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Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Timeline




 

Keeping cool has been a human preoccupation for millennia, but until the 20th century most efforts were ineffective. People tried everything from draping saturated mats in doorways to the installation of water-powered fans. Even Leonardo da Vinci designed and built a mechanical ventilating fan, the first of its kind. The modern system—involving the exchange of hot, moist air for cool, dry air by way of a circulating refrigerant—was first used in industrial settings. Indeed, a North Carolina textile engineer named Stuart Cramer, impressed with how the latest system of controlling the heat and humidity in his plant improved the cloth fibers, coined the term "air conditioning" in 1906. Since then comfort of cool is no longer considered a luxury but a fact of modern existence.


  1902   Comfort cooling system installed at the New York Stock Exchange

A 300-ton comfort cooling system designed by Alfred Wolff is installed at the New York Stock Exchange. Using free cooling provided by waste-steam-operated refrigeration systems, Wolff’s system functions successfully for 20 years.

  1902   First office building with an air-conditioning system installed

The Armour Building in Kansas City, Missouri, becomes the first office building to install an air-conditioning system. Each room is individually controlled with a thermostat that operates dampers in the ductwork, making it also the first office building to incorporate individual "zone" control of separate rooms.

  1904   A self-contained mechanical refrigerator is displayed at the St. Louis World's Fair

A self-contained mechanical refrigerator is displayed at the St. Louis World's Fair by Brunswick Refrigerating Co., which specializes in designing small refrigerators for residences and butcher shops. The ammonia refrigerating system is mounted on the side of a wooden icebox-type refrigerator.

Thousands of attendees at the World's Fair also experience the public debut of air conditioning in the Missouri State Building. The system uses 35,000 cubic feet of air per minute to cool a 1,000- seat auditorium, the rotunda, and various other rooms.


  1906   First office building specifically designed for air conditioning.

In Buffalo, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Administration Building is the first office building specifically designed for air conditioning. The system uses safe, nonflammable carbon dioxide as a refrigerant.

  1906   Patent filed for "dew point control" system

Willis Carrier files for a patent on his "dew point control" system. Carrier has studied the science of humidity control after designing a rudimentary air-conditioning system for a Brooklyn printing plant in 1902. This and subsequent designs allow him to devise a precise method of controlling humidity using refrigerated water sprays, thereby allowing the manufacture of air-conditioning systems to be standardized.

  1906   First air-conditioned hospital

Boston Floating Hospital becomes the first air-conditioned hospital, using a system designed by Edward Williams to maintain the hospital wards at about 70°F with a relative humidity of 50 percent. The hospital’s five wards are individually controlled by thermostats. Williams’s system features "reheat" in which cooled air is heated slightly to lower its humidity.

  1907   Air-conditioning equipment installed in dining and meeting rooms at Congress Hotel in Chicago

Air-conditioning equipment designed by Frederick Wittenmeier is installed in dining and meeting rooms at Congress Hotel in Chicago. This is one of the first systems designed by Wittenmeier for hotels and movie theaters. His firm, Kroeschell Brothers Ice Machine Company, installs hundreds of cooling plants into the 1930s.

  1914   Aircooled, electric, self-contained household refrigerating unit is marketed

Fred Wolf, Jr., markets an aircooled, electric, self-contained household refrigerating unit, the Domelre (Domestic Electric Refrigerator), in Chicago. The system is designed to be placed on top of any icebox, operating automatically using a thermostat. The first household refrigerating system to feature ice cubes, the Domelre uses air to cool the condenser, unlike other household refrigerators that need to be hooked up to water.

  1916   Flash-freezing system for preserving food products developed

Clarence Birdseye begins experiments in quick-freezing. Birdseye develops a flash-freezing system that moves food products through a refrigerating system on conveyor belts. This causes the food to be frozen very fast, minimizing ice crystals.

  1923   Electrically refrigerated ice cream dipping cabinet is marketed

An electrically refrigerated ice cream dipping cabinet is marketed by Nizer and shortly after by Frigidaire. These cabinets use a refrigeration system to chill alcohol-based antifreeze, which surrounds ice cream cans placed in wells in the cabinet. The alcohol is later replaced by salt brine.

  1927   Gas-fired household absorption refrigerators become popular

Gas-fired household absorption refrigerators that do not require electricity are marketed to rural areas in the United States. One, the Electrolux, marketed in Sweden since 1925, becomes very popular.

