Be Cooler: Air Conditioners Are Overdue For An Update

Air conditioners are increasingly part of our warming world yet energy-hungry A/C technology has barely changed since the compact room cooler was patented.

Don’t Sweat It

“The American Century” is one way to describe the ten decades starting with 19 but that era could also be dubbed “The Air-Conditioned Century”. Indeed, it’s sobering to consider where we’d be without the humble air conditioner. Patented in 1906 by Willis Carrier (1876-1950), this revolutionary electric-powered device both cooled and dehumidified the air, facilitating a wide range of productive human activity in the warmest climes and countries. (images above via zeevveez at top, Mr Thinktank above)

Fandom Of The Opera(tion)

Carrier’s patent satisfied four critical benchmarks: temperature control, humidity control, air circulation and ventilation control, and cleansing of ambient air. Carrier’s basic engineering can be compared in many ways to the proverbial mousetrap in that his design was so sound, no one’s been able to beat it! Though air conditioners haven’t changed much over the last century, the wider world IS changing… temperature-wise. (image via Michael Coghlan)

Hotbox City

Demand for air conditioners from rapidly developing and gradually warming regions of the globe have conspired to exposed the one glaring fault in Carrier’s ingenious invention: air conditioners require a lot of energy. Neither the cost not the availability of electricity were of much concern in Carrier’s day but like the man himself, those days have passed. Once hailed as the solution to one of nature’s great economic limiters, air conditioning has emerged as a bad actor in the fight to reduce global warming and moderate energy consumption. (image via RubyGoes)

Blowin’ In The (Artificial) Wind

According to the International Energy Agency, “Using air conditioners and electric fans to stay cool already accounts for about a fifth of the total electricity used in buildings around the world – or 10% of all global electricity consumption today.” Bad as that sounds, it’s only going to get worse as demand for air conditioning in hotter developing countries such as India, China and Brazil boosts AC use “to be the second-largest source of global electricity demand growth.” (image via David Brossard)

Did you know low-tech can get a makeover too? Check out Sipping Point: CHEW Redefines The Reusable Straw!

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