Origins of ordinary things: Air conditioner

Air conditioner. Net photo

Summer brings with it soaring temperatures and unbearable humidity, and as such, the air conditioner comes in handy.

Air conditioning, however, has roots in second century China, where an inventor named Ding Huane crafted a manually powered rotary fan. 


A common technique seen in multiple ancient civilisations was the use of landscaping and gardening to cool the nearby buildings. Landscaped ponds and towering trees brought moisture and shade which protected people from heat, according to Compact Appliance.


The concept of air cooling also intrigued the great American inventor and statesman, Benjamin Franklin, who in 1758 conducted experiments with evaporation and alcohol to attain freezing temperatures.


The first modern air conditioner was invented in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier, a skilled engineer who began experimenting with the laws of humidity control to solve an application problem at a printing plant in Brooklyn, NY. Borrowing from the concepts of mechanical refrigeration established in earlier years, Carrier’s system sent air through coils filled with cold water, cooling the air while at the same time removing moisture to control room humidity. 

In 1933, the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America developed an air conditioner using a belt-driven condensing unit and associated blower, mechanical controls, and evaporator coil, and this device became the model in the growing U.S. marketplace for air-cooling systems. This is according to

Today’s air conditioners, while operating on the same fundamental science as Carrier’s 1933 system, incorporate advancements in vapor compression, diagnostics and controls, electronic sensors, materials, and energy efficiency. Carrier’s new top-of-the line central air conditioner, the Infinity, is far different than the founder’s early models, featuring advanced components, including a two-stage scroll compressor for quieter, more energy-efficient performance.

In a further effort to reduce energy usage, some air-conditioning manufacturers have begun to stretch the capabilities of the standard wall thermostat, developing sophisticated microprocessor-based diagnostic and control kits that automate the operation of the compressor and air-flow system. With recent advances in technology, the portable air conditioning unit was created, and the price of air conditioners has dropped drastically, making them much more affordable to purchase. Now that there are portable air conditioning units, homeowners have the ability to choose which rooms or areas of their home they want to cool off. They are no longer restricted to spending a great deal of time and money on the purchase and installation of large and immovable air conditioning systems.

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