If you asked 100 people what they think the most significant events in refrigeration and air conditioning history were, you’d probably come up with a lot of the same answers. SoThe Newsasked some of its Contractor Consultants that very question, but received varied answers.

“Our industry has seen a refocus from just refrigeration for foodstuffs and air conditioning for essentials to comfort as an essential today,” said Aaron York. “Mass production methods have brought the price in reach to all of us. The advent of packaged equipment made the cooling of commercial businesses practical and affordable.”

In York’s mind, one event over the past 75 years of cooling stands out the most: the development of hydrocarbon refrigerants, most notably R-12 and R-22.

These refrigerants became the industry’s standard, were inexpensive, safe, easy to work with, and readily available. In short, they revolutionized the industry.

“Without them, our standard of life would be vastly different.”

Roger Grochmal talked about a related subject.

“One of the most significant events has to be the recognition of the impact of refrigerants on the earth’s ozone layer and the response of governments and industry to change for the better,” said Grochmal.

“This has been and still is a monumental challenge to our industry.

“Some feel that this should happen at a greater pace, but something of this magnitude does not happen overnight. I have been impressed with the commitment that has been demonstrated to stay the course and not deviate from the plans set out many years ago.”


Jeff Stewart said the introduction of comfort cooling for homes, offices, and work environments was most significant.

“I can’t imagine at all the challenges businesses would face if not for comfortable work spaces in offices, warehouses, stores, and businesses — and for the home after a long day of work,” he said.

“The amount of increased productivity probably would exceed even that of the introduction of computers and office automation. I can also extend that to the schools and the improved learning environment there.”

Scott Getzschman agreed.

“The most significant event would have to be the invention of air conditioning,” he said. “This opened up another side of our business. Even though air conditioning has only been around [in widespread use] 50 to 60 years, it has gone from a convenience for the wealthy to a necessity for everybody.

“It also expanded to all heat pumps, which — with the energy crunch we are in now — [is an omen] for the heat pump to probably replace the good old home air conditioner.”

From the retail sales and service perspective, the overwhelming event that had (and continues to have) a huge impact on the industry is the postwar baby boom, said Harry Friedman. “From the early 1950s when new families were beginning at an unprecedented rate, so too was the demand for home comfort,” he said.

“In 1953 alone, room air conditioner sales exceeded one million units. ‘Boomers’ have been the driving force behind the new home building industry, which drives a significant part of this [comfort cooling] business.”

Meanwhile, Hank Bloom was blunt and to the point in his assessment of the biggest impact on the cooling industry.

“The computer has changed our industry — from jumper wires to laptop troubleshooting and diagnosis.”

Publication date: 04/30/2001