Air Conditioning


Air Conditioning

Hot in Sandy Point

According to Wikipedia:

In 1820, English scientist and inventor Michael Faraday discovered that compressing and liquefying ammonia could chill air when the liquefied ammonia was allowed to evaporate. In 1842, Florida physician John Gorrie used compressor technology to create ice, which he used to cool air for his patients in his hospital in Apalachicola, Florida. He hoped to eventually use his ice-making machine to regulate the temperature of buildings. He even envisioned centralized air conditioning that could cool entire cities. Though his prototype leaked and performed irregularly, Gorrie was granted a patent in 1851 for his ice-making machine.[9] His hopes for its success vanished soon afterwards when his chief financial backer died; Gorrie did not get the money he needed to develop the machine. According to his biographer, Vivian M. Sherlock, he blamed the “Ice King”, Frederic Tudor, for his failure, suspecting that Tudor had launched a smear campaign against his invention. Dr. Gorrie died impoverished in 1855, and the idea of air conditioning went away for 50 years.



Our first “air conditioner” looked like the one pictured above. It was not really an air conditioner at all and it really did not change the condition of the air but moved air through the house and over our sweaty bodies in June, July, August, and September introducing us to the idea that moving air has a chill factor. It made sleeping a little more bearable. This unit was made by Hobart and ran for many years in the window of the house we lived in when my father came home from World War II. It ran in the garage for many additional years in two other different houses.

I would not be surprised at all if the thing is not still running somewhere. It had a place to oil the shaft and the belt was easily replaceable. It had a hard to describe sound that went something like a very low whuuump, whuuump but that was easily forgiven when the breeze passed over your bed on a hot night.

Air flow was controlled by closing doors and opening windows in strategic locations to route the air through the house. A bed by a window was a premium location!

The first house on the little country road where my grandparents lived to have central air conditioning was the one I built in 1972. Most houses on that road had been built long before there was electricity, much less air conditioning.

A recent study shows that 68% of all occupied housing in the US have air conditioning. The North East has the lowest percentage of central air units and the highest percentage of homes with window units. There, 58% of housing units use window devices. 85% of the homes in the South have central air. The US uses more air conditioning than the rest of the world combined. This may be the reason we have so many people trying to sneak in here! But China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines are poised to pass us in percentage of air conditioning.  This push globally for air conditioning, alone, will have profound affects on the need for a larger and larger supply of energy. 50 million air conditioners were sold in China in 2010! Sales of air conditioning are increasing in India at a rate of 20% per year. Source: BreakingEnergy.Com. Article by Green Tech Media.

Just another statistic or two: Air conditioning globally consumes one trillion kilowatt hours of electricity a year! Between 7 billion and 10 billion gallons of gasoline are used in the US to cool automobiles! We like being cool!

Kids today are upset if the WI-FI goes down or the Xbox won’t work. They really only appreciate the air-conditioning when it stops, too. The biggest problem is finding a temperature everyone is happy with.

As far as the first air conditioners most of us saw, they came in a box and were installed in the window of the house. One reference says that Chrysler was the first company to build one in the 1930’s and another credits Philco. As time went on, there might be three or four window units hanging outside the house trying to bring cool air relief to everyone’s bedrooms and family room, etc. While they were ugly and did not work too efficiently at the time, they were cherished additions! The fuse boxes were being blown now and again with all the power demand. In days to come, we are likely to see a return to more or individual room units as a way of controlling the need to run a big system to cool only two or three rooms being used.

A historian in Charleston, SC was conducting a tour I was on and she pointed out that much of that coastal region was deemed too hot for many and it wasn’t until air conditioning came along that Charleston, Hilton Head, and other cites in that hot, humid coastal region began to really boom. I was in Hilton Head one summer when it was about 105 degrees and I can attest to the fact that no one wanted to go outside! With the heat and humidity, a person would become soaking wet with perspiration the moment they went outside.

Today, we can control our air systems with a smart phone. There was a time when it was done by lowering and raising the windows, a hand fan, or if you were lucky, an oscillating fan blowing on you. In spite of the fact that the historians say the Egyptians had rudimentary ways to provide some relief from the heat hundreds of years ago, it was Hot in Sandy Point when it was hot outside and there was ice on the Inside of the windows when it was really cold outside.

