Although many of us often wish we could control the weather outside, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever develop the technology to do that.
The indoor climate, however, is a different matter entirely. Since the invention of air conditioning, it’s been possible to, in effect, control the weather in our offices, homes, and other internal spaces.
It’s safe to say we’ve come a long way since the days of the Roman Emperor Elagabus, who would order slaves to bring snow down from the mountains and pile it in his garden, where the wind would carry the cooler air inside.
The approach might have changed, but the concept remains (loosely!) the same.
In 1902, air conditioning as we know it was first introduced by New York’s Sackett & Willhelms Lithographing and Printing Company. But this wasn’t about human comfort, the early air conditioning system was invented as a solution to the printing company’s growing frustrations with varying humidity levels when they were trying to print in colour.
And, as they say, the rest is history. Carrier’s Weathermaker soon found itself into 1920s cinemas, and we’ve never looked back.
It’s no exaggeration to say that air conditioning has changed the world and had a significant influence on how, and where, we live.
Here are just some of the ways that air conditioning has changed the world:
• IT – If computers get too hot or damp, their performance can be compromised. So, without air conditioning, not only would we not be able to use computers in the same way, we also wouldn’t be able to cool the server rooms that power the internet, or manufacture essential silicon chips.
• Architecture – Without air conditioning, we almost certainly wouldn’t have glass fronted skyscrapers – just imagine how hot it would get inside on a summers day!
• Demographics – It’s unlikely that major cities in warmer continents would have enjoyed the same growth, prosperity, and popularity without the ability to control the climate. What’s more, as air conditioning spread across America, the population in the sunbelt between Florida and California increased from 28% of Americans to 40%.
• Health – Air conditioning has also had a major impact on health and wellbeing. Studies show that air con lowers mortality rates during heat waves.
• Productivity – Economists have confirmed the relationship between productivity and keeping cool. When temperatures exceed 21 degrees C in exam rooms, for example, students maths scores start to drop. In offices, the impact is similar, with a study showing that US government typists completed 24% more work in an air conditioned space.