WTF Fun Fact 12724 – Creating Summer Indoor Entertainment

Without Willis Carrier’s 1902 invention of the air conditioner, we’d have a very different world. And it would have started with missing out on opportunities for indoor cultural experiences in the summer when people are most commonly off from work and school.

Carrier’s original design was meant for a publishing company in Brooklyn that needed to keep its paper from expanding and contracting so it could achieve proper print quality while it was hot and humid. But not long after that, businessmen saw the opportunities to add it to factories (which technically cut off some summer break for workers who could now work more safely in the summer) and then to department stores. The real cultural moment came when it was added to movie theaters in the mid to late 1920s and regular theaters in the 1960s.

For example, Carrier’s company put an air conditioner in Lincoln Center in 1961. This extended the performing arts season in New York City from “a single season to 52 weeks a year,” according to the Carrier website.

For more cool facts and stories about the history of air conditioning, check out:
Slate, “A History of Air Conditioning”
JSTOR Daily’s “Can We Live Without Air Conditioning?”
BBC, “How Air Conditioning Changed the World”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The History of Movie Theaters and Air Conditioning That Keeps Film Lovers Cool” — WPLF

WTF Fun Fact 12723 – Air Conditioning Was Invented In Buffalo, New York

Willis Carrier is the man to thank if you’re cooling off in an air-conditioned space today. He was born in Angola, New York, and attended high school in Buffalo, where he would later work, he submitted the first drawings for a cooling unit in 1902.

Children and some laborers were already some time off in the summer when productivity was low because of heat and humidity. But, of course, many companies needed to keep on producing their goods.

Carrier, who got an engineering degree at Cornell and then returned to work as a research engineer at Buffalo Forge Company, was set upon the task.

But the primary goal wasn’t to give us all comfort during sweltering summers. In fact, according to the Willis Carrier website, the “young research engineer initialed a set of mechanical drawings designed to solve a production problem at the Sackett & Wilhelms Lithography and Printing Company in Brooklyn, New York.” Ironically, it was a problem with paper.

Also interesting is that Buffalo Forge was a supplier of forges, fans, and hot blast heaters. Creating cold air is the first challenge that needed addressing!

So why begin with paper? Why does paper need to be cool?

Well, it turns out it expands and contracts when heat and humidity are a problem – and that’s just not good when you need to print something.

Again, according to the website that now carries his life story:

“In the spring of 1902, consulting engineer Walter Timmis visited the Manhattan office of J. Irvine Lyle, the head of Buffalo Forge’s sales activities in New York. Timmis’ client, Sackett & Wilhelms, found that humidity at its Brooklyn plant wreaked havoc with the color register of its fine, multicolor printing. Ink, applied one color at a time, would misalign with the expansion and contraction of the paper stock. This caused poor quality, scrap waste and lost production days, Timmis said. Judge magazine happened to be one of the important clients whose production schedule was at risk. Timmis had some ideas about how to approach the problem but would need help. Was Buffalo Forge interested?”

Carrier was tasked with the problem because he already had a sterling reputation as a researcher and data collector, and this problem would need a lot of work.

But he did it. He was able to not only produce cool air but humidity as well by “replacing steam with cold water flowing through heating coils, balancing the temperature of the coil surface with the rate of air flow to pull the air temperature down to the desired dew point temperature.”

It wasn’t perfect, but it did the job. Carrier later started a company, and sold his updated creations to factories, and then to department stores and movie theaters in the 1920s.

The source down below is a comprehensive website on his invention and the impact it had on the world (just click through the dates on the left side of the page to follow the timeline to today).  WTF fun facts

Source: “The Invention That Changed the World” —

WTF Fun Fact 12622 – Air Conditioning Trees

There’s no arguing with the fact that trees keep the planet alive. And we all know they help keep the Earth cool, though we may not know the exact mechanism by which they do it.

But the amount of influence trees can have over the climates in their immediate areas is still pretty stunning.

Even when trees grow in cities (relatively far apart and under conditions that are probably less ideal than, say, a forest), they can have a large cooling impact.

According to the EPA, cities sometimes create “heat islands”:

“An urban heat island (UHI) is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. The temperature difference is usually larger at night than during the day, and is most apparent when winds are weak.”

Tl; dr – Cities are hotter because of all the stuff we do there.

But what’s cool about trees (see what we did there?) is that they can lower both surface and air temperatures. We all know it’s cooler in the shade (sometimes by as much as 20-45 degrees F!), so that’s part of it. But there’s also something called evapotranspiration that plays a role. That’s the method by which water moves from the earth’s surface (the soil) up into the atmosphere. So, later, when we get precipitation, it can cool off our buildings and sidewalks.

Evapotranspiration (along with shading, in most cases) can reduce peak temperatures on a summer day by 2-9 degrees F.

And chances are that if you have a thoughtful city planning department, the trees planted around your nearest city are planted in very strategic locations to take advantage of this process. (For example, you may find more trees planted to the west of buildings to take advantage of maximum shade.)

There’s a very long list of the benefits of trees, but we’ll add a few that are less obvious about city trees:

  • They reduce energy usage by lowering the demand for air conditioning
  • They help with stormwater management after big storms by absorbing and filtering rainwater
  • They can reduce the need for constant pavement maintenance by keeping sidewalks, roads, and parking lots cool
  • They improve our quality of life, in part, by reducing noise pollution in cities.

Sometimes trees get in the way, but it’s critical to have them around (or replant them when we need to remove them). – WTF fun facts

Source: “Using Trees and Vegetation to Reduce Heat Islands” — US EPA