20 HVAC Innovations That Helped Us Progress to Where We Are Now

row of light bulbs

row of light bulbs

You may know that ServiceOne is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. We’re excited about that, for sure, but two decades in business is only possible because of what’s come before us.

Here are 20 innovations that helped our country progress to where we are now…a beautiful place in history where 90% of the American population has air conditioning of some sort thanks to the innovations of the last 120 years!

#1 Innovation: The Use of ice and blowers

1881: One of the earliest AC systems was developed by U.S. Naval engineers after the assassination of President James A. Garfield.

It was a hot summer in Washington, D.C., and after being shot on July 2, 1881, President Garfield lay wounded for 80 days in the White House. To lower the temp in the sick room, (and probably to decrease the smell), U.S. naval engineers rigged up an early AC system. They built a duct into the President’s bedroom and then used an electric blower to push air through fabric that was cooled and kept wet with ice and water. It worked, lowering the temperature to 80 degrees.

It could not, however, save Garfield’s life. He died from his wounds on September 19, 1881,

#2 Innovation: Carrier cools with coils

1902: You’ve probably heard the name “Carrier.” Willis Carrier actually worked in the printing industry. He was frustrated because he couldn’t figure out a way to make the colored printing work correctly. Each color had a separate press run, and in the hot, humid weather, the paper would curl, making the later press runs of different colors out of alignment.

Carrier’s innovation involved circulating cool air through a series of coils using a compressor and condenser, which led to the creation of the first air conditioning unit. Since then, he’s been known as “The Father of Modern Air Conditioning.”

#3 Innovation: Commercial air conditioning increases crowds

1928: The use of air conditioning was a huge boon to commercial establishments. One of the first businesses to embrace commercial air conditioning was the movie theater industry.

By the end of the 1920s, air conditioning in movie theatres was a huge draw, offering customers a place to cool down and be entertained in the process. Attendance increased, and so did the need for attention-grabbing movies.

Air conditioning is responsible for our “Summer blockbusters!”

#4 Innovation: First residential systems

1932 - H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman introduced the first residential air conditioning unit, which was marketed to wealthy homeowners. It was a box unit that could be set on a window ledge. Because of its expense, only wealthy homeowners were interested.

At the same time, Frigidaire began marketing a year-round system for homes.

#5 Innovation: Window units marketed to the masses

1940s - After the GIs returned from WWII and the economy boomed, new housing construction exploded. By this time, window air conditioners had been refined and were less expensive than when they were first developed. These units were small, portable, and could be installed in a window, making them very popular.

#6 Innovation: Refinement of central air conditioning

1950s - Central air conditioning: Millions of window units were in American homes by the 1950s, but a new system was beginning to catch on: central air. Now, an entire house, not just one room, could be cooled with a single unit. This innovation transformed the way people lived and worked, making it possible to stay comfortable even in the hottest weather.

#7 Innovation: Electronic controls

1960s - Electronic controls: In the 1960s, electronic controls were introduced, which allowed for more precise temperature and humidity control. They used sensors to detect changes and then make adjustments. This innovation made air conditioning more efficient and effective and led to the development of more sophisticated systems.

#8 Innovation: Energy-Efficient Equipment

1970s – If you’re old enough to remember the 70s, you probably recall gas shortages. These fuel shortages brought a new awareness to the use of energy. During this period, manufacturers began developing energy-efficient air conditioners.

#9 Innovation: Air filtration

1980s – The HEPA filter was developed in the 1940s as part of the quest to protect our military from gases, but it wasn’t introduced commercially until the 50s. By the 1980s, air filtration was known to improve the health of asthmatics and anyone suffering from respiratory ailments.

Air filters became an integral part of modern air conditioning.

#10 Innovation: Zoning Systems

2000s - In the 2000s, zoning systems for residential homes were refined and introduced. These zoned systems allowed homeowners to cool different parts of their houses separately by using sensor-controlled dampers in the ductwork. This innovation made air conditioning more customizable and energy-efficient, as it was no longer necessary to cool the entire house to a single temperature.

