If there has ever been a summer to appreciate air conditioning, it’s 2012, the hottest summer on record. The third week in August is National Air Conditioning Appreciation Week.
Modern air conditioning was invented in 1902 in Brooklyn, New York for a publishing company. It was intended for industrial use only and was popular in textile mills, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and hospitals. It used coils to cool the air and could control the humidity as well. Due to its size and cost, it wasn’t until 1914 that an air conditioner was installed in the first home.
In 1925, movie theatre owners discovered that if they kept their theatres air conditioned, people would flock to them in the summer. This is credited as the reason for our current summer blockbuster movies; it was the time of year that theatre owners could guarantee a big crowd, so that’s when the biggest films were released.
After World War II, the first window air conditioners appeared; sales exploded from 74,000 in 1948 to 1,045,000 in 1953. Central air conditioning followed in the 1950s, and by 2007, the about 86 percent of homes in the United States relied on air conditioning. Of course, percentages of homes with air conditioning can vary by geographic location; homes in northern Maine aren’t as likely to have it as homes in Miami.
If not for AC, we wouldn’t have the following due to their reliance on cooled air during production and storage: computers; pharmaceuticals; modern food production, delivery and storage; chemicals. Air-conditioned hospitals are credited with decreased infant mortality, advances in surgery, defeat of malaria, and modern standards of sterile conditions. Places such as Texas, Florida, Arizona, and especially Las Vegas would not have had the population explosions they’ve experienced in the past 50 years if not for AC.
However, despite all the great advances in home comfort, Americans use the same amount of energy just for air conditioning every year as the entire continent of Africa uses for everything. Energy efficiency is something we should think about when we make our cooling choices.
Ways to cut the amount of energy you use and your cooling costs include:
- If your system is more than eight years old, consider getting a new one to drastically increase your efficiency and save money. Ensure it’s sized correctly because if it’s too big or too small, it’s not as efficient as it could be. Have it installed by a certified contractor; improper installation can reduce efficiency by up to 30% and shorten the life of the system
- Change air filters at least every three months, monthly if anyone in your home has breathing difficulties or there are pets present.
- Have a certified technician tune up your equipment annually to ensure top efficiency and identify any potential problems.
- Install and use a programmable thermostat to save energy and money while you’re not home or are sleeping.
- Clean the area around your condenser of any debris to improve air flow and seal ducts properly to avoid up to 30% of your cool air leaking into attics.
Appreciate your air conditioner by having it tuned up, changing your air filters, give it a rest when you’re not home, and ensuring it’s as efficient as possible.