The early need for air conditioning grew out of the need to preserve foods, as foods that are kept at room temperature spoil easily due to the growth of bacteria. At temperatures below 40°F, the growth of bacteria is reduced or eliminated. With the development of food refrigeration came air conditioning and humidity control shortly thereafter. The invention of absorption-type of refrigeration in the early 19th century showed that liquefied ammonia could chill air when it is allowed to evaporate. Ice was created using compressor technology in the year 1842 by a physician named John Gorrie.
The first commercially-available air conditioning systems were used to cool air for industrial processes, rather than for personal comfort. The first electrical air conditioning was invented by Willis Carrier, the Father of Modern Air Conditioning, in the year 1902. The rest, as they say, is history.
In America, hot temps begin, on average, in May for the southwest and in July for the rest of the country. Indeed, this week CNN reported, "A record-breaking heat wave is sweeping across the United States, and close to 90% of the population will experience 90-degree heat over the next seven days." So, you can see that air cooling is a must in much of the country.
I grew up in dry Southern California, so dry, in fact, that we had a giant evaporation cooler (AKA swamp cooler) that worked well. When I moved north to a more humid climate, I realized how good I had had it. Swamp coolers don't work in humidity. In every place I have lived since my Washington State home I have insisted upon air conditioning, which handles humidity as well as heat, including New York State, Nevada, Kansas and Colorado. Even in the desert of Las Vegas and the usually-dry elevation of Denver, summer monsoons can make the heat unbearable and swamp coolers ineffective.
We now have A/C in our cars, trucks, RV's, supermarkets, schools and at most workplaces, and most of us can't imagine life without it. There is nothing better than to come inside from a hard afternoon working in the yard and sit on a cool sofa, preferably with the cold air blowing right at us. From what I can tell, A/C is one of the most underrated unsung heroes of 20th- and 21st-century living, allowing us to enjoy summer life instead of sweltering in it.
As usual, many of my fans and friends have contributed comment on this cool topic. Here are some of those (I have edited or paraphrased a few of them):
Donna H.- I love coming back inside from working in the yard and feeling the cool air from my air conditioning hit me!
Sharon M.- We never had A/C in Montana ... very few really hot days and the nights always cooled off. I could not survive in Kentucky without it, however. The combination of heat and humidity are debilitating and I have to be in the house, in A/C, by mid-morning... and pretty much stay there until almost dark.
Kathy S.- We have evaporative cooling (aka swamp cooler). We are lucky to also have A/C. We only use it on high humidity days. It's quiet, it keeps things dry and reminds us that things weren't always this comfortable!
Nadyne H.- I couldn't live without air conditioning as I don't "do hot," as I like to say. When I was young, growing up in Tucson, Arizona, we initially had air conditioning, but eventually Dad took it out due to the amount of it going out the door as the 5 of us and our friends went in and out everyday, all day. He replaced it with a swamp cooler which was poor at best during monsoon season in the Tucson summer. As soon as it started to heat up each summer I remember each of us going through the ritual of re-arranging our bedrooms so that the bed would be directly in the path of the air coming out of the register vent! I can also remember a brother (which one?) would close my vent during the night in order to increase the amount of blast he would receive in his room! I would awake, sweltering, to find my vent closed or nearly closed... not nice. Once I was an adult, I made sure wherever I lived had A/C, not a swamp cooler... sometimes two A/C units!
BLSMSS- The thing about A/C that makes me happy is seeing my husband feeling better after being outside working, coming inside and be able to cool down and be comfortable.
L.D. Clark- I like the fact that it’s there when and if I want it. Plus, my chocolates don’t melt sitting on the table!
Hank & Shirleen- My wife, a native Texan, says that Air Conditioning is our friend! And I agree!
Connie Jo- I can breathe with the air on!! Calgon, take me away!!!
The Cleary Clan- We love how our 15,000 BTU A/C keeps the motorhome cool. We have a 32-foot long Class-C. Recently it was 94F outside and 69F inside.
WeMustRV- We have two 15K A/C units that keep us cool. They work hard sometimes being that the sides of our RV are dark and act as a thermal magnet. 105-degree heat index last week, 95 degrees and 80%-plus humidity, made them a must.
Like myself, Bill Bryson is an American author who precedes modern air conditioning. He wrote, "I grew up, really, in the days before air conditioning. So I can remember what it was like to be really hot, for instance, and I can remember what it was like when your barber shop and your local stores weren't air conditioned, so it was hot when you went in them and they propped the doors open."
Jack Huber is a writer, blogger, poet and photographer. Like many, he is concerned about the psyche of our planet's inhabitants and wants to try to improve his little corner of it.