Today, the first thing we think about concerning air conditioning is comfort. Even though it was not used for comfort for nearly a third of the twentieth century.
Air conditioning has only been around since 1902. Most people today view air conditioning as a requirement for a comfortable life, whether at home, work, driving down the road or shopping at the local mall. But, the reality is, that if it wasn’t for the huge manufacturing benefits of air conditioning; you would most likely not have it in your home, car or office today.
Air conditioning gave manufacturers the ability to control temperature and humidity in ways that was just not possible before. This control provided significant improvements in product quality. For manufacturers in the deep south, air conditioning meant they could double or triple their production without the cost of constructing a new facility.
During the summer months in states like Texas the production crew would start working as early as 3 am and knock off about noon. This was the coolest part of the day. After noon the temperatures were dangerously high on the manufacturing floor for both the workers and the equipment. The sun beating down on the building and the equipment producing addition heat could send the temperatures soaring well above 115 degrees.
When air conditioning showed up all that changed. Now the manufactures could run 3 shifts a day. The production equipment could run almost non-stop. The best part was the product. There were fewer failures, few reworks and fewer material losses. There was also fewer injures and less absenteeism which meant happier employees.
All this was enough for the air conditioning companies to continue to make a/c units. It wasn’t until 22 years later that the first non-manufacturer installed air conditioning. J.L. Hudson, a department store is credited with being the first retail establishment to install a cooling system. But even with people lined up out the door to “feel” the cool air inside Hudson’s store it took another 2 years for another retail store to install a cooling unit.
That was in 1926, when the Rivoli Theater install one. Then it took yet another 2 years (1928) for window units to be offered to home owners.
If we did not have air conditioning today, we would also not have computers. The chips used in today’s computers require very tight control over humidity and temperature to produce.
All this is interesting when you consider that they were making ice in 1865. Why it took 37 years for somebody to figure out how to use that technology to cool the air is beyond me.