It is widely believed that the inventor of modern air conditioning was Willis Haviland Carrier. He graduated from Cornell University in 1901 with a Masters degree in Engineering and just one year later the first modern air conditioning systems were being sold.
The air conditioning system that Haviland Carrier came up with differed from older systems which were more or less large mechanical fans. Haviland Carrier’s system worked to both cool air and reduce humidity, which was something that no other air conditioning system had yet achieved.
The system was first installed in a Brooklyn printing plant after the owner had complained that fluctuations in humidity and heat were causing his paper to warp slightly meaning that coloured inks being used were not properly aligned.
Once the machine was installed it was quickly ascertained that it had solved the problem of paper warping and opened up many possibilities in the printing world, including the successful use of four colour printing.
In 1906 Haviland Carrier secured a patent for ‘the apparatus for treating air’, which became the first of many patents that the engineer would secure during his lifetime. Although Haviland Carrier is generally considered to be the father of air conditioning, the term ‘air conditioning’ was not coined until textile engineer used it to describe a patent claim he filed for a device which added water vapour to the air within textile factories to help condition the yarn.
In 1911 Haviland Carrier submitted his Rational Psychometric Formulae to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. His formula is still used today as a basis for modern air conditioning design.
Many important industries including film, tobacco, meat packing and medicine production were positively affected by the introduction of air conditioning because now the temperature and humidity of many different types of factory and plant could be controlled.
In 1915 Haviland Carrier joined with six other engineers to form the ‘Carrier Engineering Corporation’ which focussed on improving on air conditioning technology.
In 1924 an air conditioning system was installed in Detroit’s J.L Hudson Department Store which encouraged the use of air conditioning in retail settings. The boom in human cooling systems quickly spread out to cover cinemas, theatres and other public spaces.
In 1928 the first household air conditioning system, dubbed ‘The Weathermaker’ was sold to US householders. However the great depression and WWII meant that household air conditioning systems did not become commonplace in US homes for another two decades.