Air conditioning changed America. Philadelphia has played a central role in its history.

When the Stephen F. Whitman candy company – the people who made these “Whitman’s Sampler” chocolate sets – installed a new cooling system at their Philadelphia candy factory, the very concept of air conditioning was revolutionary.

And that encountered considerable resistance. Some thought it was “against God’s will,” said Abeer Saha, curator, division of labor and industry at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. “People were used to being hot in the summer. “

Even today, some argue that we have to endure and adapt, that we have surrendered to energy-intensive technology that has taken us further away from nature.

READ MORE: Our air conditioning obsession needs a refresh | Opinion

Followers of this attitude, however, are most likely not involved in the candy-making industry, and anyone who consumes a decent-sized chocolate bar outside at noon this week – yes, the heat is back. , with three-digit heat indices possible, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday – I’d appreciate why.

The candy companies were among the first to embrace the technology developed by Willis Carrier, a master of marketing and “an engineering engineer,” Saha said. His revolutionary invention was the “centrifugal chiller” and its very first installation took place at the Whitman plant in 1923.

When asked what the life of confectioners was like before air conditioning, Ed Janowiak, an HVAC expert with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, said: “I guess they were elbows in chocolate. . “

»READ MORE: Need HVAC Help in Cool Weather? Here’s how to choose a new heating system wisely.

In the almost 100 years since the cooler arrived in Whitman, air conditioning has taken over the country. It became a sine qua non in commercial and government buildings, and it was an influential engineer from Philadelphia who designed systems for the Pentagon and Madison Square Garden in New York City.

In the second half of the 20th century, residential air conditioning caught on fire, and as of 2019, more than 90% of all American households had it in one form or another, according to the Energy Information Agency.

READ MORE: How to stay cool without air conditioning in Philly

It has contributed to the displacement of national populations. This gave us the “summer blockbuster” movie. And that has been a lifeline, according to heat health experts.

Nationally, 91% of all residences had some form of air conditioning in 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration, and 71% had central air conditioning.

Air conditioning is hot even in cool parts of the country, with over 85% of it in the Northeast and Midwest, and over 90% in the Philly area.

It hasn’t always been that way. In 1973, only about half of the houses were air-conditioned and only one in six houses had a central one.

You might have seen more than a few “summer blockbuster” movies, and for that, you can thank the air conditioning.

Once upon a time, summer was a slow season for theaters, said Saha of the Smithsonian. Then came Carrier and his invention.

One of his main marketing stunts was to persuade theaters to install his cooling systems, the first being the Rivoli Theater in New York in 1925. Houses became centers of mass cooling.

Hollywood has noticed. A film titled The Wizard of Oz was released on August 25, 1939. The Lion King; jurassic park; and of course Jaws, are among the films released in the summer that managed to attract a few people.

Attempts at mechanical cooling of the Great Indoors date back to the 19th century.

Although the inventor of AC is never known, during a speech on May 17, 1906 in Asheville, North Carolina, engineer and textile executive Stuart W. Cramer, credited with developing a system of cooling for the New York Stock Exchange, became the first to use the term “air conditioning”.

Four years earlier, while working for a company in Buffalo, Carrier was tasked with solving a problem that pissed off a Brooklyn publishing house: crumpled magazine pages. According to a history from the Department of Energy, Carrier solved the problem by using cooling coils to control the humidity in the air.

If they could smooth out the paper, Carrier believed that humidity and temperature control would be a boon to other industries. He formed Carrier Engineering Corp. with six other engineers and was on his way.

Cooling systems that were gaining traction in theaters, offices and factories were inconvenient for residences.

However, AC came home with the invention of the window unit, which required nothing more than a sewing machine-sized motor, said Janowiak, the HVAC expert.

In 1947, 43,000 compact units designed by engineer Henry Galson were sold. Around 89 million residences are equipped with it today.

People move for many reasons, but the energy administration maintains that air conditioning has a lot to do with population movement.

In 1960, less than a third of American residents lived in the warmer states. By 2010, that number had risen to over 43%.

Conversely, the share of the population in colder states increased from almost 60% to 48%.

Health experts say AC is the ultimate vaccine against heat-related illnesses. They say spending a few hours in an air-conditioned environment can save the lives of those most vulnerable to the heat. Unfortunately, the elderly who live alone are often among those who lack air conditioning.

During heat emergencies, Philadelphia opens cooling centers and SEPTA even deploys a fleet of cooling buses.

READ MORE: Summers are hotter, but heat-related deaths have declined. Philadelphia has a lot to do with it.

The “centrifugal refrigeration machine” installed to circulate fresh air at the Whitman plant in 1923 was Willis Carrier’s “most influential innovation”, according to the company’s history.

Chillers were seen as the essential building blocks of future systems that would cool, filter and dehumidify massive amounts of indoor air.

The system installed at Whitman – even though its three units weighed 225 tonnes – represented a breakthrough because it was “smaller and cheaper” than any of its predecessors, Saha said.

“Over the next decade, the centrifugal chiller would extend the reach of modern air conditioning …

Expect air conditioners to roar across the region over the next few days, with the fifth heat wave of the season due to baking and the continuation of the work week.

Some may like it hot; obviously pretty cool.

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