Never in history have more people lived a better life than today.

Despite all of the political problems and turmoil in the world, our standard of living has continued to improve — especially when compared to 50 or 100 years ago. Yet, for billions of people, life as we enjoy it today in the industrialized world is just a dream. The opportunity we have in the coming years is to further improve the quality of life for ourselves as we extend our advantages to those in need.

Consider how far we have come. A century ago, most Americans relied on ice for refrigeration. Fifty years later, electric refrigerators were commonplace. Today, refrigerated food, fresh and safe, is transported from around the world to markets that offer a dazzling array of products.

Fifty years ago, comfort control for U.S. businesses and homes was just beginning to become a reality. But visionaries from our fledgling industry saw the future. They knew that with innovation, mass production, and ARI’s standards of performance, air conditioning could evolve from a privilege for the rich to a way of life for everyone.

Those visionaries were a small group when they met on April 23, 1953 to create the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute. Combined unitary shipments from all ARI members that year totaled just 127,000 central air conditioners. Who among them could have dreamed of what has been achieved? In 2002, the industry is on track to exceed the record 6.7 million units shipped in 2000. The likelihood of a year in which we ship seven or eight million units is clearly within sight. Since 1953, this industry has produced more than 130 million central air conditioners and heat pumps.

In the United States, more than 85% of new homes are built with central air systems. And unlike the early days, they can provide comfort enhancements like zoning, high-quality air filtration, and significant energy savings.

Today’s units on average are 50% more efficient than central air systems installed 25 years ago. Similarly, large tonnage liquid chillers are 40% more efficient than chillers shipped two decades ago, saving owners operating costs and conserving energy. In this way, we reduce global warming emissions from power plants and help preserve the world’s climate.

Our refrigeration and air conditioning products are now used in hundreds of countries around the world. Systems designed by innovative engineers and installed by dedicated craftsmen play a vital role in improving the quality of life in schools, commercial buildings, hospital surgical suites, industrial plants, and homes.

Consider what our industry provides:

  • Protection from life-threatening weather extremes.

  • Cleanrooms to make computer chips.

  • Computers and telecommunications systems that operate with 99.99% efficiency in extreme heat and humidity conditions.

  • Productivity gains that have transformed our economy.

  • Industrial processes and food preparation that simply would not be possible without our technology.

  • Lifesaving refrigerated medicines and blood and 24-hour emergency care.

    Just imagine being a patient in the old days — or in places today where temperature control is not available — with temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity as high.

    Life today isn’t just improved. It is much, much better. The challenge for us is to build on our 50 years of leadership so that future generations can say that in 2003, ARI saw the future and laid the groundwork for success.

    ARI members, through its many dedicated professionals working in committees and product sections, will continue to lead the way as our industry makes life better for people around the world.

    Thomas E. Bettcher is president and CEO of Copeland Corporation and executive vice president of Emerson Electric Co., Copeland’s parent company. In addition to his term as Chairman of the ARI Board of Directors during ARI’s 50th anniversary year in 2003, he has served as first and second vice chairman, chairman of the Budget and Education and Training Committees, and was chair of the Industry Recruitment Task Force.

    Publication date: 11/11/2002