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Stay Cool: A Quick History of the Modern HVAC System

Updated: Apr 26

We live in brilliant times where 90% of the US population has air-conditioned installed in their home. For us southerners, we cannot imagine a life without air conditioning. It would be nearly impossible to live a normal life anywhere in Texas without it!

It can be very hard to imagine a life without the power to control the temperatures in our homes and be able to escape the blistering summer heat and the harsh winter blasts. But up until the mid-1800s, there was no such thing as any sort of HVAC system or air conditioning at all, for that matter.

Want to learn a little bit of history? If so, you’ve stumbled upon the right place!

The beginnings - the 1800s

A Nevis-born boy who spent his early years in South Carolina, John Gorrie, a physician, is credited with being the first to experiment with artificial cooling techniques. As a doctor during the 1800s, Gorrie the idea that bad air (mal - aria) causes diseases was pretty widely accepted. A treatment that Gorrie often used for ill patients was to cool and cleanse the air using none other than ice–but to do this, you need a lot of ice, and a good source of it, too. Thus, Gorrie’s experiments in solving the issue of bad air-causing illnesses were born.

During Gorrie’s trials, he successfully mechanically created ice in the year 1844, which prompted him to drop medicine altogether to pursue his emerging discoveries in refrigeration, although he was never able to fully realize his dreams in refrigeration due to the tragic death of his partner and emerging competition.

A statue of John Gorrie
A statue of John Gorrie

Development - the 1900s

Fast forward to the early 1900s in New York with our friend, Willis Carrier, an engineer that was tasked with solving an issue at a Buffalo printing house where the excess humidity was taking a severe toll on their paper and printing process. Through lots of trial and error, Carrier was able to come up with a solution for adding and removing humidity, which in turn affected the temperature of the building as well. Carrier knew what he had and made sure to get it officially patented in 1906, making it the first patented modern air-conditioning system! In 1915, he founded the Carrier Corporation, which is a company you can still see everywhere to this day.

Carrier Corporation's original 1915 logo
Carrier Corporation's original 1915 logo

Grand Debut - 1904

A little further into the 1900s, the development of the modern HVAC system hadn’t quite taken off–until the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri in the year 1904! This fair, meant to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Louisana Purchase, featured museums, zoos, and exhibits meant to feature objects, ideas, and other displays in a spectacular event that drew in thousands and thousands of people.

And how did they keep the temperature controlled in this magnificently large event? Modern refrigeration. Below all the hustle and bustle of the fair, in the basement reside a full-blown “refrigeration plant,” as they called it. With temperatures well into the 90s outside, inside the halls remained a comfortable 70 degrees, despite the blistering sun and enormous amount of people and movement.

1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri
1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri

Modern HVAC

Since Carrier Corporation’s birth and the 1904 World Fair, the HVAC system had gained somewhat good popularity in the commercial sector–it was not uncommon to walk into a large building with air conditioning. However, residential use was still quite low due to high cost–until H.H. Schulz and J.Q. Sherman came along, who created and sold the world’s first window unit, although this, too, was too high in costs for many homeowners. However, thanks to their invention, emerging refrigeration companies were able to begin offering at-home air conditioning at more affordable costs. Soon after, residential homes were finally getting their HVAC systems.

Vintage window unit ad
Vintage window unit ad


Air conditioning and refrigeration have come far–and many more talented people have been involved in its history along the way. It’s amazing to see how far we have come from a bowl of ice in a hospital room to full-blown, modern air conditioning systems built into the core of our homes that we don’t even have to think about!

Call us

Interested in learning more about HVAC and how it works? Need help with your HVAC system at home, need an estimate, or even a tune-up so you don’t have to rely on John Gorrie’s methods during those hot days? Get in contact with one of our certified technicians today! Don’t hesitate in giving us a call here at Tri-Point Refrigeration. We’re happy to hear from you and are excited to help you along the way.

For a direct line to any of our employees ready on the line to help you, please call…(512) 651-4565 for our Austin, Texas community (806) 686-0050 for our Lubbock, Texas community. Or check out our website at


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