The Journey of Air Conditioning: 1902-Today

By By Vickie Frantz, Staff Writer
July 19, 2012, 10:20:00 AM EDT

Willis Carrier submitted drawings of the first modern air conditioning system on July 17, 1902.

Carrier, an apprentice engineer at the Buffalo Forge Company, Buffalo, N.Y., was working to solve a problem that affected the quality of printing for their client Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company, Brooklyn, N.Y., according to a press release from Carrier.

Inside of the printing plant, the heat and humidity, along with the heat of the printing machines, were causing the paper used for color magazine printing to expand and contract. The changes to the paper kept the colors from being aligned properly and the ink was not drying properly. Sackett-Wilhelms was in danger of losing the business of one of their biggest clients.

A solution to the heat and humidity problem became the responsibility of Carrier. He came up with the brilliant idea to circulate cold water rather than steam through heating coils in a machine he used to test heaters.

By balancing the temperature of the coil surface and the rate of airflow, Carrier was able to pull the air temperature down to the right dew-point temperature in the printing factory.

Carrier's design was credited as the first to address four basic functions necessary for air conditioning. An air conditioner must: 1. control temperature, 2. control humidity, 3. control air circulation, and 4. cleanse the air.

After the first appearance of Carrier's air conditioner drawings in 1902, the air conditioner has revolutionized the comfort of people in many different activities.

This timeline from Carrier highlights some of the major impacts of air conditioning on society.

1902- First application of modern mechanical air conditioning, Sackett-Wilhelms printing plant, Brooklyn, N.Y.

1914- First application of air conditioning in a residence - Charles Gates mansion, Minneapolis, Minn.

1922- Carrier invents centrifugal refrigeration system (chiller)

1924- First department store air conditioned, J.L. Hudson's, Detroit, Mich.

1925- Movie theaters cooled: Grauman's Theater, Los Angeles, Calif., Rivoli Theater, N.Y.

1928-29- Chambers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate air conditioned

1932- Carrier Room Weathermaker introduced for cooling residences

1946- First public bus air conditioned, San Antonio, Texas

1992- Carrier named a partner in EPA's Green Lights program to reduce energy use

1993- Carrier ceases manufacture of CFC-based chillers in the U.S. - two years before the deadline established by the Clean Air Act

1994- First non-ozone-depleting, chlorine-free centrifugal chiller and residential air conditioner introduced by Carrier

1998 George Washington's Mount Vernon cooled by Carrier

1999 First HVAC manufacturer to sell window/room air conditioning units over the internet (

2002 Carrier celebrates the 100-year anniversary of Willis Carrier's discovery of air conditioning

Timeline facts courtesy of


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