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Friday, July 17, 2009

Really Cool Invention: July 17, 1902: An Invention to Beat the Heat, Humidity | This Day In Tech | Wired.com

Well here we are 107 years later discussing an invention that has changed the world. I live in South Florida, where it's particularly car seat butt burning hot, so I've always been a big proponent of air conditioning. But with the invention comes increased energy use and our recent invention the LEED Certification to control that energy use.

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2009/07/dayintech_0717/

willis_carrier_with_1st_chiller

1902: With human comfort the last thing on his mind, a young mechanical engineer completes the schematic drawings for what will be the first successful air-conditioning system.

Willis Haviland Carrier, recently graduated from Cornell University and pulling down 10 bucks a week (about $260 in cold cash today) working for the Buffalo Forge heating company in upstate New York. He was tasked with finding a solution for a printing company in Brooklyn that was having problems: Its paper was expanding or contracting in the variable East Coast humidity. That played havoc with the color register for four-color printing, since the ink, applied one color at a time, required pinpoint calibration to avoid badly aligned, muddy illustrations.

The system that Carrier devised still forms the basis of the air conditioner (or, more accurately, humidity controller) today: Air was forced through a filter of a piston-driven compressor, where it was pumped over coils that were chilled using coolant. The cold air was then expelled into a closed space using a fan, cooling the room and stabilizing the humidity.

Carrier later switched from piston power to the centrifugal chiller, which allowed much larger spaces to be cooled. He also replaced the toxic ammonia that had been the original cooling agent.

The air conditioner was just what the Brooklyn printer needed. The humidity problem vanished, and — as the word got out — other companies began clamoring for Carrier’s machine.

Paper victories aside, the salubrious effect on humans was also recognized early on. Although commercial outfits such as manufacturing plants were the first customers, Carrier kept fiddling with his invention.

By 1915, he was running his own company, Carrier Engineering Corp., which supplied cooling systems to hotels, department stores, theaters and, eventually, private homes. Among Carrier’s early big-ticket customers were the U.S. Congress, the White House and New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The impact of air conditioning can’t be overstated. Sun Belt cities and other places where stifling hot weather is a factor enjoyed an economic boom as people settled in large numbers, protected from the elements by Carrier’s invention. That population shift in turn changed the political balance of the nation. Even the nature of architectural design changed, with perhaps the most conspicuous example being the smoky glass-clad skyscrapers that now dot almost every big-city skyline.

The chlorofluorocarbons used in air conditioning have in recent years been blamed for the growing hole in the Earth’s ozone layer. Sealed, air-conditioned buildings and other closed spaces utilizing circulated forced air, like commercial airliners, are also criticized as breeding grounds for communicable diseases. There’s no denying, though, that a good air conditioner can beat the heat.

Carrier died in 1950, at 73, but his company still exists and remains a major manufacturer of cooling and refrigeration systems.

Source: Various

Photo: Willis Carrier poses proudly in 1922 with the first chiller.
Courtesy Carrier Corporation

1 comments:

skip July 24, 2009 at 11:27 PM  

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have both endorsed geothermal heat pump systems as among the most energy efficient, environmentally clean, and cost effective systems for temperature control. Homeowners can expect to enjoy a comfortable, reliable, and economical system while also reducing energy use and pollution.

Ground source heat pumps provide heating, air conditioning, and, if so equipped, supply the house with hot water. They are smaller than a traditional heating/cooling unit and can easily be retrofitted into any home. The mechanical components are safely located underground or within the home – which eliminates fears of vandalism or theft. With extreme durability the parts can last a generation and require very little maintenance. These systems do not have fans, so instead of hearing and feeling blasts of air, you will enjoy a quiet, consistent temperature throughout the day. Geothermal heat pumps can even improve your health and reduce allergies because they excel at humidity control, thus there is a reduced chance for mold and mildew growth.

In addition to being practical and providing a luxurious atmosphere, geothermal heat pumps are exceptionally good for the environment and extremely safe. These systems do not have on-site emissions or flammable materials. By eliminating any combustion you do not have to worry about fumes, odors, or carbon monoxide in your home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if just 100,000 homes converted to a geothermal heating and cooling system, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by 880 million pounds. Currently, atmospheric CO2 is 30% higher than it was 200 years ago and if not reduced can cause serious detrimental global impacts. Geothermal technology offers a wonderful solution to lowering these greenhouse gases.

There has never been a better time to invest in a geothermal heat pump system. Contrary to popular belief, geothermal units are surprisingly affordable and save you more and more money over time. While investing in a geothermal unit is initially more expensive than a traditional system, the annual savings on energy bills more than compensates for the initial output and you can usually expect full payback in three to five years. With efficiency ratings at least three times higher than other heating and cooling systems it is estimated that you can save between 30 to 70% on heating and cooling costs. Also, recent Congressional legislation has provided a 30% tax credit for the installed cost of a residential heat pump system, no cap.

When you consider the durability, comfort, cleanliness, and energy savings it is obvious why the government has endorsed them as the best systems for temperature control!

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