Staying Cool During the Modern Ages

Creating a comfortable living environment is one of the main goals of humanity.  From the earliest days of civilization, we have sought to control and shield ourselves from the harsh conditions of nature.  Shelter being one of the key necessities of life, along with food and water, is integral to our survival. It is only natural that we would strive to make that shelter as accommodating as possible.  Conditioning the air, another of life’s necessities, to provide a pleasant ambient temperature seems an obvious conclusion. Warming our living spaces on a cold winter’s night or, conversely, lowering the temperature in a hot, sticky space has been around since our ancestors built their first domiciles.  Central Air Conditioning is, however, considerably newer. Very simply it the use of a machine, or multiple machines, to cool or heat the air indoors. Modern central air units are usually a bit more complicated.

Things Weren’t Always Easy

The ancient Egyptians were among the first to practice a basic form of air conditioning, by hanging water soaked reed curtains over the windows for the hot air to pass through.  The Romans advanced on the cooling properties by using the aqueducts to circulate cool water through the walls of important buildings. In 2nd century China, they had already invented a rotary fan to circulate air and create cooling breezes.  

While these simple, though effective, methods were utilised for centuries, real advancement was achieved in the early days of the industrial age with mechanical refrigeration.  This process built on the chemical reactions that used volatile liquids to cool objects quickly. These early refrigeration units were the beginnings of what we see today.

Modern Central Air Utilized These Basic Concepts

Modern central air utilizes these basic concepts to solve sometimes quite complex problems.  The scale of this application is as broad as the variety of constructions that we have built.  They can be small detachable boxes that require little more than power and access to the outside, all the way through to massive systems combined with lengthy duct arrangements for towering skyscrapers.  

Regardless of the size and complexity of the arrangement they all function on one basic principle.  Often located on, or near, the exterior of a structure these units circulate refrigerants to condition the air and cycle the heat to the outside.   New improvements in ductless air conditioning units are expanding the flexibility and useful application of this same technology. Further improvements currently focus on improved efficiency in power supply and circulation.  

One unfortunate drawback of these systems lies in the refrigerant compounds used.  These can be volatile chemicals, dangerous to the environment and difficult to dispose of.  New developments are reducing the toxicity of the composition while improving the thermal efficiency.  Combined with a reduced requirement of energy and subsequent advances in longevity contaminants released into the environment can be greatly reduced.

Continued improvements in HVAC units, Central Air and renewable energy production are fueling the designs of new technology, and shaping the direction of architecture and construction to form a brighter, more comfortable and sustainable future.

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