Imagine this: You’ve just come back from your child’s Little League baseball game, and it was one of those sticky Carolina evenings where it’s 80 degrees in the shade. After cheering your team on through nine innings, all you can think of is getting home to the blessing of a comfortable house and a tall glass of lemonade. When you enter your living room, you feel the soft breath of cool air.
A reliable, efficient air conditioner is vital to keeping your home comfortable. Of course, Americans through the decades didn’t have that luxury. As a gentle reminder of how this invention helps us keep our cool when the mercury rises, here are five interesting facts about your air conditioning.
1. People used to pay for the privilege of being in an air-conditioned building.
Summer movie hits of the early 1900s had more than star power going for them; they also had a sure-fire way to beat the humidity. In 1917, very few had home air-conditioning units, and theaters cranked up the AC in the sweltering summer months to fill seats. Depending upon the weather, the cost of a movie ticket seemed a reasonable price to pay for a break from the heat.
The demand for air conditioners powerful enough to cool a large building prompted several technological advancements. Theaters would even advertise the latest flicks with illustrations of icicles hanging from the title! Was this the start of the summer blockbuster? Who knows?
2. What is a Btu?
You’ll often hear that heating and air conditioning units are measured in Btus. This stands for British thermal units. It’s the amount necessary to raise water temperature one degree. The amount of Btu per hour needed depends on the size of your room, which is why it’s vital to have an air conditioning system that easily and efficiently serves your needs. In general, an air conditioner needs 20 Btu for each square foot of living space.
AC sizes are rated in “tons.” One ton is 12,000 Btu. Don’t worry if this sounds confusing. Your heating and air conditioning professionals will be able to suggest the best size AC to fit your needs.
3. A bigger AC isn’t necessarily better.
Larger SUVs may rule the road with plenty of intimidating bulk and height, but they also tend to get much fewer miles to the gallon. This is an important principle to remember when it comes to your AC: bigger isn’t necessarily better. A unit that is too large will not evenly cool an area. Also, oversized units shut down prior to properly dehumidifying the room, leaving the area “clammy” or damp. Not exactly the feeling you want to come home to!
4. Do you know how much your AC is worth?
Of course, a dependable AC system is a wise and necessary investment, but do you fully realize how much bang you’re getting for the buck? In the 1940s, a small, in-window air conditioner cost around $350. In today’s dollars, that equates to roughly $3,500.
5. AC keeps the government running.
Before AC, there were plenty of government shut downs, and it had nothing to do with politics. The summer heat – and lack of air conditioning—meant the government shut down for two to three months. Evidently, there’s never been a shortage of hot air in Washington, D.C. Speaking of Washington, another fascinating fact is that the first President to enjoy air conditioning in the Oval Office was Herbert Hoover.
If you’re interested in learning more fascinating facts about your air conditioner, you may want to check out the book, Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything by Salvatore Basile.
Betcha didn’t know that!