Imagine a world without commercial heating and air conditioning. It’s pretty hard to comprehend how difficult life would be without it in today’s fast-paced business world. Without heating and air conditioning, almost all businesses we know today wouldn’t be able to operate. In 2021, HVAC is one of the largest growing and most important industries in the United States. HVAC has allowed for cities and businesses to thrive in the hottest locations such as Phoenix, Miami, and Las Vegas and in the coldest such as Minneapolis, Detroit, and Chicago. Surprisingly, this industry we know today hardly existed a century ago. Let’s take a trip back to the dawn of the 20th century to see how it all started.
The Early Days Of HVAC 1900 – 1950
In 1902 the first air conditioner was built in Buffalo, New York. This air conditioner’s original purpose was to prevent the paper from being ruined by humidity. This machine used air to blow over cold coils that would, in return, control the temperature and humidity in the room where the paper was stored. Soon, inventors and scientists realized that this machine could be utilized for much more than just paper. Innovators of the 1910s and 1920s began adding features and components to the air conditioning unit such as ventilation that allowed the conditioner to make yarn and other materials easier to work with.
In 1925, the first commercial HVAC unit was installed at the Rivoli Theater in New York City to help keep guests cool in the theater during the summer months. Soon HVAC wasn’t just in commercial buildings and the first window unit was released to the public for residential use in 1931. The 1930s and 1940s would be spent innovating these units to become more affordable as they were far too expensive for the regular homeowner at an average of $30,000. By 1950 the average commercial HVAC unit’s price was less than 25% of its original cost in 1925.
Technological Advances 1950 – 1990
With prices on the decline for both residential and commercial HVAC units, millions of units are installed in homes and buildings across the country. Units ranging in all sizes from small window units to 30-ton and specialty commercial units are introduced. New coolants are researched and Freon becomes the most common coolant used in HVAC units due to its cooling capabilities and low cost.
In the early 1970s, central air is introduced and allows for whole buildings and homes to be heated and cooled with one central system as opposed to several HVAC systems. This rapidly increases the HVAC industry and allows for hot and dry cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix to begin to thrive. These new systems also start to utilize condenser coils, evaporator coils, and air filters. This HVAC technology has stood the test of time and is still being used today nearly 50 years later!
Modern HVAC 1990 – Present
In 1994 the lead coolant used in HVAC units, Freon, was found to be harmful to the environment due to air pollution. This leads researchers and scientists to find more environmentally friendly coolant options and introduce them to both the commercial and residential HVAC industry. In the 2000s and 2010s units continued to grow in options, sizes, and capabilities while reducing operational costs and energy usage.
In early 2020, the coronavirus pandemic ravages through the United States and leaves HVAC professionals with the difficult task of how to use commercial HVAC systems to help prevent the spread of coronavirus particles indoors. The answer is found with ultraviolet lighting and bipolar ionization technology that uses charged atoms to attach and deactivate coronavirus particles. In 2021, this technology is now being installed in thousands of businesses to help keep customers and guests safe in all commercial industries across the country amidst the pandemic.
From the simple machine invented in 1902 for paper, to the advanced HVAC units today, the commercial HVAC industry has come a long way over the past 120 years.