In the twentieth century, air conditioning has been used in many ways to improve our quality of life. Since the 1950s, new homes and commercial buildings have been built with the comfort of their occupants in mind. Although the technology to achieve a high degree of comfort in buildings was available many years earlier, it was not financially viable for mass production in lower-end residential structures. Commercial air conditioning has a longer history, but recent advances have greatly improved the efficiency and reliability of the equipment.
Air conditioning has actually been used in private homes since the time of the ancient Egyptians, though of course it was only for the rich and influential. It was not until air conditioning found commercial use, in textile mills where temperature and humidity control is absolutely essential, that it was introduced on a large scale into homes. The years immediately following World War II saw the greatest development of air conditioning in new homes. This development had a profound effect on the construction industry and urban planning, as it enabled much taller buildings to be erected. This is because wind speeds at high altitudes make natural ventilation difficult.
In addition to living comfortably at home, many modern workers perform their daily work in an environment that provides optimal comfort and productivity. Scientific research has been conducted to determine the optimal temperature conditions for different types of work tasks, and advanced air conditioning systems have been developed to provide these conditions regardless of the weather conditions outside. Of course, there are workplaces where employee comfort is secondary to the needs of the process being performed. Today’s air conditioning evolved from the need to control temperature and humidity in textile plants.
Of course, the great change in the transportation habits of people in the Western world has led to another widespread use of air conditioning. Both commercial public transportation vehicles and private cars are now routinely equipped with systems that filter, regulate, and even purify the air. As modern lifestyles in the Western world mean that more and more time is spent in vehicles, the need to provide a more comfortable environment in these vehicles has increased. It is not just on hot days that the interior of a vehicle becomes uncomfortable. On a cool but sunny day, the temperature can rise to uncomfortable levels in a fully enclosed vehicle. In addition to helping regulate temperature, air conditioning can help reduce pollution levels in an environment where people are at high risk.
From the exclusive domain of the rich and influential in ancient times, air conditioning has become so commonplace that there cannot be anyone in the Western world who does not use it. Even if you live in one of the few modern homes that are not equipped with it, chances are you work in a workplace equipped with some form of temperature and humidity control. Air conditioning is one of the great boons that became available to the masses in the 20th century, and thanks to modern research, ozone-depleting gases are being replaced with more environmentally friendly options. There is no doubt that air conditioning will continue to benefit mankind in the coming century.
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