Excerpts from the “Remarks at the Montreal Protocol High-level Segment” by Secretary of State John Kerry at the Vienna International Center, July 22, 2016: “Yesterday, I met in Washington with 45 nations — defense ministers and foreign ministers — as we were working together on the challenge of Daesh, ISIL and terrorism. It’s hard for some people to grasp it, but what we — you — are doing here right now is of equal importance because it has the ability to literally save life on the planet itself.”
Say what? Do cooling systems really pose as big a threat (is of equal importance) as ISIS? Kerry needs a check-up from the neck-up, or does he? From my twisted perspective, he may just have a valid point, only I’m sure it is not the same point he was trying to make regarding HFCs and the threat of global warming.
But first, a history lesson
Willis Carrier graduated from Cornell University in 1901. On July 17, 1902, young Willis, an engineer with Buffalo Forge Company, submitted a set of technical drawings that would resolve a vexing problem for Sackett & Williams Lithography and Printing Company located in Brooklyn, N.Y. Excess humidity was causing tremendous waste in multi-color printing operations due to expansion/contraction of paper between each successive color run. The cost was driving the bean counters nuts over at Sackett & Williams, and they turned to Buffalo Forge Co. for help. The problem was handed off to Willis who designed a system that used both ground water at 55°F (geothermal anyone?) and an ammonia compressor to maintain precise humidity levels year-round. Designed to maintain 55 percent relative humidity, the system capacity was equal to melting 108,000 pounds of ice per each 24 hours. Since we know one ton of cooling was derived from the amount of energy to melt one ton of ice in 24 hours that was a nine ton cooling system, which was deemed a success on October 21, 1903. The birth of modern air conditioning!
No! The very founder of our country, George Washington, in 1758, discovered the latent heat of evaporating volatile substances, like alcohol, cooled off water enough to actually create ice.
Was Willis the first radicalized terrorist (I’m calling these a/c historians terrorist based on Kerry’s remarks (I don’t really think they are terrorists)) to experiment with cooling? No! The very founder of our country, George Washington, in 1758, discovered the latent heat of evaporating volatile substances, like alcohol, cooled off water enough to actually create ice. In 1881, naval engineers constructed an ice-based “swamp cooler” (air blowing across cold ice-melt wet cloth) to comfort President James Garfield after an assassination attempt. 500,000 pounds of ice was used during two months of operation. Garfield died comfortably.
Still more terrorists follow: In 1931 the window unit was invented by H. H. Schultz and J. Q. Sherman. The only drawback? They cost $10,000 to $50,000! Ouch.
The 1950s saw a post WWII economic boom that thrust central air conditioning into a need, rather than a luxury just for the very wealthy. More than one million units were sold in 1953, which created a significant shift from hydronic to hot air heating systems. In the 1970s window-shakers lost serious ground to central A/C systems. In 1994, Freon was linked to ozone depletion. We all had to obtain certification for new refrigerants, like Puron/R134a, and purchase new recovery equipment and gauge sets capable of handling the increased pressures.
I say Kerry is spot-on regarding air conditioning having been a serious danger for the U.S. and world. Here’s why: prior to the advent of air conditioning, buildings were constructed so that every room had operable windows for both natural light (before electricity) and ventilation for comfort. The end result was sprawling complexes that consumed vast quantities of real estate. Washington was essentially unbearable during summer months prior to air conditioning and Congress was basically just a part-time job that did not pay enough to live off the largesse of the American taxpayer, so Congress would adjourn and government officials would go home to their full-time jobs to make ends meet. Now if that doesn’t make you wish for the “good old days,” I don’t know what would!
Our legislators, as they do so well, studied productivity as that related to the sweltering heat and humidity of Washington. They derived a mathematical formula to track productivity — a government study — of government workers (hey, they’re thinkers, not doers) and determined that when the outside ambient temperature plus 20 percent of the humidity reached 100, it was time to send everyone home! In 1953 a heat wave resulted in sending 26,284 government employees home. In 1956, the General Services Administration funded retrofitting all government buildings in Washington with air conditioning.
Washington was essentially unbearable during summer months prior to air conditioning and Congress was basically just a part-time job that did not pay enough to live off the largesse of the American taxpayer.
Not that we did not witness polarization, corruption and severe disagreements between political parties prior to air-conditioning. After watching the movie “Lincoln” we were blown away by the rancid vitriol bandied about between politicians that almost, and I stress the word almost, makes today’s acidic jousts look pale by comparison! The advantage in those pre-AC days was the buggers all went home. That and the fact that communication moved at a snail’s pace absent today’s digital social media.
So, yes, I do agree with Secretary of State John Kerry — that air conditioning is of equal importance as terrorists. Were it not for central AC, our “we’re the government and we’re here to help you” would likely have been more fact than fiction. As a small business, we are over-taxed, over-regulated and over-burdened thanks to our federal government officials who luxuriate in air-conditioned comfort — on our dime.
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