By Brian Roulston

Nothing feels quite like coming inside to an air conditioned building on a hot and humid summer day whether it’s a store, the office or your home. Today, 55% of Canadian homes have some form of air-conditioning and the number of air-conditioners world-wide according the International Energy Agency, is expected to rise from 1.6 billion units currently to 5.6 billion in 2050. Right now air-conditioning is mainly used in developed countries such as the U.S, Canada, Japan and China. China is a growth country in air-conditioning along with India and Indonesia.

Willis Haviland Carrier invented the first air-conditioner. He was a Presbyterian born in November 1876 and graduated from Cornell University in 1901 with a BSE. Willis married three times, his first two wives passed away. Carrier’s third wife Elizabeth Marsh Wise outlived Carrier who died in 1950 by fourteen years. Carrier had one child from his three marriages.

Carrier was visiting Sackett-Wilhems Lithographing & Publishing Co. in Brooklyn N.Y on a hot and muggy day. He noticed the papers were wrinkling and the ink wasn’t setting fast enough. Carrier devised what is considered to be the first air-conditioner which blew air over cold coils to control the room temperature.

Air-Conditioning is arguably the single biggest invention of the 20th Century as it is responsible for lowering mortality rates due to excessive heat by up to 75% since 1960.Air-conditioning also started a population shift into the sunbelt states of Florida, Arizona, Texas and Nevada. Without Carrier’s invention these states would be sparsely populated today.

Before A/C some people lived underground or in caves which offered stable temperatures year around. In fact there were even cities built underground. This method lives today in deep basements, split-level homes and homes built into the side of hills.  Early Egyptians hung wet mats over the doorways where fresh air would blow through reducing indoor temperatures while adding much needed moisture from Egypt’s dry desert heat. For some the urge to keep cool was a little extreme, Roman Emperor Elagabalus sent a thousand slaves into the mountains to fetch snow for his gardens.

In more recent times people lived in thick stone walled or brick houses which worked well at absorbing heat during the summer months. Some homes during the 17th and 19th centuries had high ceilings. This allowed the warm air to rise while making the floor level feel relatively cool. Porches or verandas were built around many homes. The porch roof would shade the windows preventing the hot sunlight from entering. Homeowners would often sleep on their porches while apartment dwellers would sleep on the roofs or fire escapes on those hot summer nights.

The first home air-conditioners in 1914 were big, bulky, noisy, full of chemicals and like most new technology too expensive.   Most people would first experience air-conditioning while eating popcorn and enjoying a movie as movie theaters bought these systems which ranged from $10,000 to $50,000.

Today air-conditioners are not only getting more energy efficient they are getting smarter too. Smart technology allows apps to set temperatures and turn units on or off; even away from home. One company called BeCool claims it has invented the air-conditioner of the future, a machine so efficient it can even generate electricity, reduce CO² emissions and toxic chemicals. It can even work in reverse providing heat. Have a safe summer everyone and keep cool!!!