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It’s trivia time!

While mining for HVACR facts, one could come across rare nuggets of interesting information. Here are a few of them. Apart from being enjoyable bits of trivia, they can spice up conversations or, better still, be deployed to stump a roomful of the fraternity…

| | Jul 31, 2016 | 6:02 pm
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Rankin’s refrain

In 1928, when air conditioning was first introduced in the Capitol building in the United States, the engineers involved in the project were not quite sure how the lawmakers would react to the changed atmosphere. Fliers were posted to educate them, which read: “The sensation of chill experienced upon entering the Senate Chamber is due principally to the dryness of the air causing the evaporation of the slight amount of moisture of the skin. After the completion of this evaporation, the body will be perfectly comfortable, for the actual difference in temperature between the inside and outside air is very small. No fear may be felt by the occupants of the Senate Chamber from the conditions produced by this new system of ventilation and air conditioning.”

Generally speaking, the senators enjoyed the comfort cooling; however, predictably, a few cribbed about it and aired their views openly. One such person was John E Rankin, a Democrat, who felt that the difference in temperature in and outside the building was drastic, and dubbed it “regular Republican atmosphere”, giving the issue a political hue. He declared, “And it is enough to kill anybody if it continues.”

His words drew a round of applause. It’s not clear whether or not the applause was partisan. History is silent on the matter.

Pipe down

Of the three basic kinds of heat transfer – conduction, convection and radiation – radiation is often less talked about. But as we know, people from ancient civilisations made use of it for thermal comfort – the Romans used hypocausts and frigidariums to heat and cool living spaces.

The Lotus Mahal in Hampi, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, built circa 1500 AD, during the reign of the famed Vijayanagara rulers, is another classic example. Lotus Mahal was the queen’s summer palace. True to its purpose, it was air-cooled through an intricate network of pipe channels along the walls. The palace used a technology, whereby water supplied from the rooftop flowed into the piped network to reduce the temperature in the interiors.

The proof of this is evident in the pipeline running above and between the beautifully sculpted arches. The arches also add aesthetic value, with the structure resembling a lotus bud blossoming, reflecting its name. The Hampi complex, dotted with such architectural marvels, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

‘ACmetrical’ growth

According to researchers, over the past half a century, 60% of the economic growth around the United States has taken place in cities like Las Vegas and Atlanta, and states like Texas, Florida and Arizona. These regions in the south were earlier shunned owing to harsh weather conditions. Thanks to air conditioning, working and living comfortably in these areas has become possible. Demographics show that there is a population explosion in this belt, as a direct result of air conditioning.

Nowhere else is the positive impact of air conditioning on economic growth and influx of population more evident in recent years than in the Middle East, which has witnessed sudden economic boom and become the hub of commerce and migration from around the world.

Ironically, living constantly in cool environs makes us less resistant to heat, even if we have lived in a warm place for long. According to scientists, spending long hours in an air conditioned space erodes the body’s natural tolerance to heat.

Changing the texture of air

Temperature and humidity influence the texture and properties of yarns and fabrics – their dimensions, weight, tensile strength, elastic recovery, electrical resistance and rigidity. Thus, ambient air plays an important role in the textile manufacturing process. Therefore, textile manufacturers were the first ones to try to control temperature and humidity in their mills, even before modern air conditioning entered the scene. In 1719, a silk mill in Derwent, England, installed a crude system to heat the factory area using a steam engine to pump hot air. Cloth makers in New England boiled water in cauldrons near the looms to keep the air moist. While the method improved the quality of the material, the heat affected the workers’ health, and had to be discontinued.

In 1907, things changed for the industry, when Willis Carrier came up with a more viable and reliable method of conditioning the air. He put forward a proposal to the Huguet Silk Mill in Wayland, New York, offering a relative humidity of 65% all through the year, which the owners enthusiastically accepted. Air conditioning spread to other mills, as uniform quality of yarns and fabrics could be guaranteed, and workers were ensured of a clean environment.

Carrier’s first overseas customer is recorded to be Fuji Silk Spinning Company in Yokohama, Japan. Carrier’s air conditioning system, installed in Fuji’s Hodogaya Mill, helped reduce dust and static, and improved production efficiency and working conditions.

You look radiant!

Radiant heat was used around 1400 AD in public baths, or hammams, in Erbil, a town located in modern-day Iraq, and in hamams in Turkey (hammam in Arabic and hamam in Turkish). They were also found in Syria and Morocco.





(The writer is the Associate Editor of Climate Control Middle East.)

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