The air conditioner has become a basic requirement for most homes and offices around the globe. However, it was not until the 20th century that the modern air conditioner was invented. It took the genius of a young American engineer to invent the first modern air conditioner. The concept of that invention continues to be the basic model of the air conditioners manufactured in today’s world.
The Problem That Led to the Invention of the Air Conditioner
The air conditioner was invented to solve a major problem with a printing press. With fluctuating temperature and humidity, the paper used for printing used to contract or expand, causing the ink to get misaligned for printing.
In 1902, a printing press in Brooklyn, NY, hired a local engineering firm, Buffalo Forge, to provide a solution to this problem. One of the engineers that assigned this task was Willis Carrier, who had graduated from Cornell University a year before. Carrier immediately started developing models and gathering data for this problem.
To solve this problem, Carrier developed a device that would use metal coils filled with flowing chilled water in a small chamber to cool the air that is guided through the chamber. The idea was that the metal coils will absorb the heat from the air, and as the chilled water is circulated out to the outdoor unit, it will release the heat to the surroundings. This cycle will repeat continuously until the desired temperature and humidity are reached at the printing press.
This new device was installed at the printing press along with several other devices such as fans. The chilled water was obtained from a nearby well. The metal used for the coils was copper, as it is a good conductor of heat. The installed device was extremely successful at the printing press. Carrier had successfully invented the modern air conditioner.
A New Industry Is Born
Carrier had not only invented an exceptional product for Buffalo Forge, but he had given birth to a new industry. The sales of the air conditioner went through the roof. It was used in several types of commercial applications. Buffalo Forge was so impressed with their air conditioner sales that they formed a separate subsidiary for the manufacturing and sales of the air conditioner. The subsidiary was called the Carrier Air Conditioning Company. By that time, Carrier had established himself as the leading engineer of air conditioners. Some of the papers written by Carrier on the science of air conditioning were used in engineering textbooks. By 1915, the air conditioner was an international success with sales in South East Asia and other parts of the world.
World War I had a devastating effect on the world economy, and the air conditioning industry was no exception. Buffalo Forge decided to close the Carrier Air Conditioning Company. However, Willis was determined to move ahead with his invention. He founded his own company by the name of Willis Carrier Corporation. With continuously improving the technology and manufacturing techniques of the air conditioner, Carrier was able to offer the air conditioner to residential properties. This catapulted the sales of the air conditioner to an all-time high. Other products such as the “Chiller” were also developed and sold by Carrier.
The Legacy of Carrier
Carrier was named by Time magazine in the 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century. The invention of the air conditioner allowed several industries to flourish and allowed people to live comfortably in hot and humid regions. The great migration of Americans to the Sunbelt states was expedited by the air conditioner. Carrier’s invention allowed the manufacturing of products that required a controlled climate. In the modern world, the air conditioner can found everywhere, from airplanes to submarines, from large manufacturing plants to small rural homes. The legacy of Carrier is everywhere.
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