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Summer (HVAC) Reading: “Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything”


Have you ever read a book on air conditioning? Not a manual, but an actual book with a conversational dialogue formulated around the air conditioner – one of mankind’s greatest inventions? Probably not. Well, we have. Bet you never thought you’d find a book report on our site. Well, we’re not going to give you a report so much as give you a few pretty interesting facts that we took away from the read that are all about the air conditioner – the vehicle that keeps us cool during these sticky, hot (and sometimes flat out oppressive) months here in New England.

The book?

“Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything” – by Salvatore Basile

The facts?

Here we go:

  • In 1736, the English House of Commons in the United Kingdom was cooled by a 7-foot, hand-cranked “blowing wheel,” which essentially was nothing more than a giant fan. The man at the helm of the crank was called the Ventilator.
  • An anonymous California millionaire was the first person to try using A/C to cool a 6’ x 9’ room in his home in 1892. The room required a false wall to hide the machinery, more of which was placed on the roof – sounds like a typical city commercial install these days…
  • Two of the earliest known ventilation systems were installed in 1899, in Cornell University’s dissecting rooms (for cadavers), and 1903, at the New York Stock Exchange.
  • The first known, fully functioning air-conditioned home, was built in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1913. The home was owned by Charles Gates (AKA “Spend-A-Million” Gates), who was the heir to the barbed wire fortune. His mansion took up three city lots, and – just to set the mood a bit more – had gold plumbing. Gates never got to experience the benefits of said air conditioner because, as fate would have it, he died while on a hunting trip before the house was completed.
  • Since there were no affordable home air conditioning systems back in 1917, movie theater owners would fill seats by marketing their “state-of-the-art” ice cold air conditioned theatres with icicle-covered letters on their advertisements. This type of messaging worked rather well and movie theatres were often at capacity on those simmering summer days.
  • Herbert Hoover was the first United States President to enjoy air conditioning in the Oval Office. He spent $30,000 on the system, just months after the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the start of the Great Depression. True story.
  • For a basic window A/C unit in the 1940s, you’d spend around $350, which, in today’s money, is almost $3,500.
  • AND finally, because we’re loyal to our Carrier roots… Founder Willis Haviland Carrier, whose patents and ideas created the first widely popular factory-scale coolers, was so absorbed in creating his air conditioner that he once left for a business trip with a large suitcase in which he had packed nothing but a handkerchief. Now that’s just fun…

We’ll stop there. Lucky for all of us, the technology of air conditioners has improved drastically, and there are many affordable options for all of us to take advantage of. To explore some of those options, and to take comfort during this hot summer season, give Suburban Companies a call today. You’ll be glad you did, and we’d be happy to meet you. Unless of course you’re still happy with that hand-cranked 7-foot wheel in your living room…


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