephone. However, some companies attempt to change its future, not only from the perspective of aesthetic, but also from efficiency. Some of these companies hope to personalize air conditioning. For example, CoolWare invented and air conditioning necklace, which could twine around your neck, providing cool air with a mini-fan. Wristify launched a bracelet-like product. And Kuchofuku launched an air conditioning working shirt.
A Cyprian company called Evapolar has been said to invent “the first personal air cooler in the world”. It is a small cubic with a water tank and fan, which could produce cool air. Evapolar aims to improve single person’s “microclimate” when they are working or sleeping because there is no need to change the temperature of whole room. Evapolar’s spokesman said that they believe air conditioning can be more personalized like mobile phone.
Dyson and Xiaomi also launched small personalized air purifier. However, these products cannot be popularized and they are not mature. They still have the chance to become mainstream because there were something stranger.
Even today, argument concerning air conditioning still exists. Due to its negative influence on environment, some advocates appeal to people not to use air conditioning. Air conditioning is likely to become the symbol of people’s wisdom and vulnerability. It weakens human’s adaptability, making them feel that they are unable to bear the scorching summer without the help of machine.
Air conditioning is not only a home appliance but an alert. It reminds us that there might be price for innovation. People used to think it is risky to cool the air, which might not be a thorough absurdity.