Articles tagged with: air conditioner history

History of Air Conditioning in Houston

air conditioned neon signHouston was once touted as the “World’s Most Air Conditioned City”. Quite a claim for a city that by 1920 cooled its rooms, auditoriums and restaurants by placing a block of ice in a container and then circulating the ice water to fan radiators.

The first public room in Houston to be air-conditioned was the Rice Hotel cafeteria which was air-conditioned in 1922. The Second National Bank was the first air-conditioned building in Houston. An air-conditioner unit was installed there in 1923. Two years later, the Majestic Theatre followed suit. And by 1927, the other movie palaces on Main Street were air-conditioned as the public began expecting cool comfort to enhance their movie viewing pleasure. Houston’s first private home wasn’t air-conditioned until 1932.

The May 1938 issue of “Houston”, the old Chamber of Commerce magazine, described air conditioning as “manufactured weather”. According to that issue, there were 427 air conditioning units already installed, including 126 private homes. Houston at that time had a population of almost 400,000.

Air conditioning was still a luxury for most people through the  World War II era. It wasn’t until the 1950s that air conditioning became a middle-class necessity. All new office buildings were constructed with air conditioning. Local city journalists kept a close eye on the expansion of air-conditioning, using Census results to explain how Houston was indeed “the air-conditioning capital of the world.”

In 1965, Houston opened the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The Astrodome was not only the world’s first dome stadium, but it was also the first air-conditioned stadium.

The overall acceptance and need for air conditioning was the beginning of the end for the typical home design with big front porches, wide eaves and high ceilings. The new, sought-after ranch homes with their low ceilings were much easier to air-condition than the old styles with their high ceilings. Air conditioning also claimed responsibility for the tremendous growth of Houston and other Sunbelt cities. Well, of course! Living through a Houston summer is only endurable if you have access to air conditioning!

The Invention of the Modern Air Conditioner

Willis Haviland CarrierIn 1902, Willis Haviland Carrier developed the first modern air conditioning system.

He was a young electrical engineer trying to solve a humidity problem at the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn, N.Y. In the warm summers, paper stock at the plant would sometimes absorb moisture which made it difficult to apply the layered inking techniques.

Carrier caused the air inside the building to blow across chilled pipes. The cooled air didn’t carry as much moisture as the warm air. The process reduced the humidity in the plant, which stabilized the moisture content of the paper. This experiment to reduce the humidity had the side benefit of lowering the air temperature, but turned out to be an important step in creating modern air conditioning system.

Carrier had become the father of cool!