Air Conditioning turns 80!
Tony Bosworth keeps cool, calm and collected as he reveals this week is car air conditioning’s 80th.
Car air conditioning got what you might call a bit of a frosty reception when it first came out, but only because it cost so much – around $6800 in today’s money for a simple cooling system you couldn’t even turn off.
But motorists soon warmed to it (I know, I know…) and now pretty much every car that rolls off the production line anywhere in the world either has air con as standard or as a relatively inexpensive extra cost option.
Back in 1933 a company in New York were the first to fit air con in cars, but it wasn’t until 1939 that car manufacturer Packard invented what you might say was the coolest ride in town – the first air-conditioned car, though it was just an option.
But, it wasn’t all plain sailing. The dashboard controls for the air con came later… so if the Packard’s passengers started feeling a bit chilly, the driver had to stop the engine, get out, pop the bonnet and disconnect a compressor belt to turn the cold air off.
Back in 1939 the air con option cost a mighty $300, or $6800 in today’s money. The refrigeration compressor ran off the vehicle’s engine, there was no thermostat and it simply pumped cooled air into the back of the car.
Modern systems are, of course much more complex and many feature dual zone air conditioning, for example.
Many motorists still believe – quite incorrectly – that air con is just there to send cold air into the car’s cabin, but on wet days when the screen mists up, hot air con air is very dry so it can clear the windscreen almost instantly.
Around 10% of the refrigerant now used in car air con systems leaks out each year – though most systems are now much more environmentally friendly than they used to be only a few years ago, so there’s no need to sweat – sorry.
On a practical note, every two years you should get your air conditioning system repumped, and even when the weather isn’t all hot and humid you should run it every now and again to keep it at peak performance.