#11 Innovation: Solar Powered Air Conditioning

2002 - In 2002, solar-powered air conditioning was invented, which uses solar panels to generate electricity for the unit. As the world looks for alternatives to fossil fuels and renewable energy sources, solar-powered air conditioning is sure to be an increasingly popular option.

#12 Innovation: Inverter technology

2005 – Inverter technology is the term used for innovation that uses microprocessors and sensors to control the speed of the motor, sending it more power when it needs¬†it and lowering the speed when it’s not needed. Inverter technology reduces energy costs as well as wear-and-tear on the system. This innovation made air conditioning more energy-efficient and reduced wear and tear on the system.

#13 Innovation: Smart thermostats

2007 – Smart thermostats are introduced and embraced by homeowners because they save energy, and therefore, money. Using a smartphone or a computer, the temperature can be adjusted as needed, allowing homeowners to control their air conditioning systems remotely, turning the temperature up when the house is not in use, or lowering the thermostat shortly before their return home. Smart thermostats made it easier to adjust the temperature and save energy.

#14 Innovation: Geothermal air conditioning

2008 - Geothermal air conditioning is when the heat energy of the earth is harvested and used to heat or cool air or water. The principle of geothermal energy was discovered in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t until 2008 that geothermal air conditioning systems were developed and manufactured for the public. Highly efficient and environmentally friendly, geothermal air conditioning helps reduce energy consumption and the carbon footprint of any home.

#15 Innovation: Smart sensors in air conditioners

2010s - In the 2010s, smart sensors were introduced which allowed air conditioning units to adjust their output based on the occupancy and activity in a room. The air conditioner might be motion-sensored. It might be light-sensored. When the room has no activity, the air conditioner would not run, saving energy and costs.

#16 Innovation: Magnetic cooling

2012 - Magnetic cooling was introduced in 2012 and is still in the early stage of development. Magnetic cooling uses permanent magnetic fields to cool materials without the use of refrigerants or compressors. Since refrigerants are toxic and hazardous to the environment, magnetic cooling could be a safe and viable alternative.

#17 Innovation: Ice-powered air conditioning

2013 – Ice has been used before to cool air like when it was used to try to lower the temperature in President Garfield’s sick room. Early in the 20th Century, the White House tried to use ice in the attic to cool air, but it was not effective or practical, so that system was eliminated.

But more than a century later, ice-powered air conditioning is an option for some utility companies using ice as a cooling agent during peak electricity usage hours. This technology helped to reduce energy consumption and lower electricity bills.

#18 Innovation: Smart air conditioners

Equipment is getting smarter and smarter. It’s not just thermostats, but now air conditioners are more intelligent than ever! Sensors and algorithms learn user preferences and adjust the temperature accordingly. These systems are highly efficient and customizable.

#19 Innovation: Solar-powered chillers

2016 – Chillers are commercial units that chill the water that is pumped to air handlers. Solar-powered chillers were introduced in 2016, which used the sun’s energy to power the cooling process, saving dollars and decreasing dependence on fossil fuels.

#20 Innovation: Ductless systems

2020s – Ductless, mini-split systems are exploding in popularity. A ductless system is, as its name implies, a system that doesn’t require ductwork. Instead, an outside air compressor is attached directly to an inside air handler by a small tube. Up to four units can be attached to one air compressor, and each area can be heated or cooled to a separate temperature.

Mini-splits are a great innovation that allows for all sizes and shapes of areas to be kept at a comfortable temperature without existing ductwork.

ServiceOne is innovative, too!

For twenty years, ServiceOne has carried the most innovative equipment and hired the best professional technicians and plumbers to help you choose what system works best for you, your family, your home, your lifestyle, and your budget.

Call us. Whether you’re interested in a smart thermostat, a smart air conditioner, zoned systems, or ductless mini-splits, we can help.