For most in the HVACR industry, this summer was hot, long, and profitable. That means it was also stressful enough to give anyone second thoughts about the trade. Well, what if there was no HVACR industry? What would the world be like without it?
Consider the following hypotheticals. Dr. John Gorrie, who invented mechanical refrigeration to make ice to help ease the suffering of yellow fever patients, took a slightly different approach and made the intuitive leap to connect the disease with mosquitos. Gorrie abandons plans for man-made ice and begins working on ways to eradicate mosquitos.
Fifty years later, J. Irvine Lyle, who was in charge of New York sales for the Buffalo Forge company, deems young Willis Carrier too young and inexperienced to tackle the printing problem presented to him by a consulting engineer working with a Brooklyn printer. Young Carrier is assigned other engineering tasks, leading him to eventually form a manufacturing company in a wholly different industry. Carrier never pondered the removal of moisture on a foggy train platform and never discovered his “Rational Psychrometric Formulae.” Modern air conditioning never came to pass.
Without mechanical refrigeration and air conditioning, the nation is fundamentally different.
America still fights and wins two world wars. After the war, the nation still experiences incredible growth. The automobile industry flourishes. But, there is no air conditioning.
The South and desert Southwest remain miserable places to live throughout much of the year. No one who has a choice moves there, and those born there leave if they can.
The growth of cities is limited. Produce can only be transported so far. There is no frozen food — no refrigerated shipping and trucking. It is a world that misguided souls long for today, where all food is local, which means choices are limited by the seasons and short shelf lives. Much of what we eat in cities is canned goods.
Life expectancy is far shorter. Thousands die from summer’s high temperature every year. The pharmaceutical industry is much smaller without the use of refrigeration in the manufacture and storage of drugs. Many advances in medication are simply absent. Hospitals are less healthy. Airborne diseases and viruses spread during hot and humid months, as hospitals open windows for ventilation.
There is a limited degree of refrigeration. Winter ice production is a major industry, with iced-over lakes and ponds carved up for blocks of ice in the warmer months. Problems from pollution and sewage, plus rising demand, eventually result in the creation of artificial lakes and ponds across the northern states and Canada that are built solely for the purpose of ice production.
While the ice industry grows, others do not. The floral industry is much smaller, since flowers must be grown and cut locally. Shelf life is dramatically lessened.
Because farming is localized, agribusinesses like California and Florida’s citrus industries fail to develop. Fishing is limited to the coastal areas. There is no ice cream. The beer industry is much smaller, more regionalized, and more seasonal. Hollywood exists, but in a much smaller form, since movie theaters without air conditioning are miserable places during warm periods.
GDP is smaller. Office productivity slumps during hot months. Some offices close during summer afternoons. Moreover, office workers are not able to take advantage of computers.
The information age never arrived because there is no clean room manufacturing, no semiconductors, and no integrated circuits. Telecommunications is limited to wires with frequent breakdowns from overheated equipment.
In cities and suburbs with even modest amounts of crime, homes look like fortresses with security bars on every window and door to allow them to stay open for ventilation. The home security industry consists of a few companies providing armed guards for the very wealthy.
America without the HVACR industry is not a pretty place. HVACR is important, one of the most important industries in the nation when its overall impact on public health, safety, and the economy is considered.
The half a million people who work in America’s HVACR industry do much more than merely keep people comfortable. Collectively, they save lives, improve health, keep food fresher for longer, boost productivity, and make the information age possible.
This is an industry where the American dream still exists. It’s still possible for a technician to start a small business and, if he does more things right than wrong, to grow it into a fabulous business supporting himself, his family, his team’s families, and his community. It’s still possible for someone with little more than tools and determination to become a self-made millionaire.
Imagine there’s no comfort? Imagine there’s no HVACR industry? No thanks!
Come celebrate the HVAC industry at the Service World Expo, Oct. 10-12 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. You will learn from and interact with the industry’s best practitioners in the business of contracting at the industry’s most innovative and fun trade show. Visit www.ServiceWorldExpo.com or call 844.742.3970 for more information.
Publication date: 9/3/2018