ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 40

ASHRAE - CELEBRATING 125 YEARS

number of manufacturers, and it seemed that a new era
of modern convenience was dawning-until it didn't.
The "Great Depression" and the World War that immediately followed stifled the surge in heating technology.
The innovative systems of companies like Carrier and
General Electric were discontinued from lack of sales.
The period of the late 1930s through the 1960s saw slow
change in packaged furnaces, boilers and systems. The
limited progress included cabinet size reduction as
blowers evolved from belt-driven to direct drive. During
this period, the product mix steadily shifted from oil
toward gas-firing and from steam and hot water to
forced-air systems that could easily incorporate central
air conditioning. A renewed focus on energy efficiency
revived after the "oil shocks" of the 1970s. Then the heating industry responded with "reinventing the wheel" of
high-efficiency furnaces and boilers using modern technology that was unavailable 50 years earlier. This new
burst of innovation has continued to this day. Today,
few can remember a central heating system that did not
work automatically. Does anybody in a modern, economically well-developed city or country worry about
waking up to a cold house? Firing a heating system by
hand has indeed ceased.

Freedom from the Shackles of Ice-The Mechanical Refrigerator
A survey in 1999 asked more than 1,000 people
which appliance would be hardest to live without-the
answer: their refrigerator. The household mechanical refrigerator was one of the 20th century's greatest inventions, allowing housewives to "strike off the
shackles of ice" (Figure 6). Previously, refrigerators were
cooled with block ice, delivered directly to homes or
businesses by local merchants. The "ice man" roved city
streets just like the "milk man," calling on one place
after another. But unlike the milk man, the ice man
delivered the product right to where it was used-in the
kitchen-to the so-called "icebox," where he placed a
block of ice in the top of the refrigerator. The invasion
was at least a necessary nuisance. More problematic,
iceboxes could not maintain a constant storage temperature, which was frequently too high for proper
food storage. With a mechanical refrigerator, consumers didn't buy ice-they could even make it. With better
temperature control, they had new freedom in their
kitchens to store a wider variety of foods for a longer
time. And frozen foods? Forget it-how could you keep
40

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S E P T E M B E R 2 0 19

FIGURE 6 Servel Corporation was one of the early entrants in the mechanical
refrigerator industry. (Note: SERVEL was an acronym for "Serve Electrically." )
(From: Good Housekeeping, November 1925).

frozen foods in an icebox? But that became a possibility
with mechanical refrigeration. And no more waiting
for the ice man to come. The mechanical refrigerator
has made our lives safer and richer-can anyone now
imagine life without it?
The mechanical refrigeration industry before the 20th
century had shown remarkable progress in perfecting
the technology of ice manufacture and cold storage.
This technology worked well in those high-capacity
applications, but it was a challenge to transfer it to the
small-capacity requirement for homes. This turned into
a quest-one that John Starr, the first president of the
American Society of Refrigerating Engineers, likened
to the pursuit of the dream of the old practitioners of
alchemy-discovering the "Philosopher's Stone" that
would turn base metal into gold.
By 1930, the household refrigerator was a reality, and
no stone was required. The solutions were found in
electric motors, sealed systems, automatic control and
non-toxic, non-flammable refrigerants. But these solutions required a slow and expensive evolution. Before
WWI, there were scattered attempts to introduce household mechanical refrigerators-and there were a lot of
good ideas, even some breakthroughs-but these were


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ASHRAE Journal - September 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ASHRAE Journal - September 2019

Contents
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - Intro
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - Cover1
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - Cover2
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 1
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - Contents
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 3
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 4
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 5
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 6
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 7
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 8
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 9
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 10
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 11
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 12
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ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 14
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 15
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 16
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 17
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 18
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 19
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 20
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 21
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ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 36
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 37
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 38
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 39
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - 40
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ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - Cover3
ASHRAE Journal - September 2019 - Cover4
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