  1927   First refrigerator to be mass produced with a completely sealed refrigerating system

General Electric introduces the first refrigerator to be mass produced with a completely sealed refrigerating system. Nicknamed "The Monitor Top" for its distinctive round refrigerating unit, resembling the gun turret of the Civil War ironclad ship Monitor, the refrigerator is produced over the next 10 years and is so reliable that thousands are still in use today.

  1928   Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants are synthesized

Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants are synthesized for Frigidaire by the General Motors Research Lab team of Thomas Midgley, Albert Henne, and Robert McNary. Announced publicly in 1930 and trademarked as Freon, CFCs are the first nontoxic and nonflammable refrigerating fluids, making it possible for refrigerators and air conditioners to be used with complete safety.

  1929   First room cooler goes on the market

Frigidaire markets the first room cooler. The refrigeration unit, which uses sulfur dioxide refrigerant and has a capacity of one ton (12,000 BTUH), is designed to be located outside the house or in the basement.

  1930   Smaller air-conditioning units appear on trains

With the advent of the centrifugal chiller, smaller air-conditioning units become feasible for trains. In 1930 the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tests a unit designed by Willis Carrier on the "Martha Washington" the dining car on the Columbian, running between Washington, D.C. and New York. To test the system, the car is heated to 93°F. The heat is then turned off and the air conditioner turned on. Within 20 minutes, the temperature in the dining car is a comfortable 73°F.

  1931   "Hot- Kold" year-round central air-conditioning system for homes on the market

Frigidaire markets the "Hot- Kold" year-round central air-conditioning system for homes. During the early 1930s, a number of manufacturers design central air conditioners for homes, a market that grows slowly until the 1960s, when lower costs make it affordable for many new homes.

  1931   A heat pump air-conditioning system in Los Angeles office building

Southern California Edison Company installs a heat pump air-conditioning system in its Los Angeles office building. Since a refrigeration system moves heat from one place to another, the same principle can be used to remove heat in summer or add heat in winter by engineering the system to be reversible.

  1932   First overnight train with air conditioning

Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad begins running the first overnight train with air conditioning, the George Washington, between New York and Washington. Four years later United Air Lines uses air conditioning in its "three miles a minute" passenger planes.

  1936   Albert Henne synthesizes refrigerant R-134a

Albert Henne, coinventor of the CFC refrigerants, synthesizes refrigerant R-134a. In the 1980s this refrigerant is hailed as the best nonozone-depleting replacement for CFCs.

  1938   A window air conditioner using Freon is marketed

A window air conditioner using Freon is marketed by Philco-York. Featuring a beautiful wood front, the Philco air conditioner can simply be plugged into an electrical outlet.

  1939   Air conditioning offered as an option in a Packard automobile

Packard Motor Car Company markets an automobile with air conditioning offered as an option for $274. The refrigeration compressor runs off the engine, and the system has no thermostat. It discharges the cooled air from the back of the car.

  1947   Mass-produced, low-cost window air conditioners become possible

Mass-produced, low-cost window air conditioners become possible as a result of innovations by engineer Henry Galson, who sets up production lines for a number of manufacturers. In 1947, 43,000 window air conditioners are sold in the United States. For the first time, many homeowners can enjoy air conditioning without having to buy a new home or renovate their heating system.

  1969   More than half of new automobiles are equipped with air conditioning

More than half of new automobiles (54 percent) are equipped with air conditioning, which is soon a necessity, not only for comfort but also for resale value.

By now, most new homes are built with central air conditioning, and window air conditioners are increasingly affordable.

  1987   Minimum energy efficiency requirements set

The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act mandates minimum energy efficiency requirements for refrigerators and freezers as well as room and central air conditioners.

  1987   The Montreal Protocol

The Montreal Protocol serves as an international agreement to begin phasing out CFC refrigerants, which are suspected of contributing to the thinning of the earth’s protective, high-altitude ozone shield.

  1992   Minimum energy efficiency standards set for commercial buildings

The U.S. Energy Policy Act mandates minimum energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings, using research and standards developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers.

 


     Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
     Timeline
     History - part 1
     History - part 2
     History - part 3
     History - part 4
     Essay - Donald E. Ross





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