A Brief History of Auto Air Conditioning

 how air conditioning in cars got its start

Any driver today simply turns a dial to cool themselves in the car, and auto air conditioning systems come standard. However, that wasn’t always the case – there used to be a day when that system was simply a luxury. In fact, modern cars aren't even advertised to come with air conditioning because it's expected: a car that is advertised to have an AC unit will sound like a car that is advertised to have tires to new drivers. Have you ever wondered how this cooling device got its start and became so popular?

The History of Auto Air Conditioning

The earliest forms of air conditioning began in the 1830s. A Florida hospital created a system that blew air over a bucket of ice to cool patients. In 1902, Willis Carrier created the “Apparatus for Treating Air” which is the closest mechanism to the modern day air conditioner. Also in that year, Alfred Wolff designed a system using refrigeration equipment to cool the New York Stock Exchange. Although both men created great devices, the first air conditioning unit installed was at the Armour Building in Kansas City, Missouri. This unit contained individual temperature controls for different areas of the building. This system wasn’t brought into homes until 1931, when H.H. Shultz and J.Q. Sherman created an individual room cooler that was placed on a window ledge. Ten years later, Packard automobile put the first air conditioning system in a vehicle. The earliest form consisted of air that was blown forward from the back of the car and no temperature adjustments could be made. By 1969, over half of the United States vehicles had air conditioning. Since then, the anatomy of air conditioning in cars kept improving. Though in 1994, Freon (the main cooling chemical in auto air conditioning units) was linked to ozone depletion, so auto manufacturers were required to switch to R13a refrigerant. Fast forward to present day, and all new vehicles manufactured contain a working, and more environmentally friendly air conditioning system. Thank you inventors for cooling us down on a hot day! Image from Hemmings Daily

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Air Conditioning