Window fans required the house to be open from one side to the other to be effective. The first window air conditioning units would barely cool one room so on really hot days, the room you were trying to cool had to be closed off. But that was a no brainer at night to be able to sleep without sweating.

Mr. Willis Carrier developed a large commercial air-conditioning system in 1902 that was the first commercial use of air-conditioning and received patent in 1906. But, it wasn’t until about 1945 that smaller window air conditioners were introduced, making it possible for just about any home with electricity to have some air conditioning by installing them in windows without the need for ductwork and expensive remodeling. Life in the rural South would never be the same.


Typical Window Air Conditioner

Central, built in, air conditioning was considered a luxury item even into the late sixties. The first house we bought in Macon, Ga. in about 1965 did not have that feature nor did any of the homes in the subdivision. We popped a couple of window units in to give us relief and homes had nothing like the insulation that is used today.

The porch was often a place to find a cool spot in Sandy Point back in yesteryear. A small oscillating fan might be blowing but there usually were some hand held fans that had been passed out by the local funeral home to move the air and to swat gnats and mosquitos. Thank Goodness for the screened in porch!

Funny thing, was, we did not know any better so we accepted the hot nights. It was a part of where we were and there seemed to be little we could do about it had we given much thought to it.

The Redding Elementary School I attended was the same one my Father and his siblings had attended. There were big windows that were let up on hot days with large window weights that banged and bumped as the windows were raised and lowered. There was not a thermostat to be seen and there was a boiler under the school sending steam to steam radiators throughout the building in winter. But school was out in the summer from about June 1st to September 1st. We did most of our sweating at home! In later years, they added a new section and that section had units that cooled each room, similar to the way motels do it today.

Today, we have air systems pumping in cool air on every floor. Now, it is a battle to make every one happy with Mr. Carrier’s or Mr. Trane’s units because some want it at 68°, others at 72°, and others want it at 75° and conversely in winter it is always too hot or too cold. My Mother died just short of her 90th birthday and she put on a coat and gloves to ride in the car in August. “Cold Natured”, she said.

According to Wikipedia:

In 1939, Packard became the first automobile manufacturer to offer an air conditioning unit in its cars. These were manufactured by Bishop and Babcock Co, of Cleveland Ohio. The “Bishop and Babcock Weather Conditioner” also incorporated a heater. Cars ordered with the new “Weather Conditioner” were shipped from Packard’s East Grand Boulevard facility to the B&B factory where the conversion was performed. Once complete, the car was shipped to a local dealer where the customer would take delivery. The units proved to be very problematic and were discontinued.

The 1953 Chrysler Imperial was one of the first production cars in twelve years to offer modern automobile air conditioning as an option, following tentative experiments by Packard in 1940 and Cadillac in 1941.[4] Walter Chrysler had seen to the invention of Airtemp air conditioning in the 1930’s for the Chrysler Building, and had offered it on cars in 1941-42, and again in 1951-52.

The Airtemp was more advanced than rival automobile air conditioners by 1953. It was operated by a single switch on the dashboard marked with low, medium, and high positions. As the highest capacity unit available at that time, the system was capable of quickly cooling the passenger compartment and also reduce humidity, dust, pollen, and tobacco smoke. The system drew in more outside air than contemporary systems; thus, reducing the staleness associated with automotive air conditioning at the time. Instead of plastic tubes mounted on the rear window package shelf as on GM cars, small ducts directed cool air toward the ceiling of the car where it filtered down around the passengers instead of blowing directly on them, a feature that modern cars have lost.

Under Dash Air Unit

Under The Dash Add On Air Conditioner

I remember the first cars we saw when I was a kid with built in air. They were Chryslers and then Cadillacs and Lincolns and you could spot some of them from behind because of the big clear tubes hanging in the rear view window area used to carry the air, and, the people had their windows up in Macon, Ga. in August! There again, like the window units hanging out of house windows, large add on car air-conditioning units started showing up crammed under the dash of everyday cars.

The Good Ole Days! We talk about them and reminisce and there was much we liked and enjoyed and would like to see again, we think. But if we went back in time to those Good Ole Days in Sandy Point, I’d bet you a nickel we would want to go in an air-conditioned car and take a window air-conditioning with us!


JC© 2016




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