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HVAC History: A Ton of Cooling

We measure many different things in life for a variety of reasons; primarily because measurements make everything simpler to understand, allow better allocation of resources, and encourage preparation. In order to be useful to more than just a single person, though, measurements should be precise and they must be replicable.

The “Ice Age”

These days most people have an electronic heating and cooling unit of some kind that adjusts the heat or cold in a room or a home based on temperature measurements—that is, Celsius, Fahrenheit, and/or (in some rare cases) Kelvin. Prior to our modern-day air conditioning, people cooled their rooms in a very different way—by storing large blocks of ice in the room.

People didn’t generally have the tools to measure the temperature precisely, and so they needed another form of measurement to be able to determine how much ice they required from suppliers, as well as help them gauge how soon they would need to order more. The most convenient measurement at the time was the weight of the ice being delivered, and ordering ice by the ton became common.

Remains of the Shift

Many things changed when cooling machines and air conditioners first appeared on the market, but manufacturers still used the common terminology that people understood to help them gauge how much cooling was necessary—and even specialists were calculating the capacity of air conditioners according to a “ton of cooling”, in reference to the ice measurements. The technology to allow people to set a desired temperature simply wasn’t there yet.

The way this worked was that one ton of cooling was equal to the cooling capacity of zero-degree ice to absorb heat in the span of 24 hours. That’s somewhat technical and something that many people just developed a feel for over time, but as new technologies entered the market it became much easier for people to understand how to set their cooling systems based on the desired temperature of the room.

If you want to know more about how HVAC can help you create a more comfortable environment in your home today, don’t hesitate to contact us. We love talking to clients about what we do for a living and would love to talk to you about your needs and how our products can help.

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