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Air conditioning in the U.S, now a modern convenience

How our ancestors tried to stay cool

Early Americans used a variety of methods to stay cool before the invention of air conditioning. There are plenty of people without AC all over the world. These methods included:

  • Using natural ventilation: They would open windows and doors to allow cool air to flow through their homes. Some houses were also built with features such as high ceilings and large porches to promote natural ventilation.
  • Using shading: They would plant trees or install shading devices such as window awnings to block out the sun’s rays and keep the inside of their homes cooler.
  • Using fans: They would use handheld fans or large floor fans to circulate air and create a cooling breeze.
  • Staying underground: They would stay in cool, subterranean spaces such as basements, caves, or cellars.
  • Ice Harvesting: Blocks of ice were harvested from frozen lakes and rivers during the winter. This ice was stored in icehouses and used to cool food and drinks during the hot summer months.
  • Dress Code: They often dressed in lightweight, white, loose clothing and wide brimmed hats to protect skin from the sun and help to stay cool.

These methods were often used in combination, and their effectiveness varied depending on the climate and individual preferences.

Modern history of Air conditioning in the United States

Air conditioning in America has a relatively short but significant history. The first practical air conditioning system was invented by Willis Carrier in 1902, but it was primarily used for industrial and commercial purposes, such as in factories and movie theaters, rather than in homes. The widespread use of air conditioning in American homes did not occur until after World War II, when the technology became more affordable and reliable. The growth of suburbanization and the increasing popularity of the automobile also contributed to the widespread adoption of air conditioning, as it allowed people to live and work in regions with hot climates. By the 1960s, air conditioning had become a common feature in American homes and buildings, and it has since become an essential part of modern life in the United States.

Latest advances in air conditioning

There have been several recent advances in air conditioning technology, including:

  1. Inverter technology: Inverter-based air conditioners are more efficient than traditional air conditioners because they can adjust their cooling output to match the actual cooling needs of the room. This means they use less energy and can save money on electricity bills.
  2. Smart technology: Many newer air conditioners can be controlled via smartphone apps or voice commands, allowing for remote control and scheduling.
  3. Ductless mini-split systems: These systems use small, outdoor units that connect to indoor units via a refrigerant line, rather than traditional ductwork. They are more energy efficient and can be used in homes or buildings without existing ductwork.
  4. Geothermal heat pumps: These systems use the constant temperature of the earth to heat and cool buildings. They are highly efficient and can result in significant energy savings.
  5. Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems: These systems allow different zones in a building to have different temperature settings, which can save energy by only heating or cooling the areas that need it.
  6. Desiccant-assisted air conditioning: This method uses desiccants to dry the air before it’s cooled, which can increase the efficiency of the air conditioning system and reduce energy consumption.
  7. Use of alternative refrigerants: Many new air conditioning systems are being designed with low global warming potential refrigerants such as R32 and R290 which are more environmentally friendly.

Central air conditioning units vs. mini-split systems

Central air conditioning units and mini split systems are both types of air conditioning systems, but they have some key differences.

Central air conditioning units are typically installed in homes with existing ductwork. They have one outdoor unit that is connected to multiple indoor units through ducts. These systems are designed to cool the entire home and are controlled by a single thermostat.

Mini split systems, on the other hand, do not use ducts. Instead, they have one or more small outdoor units that are connected to indoor units through refrigerant lines. Each indoor unit can have its own thermostat, allowing for separate temperature control in different rooms or zones.

Some pros of central air conditioning units include:

  • They can cool the entire home at once
  • They can be more cost-effective for homes with existing ductwork
  • They are typically more powerful and can cool large spaces quickly

Some cons of central air conditioning units include:

  • They can be less energy efficient due to leaks and poor insulation in ductwork
  • They can be difficult and expensive to install in homes without existing ductwork
  • They can be noisy, especially when the compressor is located inside the home

Some pros of mini split systems include:

  • They are more energy efficient because they do not use ducts
  • They can be used in homes or buildings without existing ductwork
  • They allow for separate temperature control in different rooms or zones
  • They are relatively quiet, as the compressor unit is located outside

Some cons of mini split systems include:

  • They can be more expensive to install than central air conditioning units
  • They may not be powerful enough to cool large spaces quickly
  • They may require multiple outdoor units to cool the entire home which can increase the cost.

In conclusion, both central air conditioning units and mini split systems have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, it is important to consider the size of the space, budget, and personal preferences when choosing which type of air conditioning system to install.

Window and wall units

In-wall air conditioning unit.

Window air conditioners can be efficient, but they typically have a lower energy efficiency ratio (EER) compared to other types of air conditioners such as central air conditioners or mini-split systems.

The EER is a measure of the efficiency of an air conditioner, and it is calculated by dividing the cooling output of the unit (measured in BTUs) by the electrical energy input (measured in watts). The higher the EER, the more efficient the unit is.

Window air conditioners typically have an EER of around 8-10, while central air conditioners and mini-split systems can have EERs of up to 20 or higher.

Additionally, window air conditioners are designed to cool only the room in which they are installed, which means that you would need to have one in each room you want to cool, which can be costly and not very efficient.

However, window air conditioners are relatively inexpensive to purchase and install, and they can be a good option for cooling a small space or a room that is not frequently used. They also can be easily removed and stored during the winter.

It is important to consider that the efficiency of window air conditioners can be improved by selecting units with high EERs and ensuring a good seal around the unit to minimize air leaks.

Be sure to check out the selection at your local hardware store.

If you do decide to do a wall unit, you may need to check out our article on Drywall 101 for any necessary repairs.

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