The next time you rush indoors to find relief from the summer heat, be sure to thank a century's worth of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) members for helping to make you comfortable. As air conditioning's 100th anniversary is celebrated this year, ASHRAE historian Bernard Nagengast explains a bit of air conditioning history.To review: An invention designed to heat the air actually ends up cooling it. This Willis Carrier guy sounds like he's in the same league as a lot of the contractors that have worked on my house.
According to Nagengast, the term air conditioning was first used in 1906 by Stuart Cramer, a textile engineer from Charlotte, N.C., in a patent application and a subsequent paper. While technology had already been developed that would lead to modern comfort cooling methods, this was the first use of the actual phrase "air conditioning." 1906 also marked the year that a patent was filed by Willis Carrier, who is commonly called the father of air conditioning, for "Method of Heating and Humidifying Air." His intention was to regulate humidity, but Carrier's method has a fortuitous side effect -- comfort cooling.
"The significance of the patent is in accurately controlling humidity in conditioned air," said Nagengast. "Nowhere in the patent description or claims is there any mention of using it to cool air, but the methodology was used later for that purpose where precise humidity control was necessary."
Although it would be some years before air conditioning as it is known would become widespread, this patent marked the start of a new era of comfort cooling for buildings as new technology developed.
— Phil Harvey, All Things Cool Editor, Light Reading