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ALTERNATE ENERGY: Air conditioning yin and yang

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I remember living in St. Mary’s, Ga., before I-95 came through. It was hot and muggy. The coldest it ever got was just touching freezing and then only for an hour or so.

July and August were, to put it mildly, unbearable. Air conditioning then was out of the question. A 1960s air conditioner, the Cold Spot Sears Best, was $274 according the Sears catalog of that era. That would be close to $3,000 in today’s dollars. Today, you can pick up an equivalent air conditioner for $150 or less than $15 in 1960 currency. Being a second generation American, I was taught the frivolity of such comforts and that they were unnecessary. So what’s my point?

In 1960 about less than 2% of all households in the United States had air conditioning. Today 90% do. It appears that once one has a taste of the good life, we never want to go back.

Historically, there were more pragmatic reasons motivating the development of air conditioning. For example, early investment in AC technology was for the preservation of meat and produce; one design of air conditioner was used to reduce the fever of malaria victims, then later to reduce temperatures in hospital operating rooms to minimize infection and to cool the attendants. Mr. Carrier’s “air conditioner” was used to reduce the humidity at the magazine printing place that he serviced to prevent the pages from sticking together.

When I speak of air conditioner history, I am avoiding the more basic methods such as fans and running water, which have been around for thousands of years. I am speaking of those machines that were the foundation of our modern AC units.

The first demonstration of the........

© Finger Lakes Times

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