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A History of Refrigeration

08-15-18 / / By JJ Johnson

Quality Refrigeration has been serving the heating and cooling needs for Twin Cities families and businesses for 40 years now and we’re not ones to overlook the power of history and knowledge. Let’s take a look at how our modern day refrigeration came to be.

Primitive Cooling

Refrigeration is a fairly recent technology that has changed where people live, how they live, and how long they live in a dozen different ways. For centuries, civilizations had taken snow and ice from the winters and placed them in caves or sunken areas to keep cold during the warmer months to cool meats and perishables and keep drinks cool for the rich and powerful. Both the Egyptians and Indian aristocrats boiled water in shallow, earthen jars and placed them on the rooves of their houses in the evenings. Slaves would moisten the outside of the jars and the resulting evaporation would cool the water for pleasant drinking.

For centuries many settlements sawed ice from lakes and rivers to store for keeping meat and beverages cool. In the 1800’s a man named Frederic Tudor had the thought of harvesting ice from the New England winter and ship the ice to icehouses he constructed in Virginia, the Carolinas and the Caribbean.

Age of Invention

In 1755, A Scottish professor named William Cullen designed the first refrigeration machine, but it was too small to have any practical purpose; three years later, Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley (a professor of chemistry), collaborated on a project using evaporation as a means of cooling an object.

In 1856, James Harrison, a British journalist who had immigrated to Australia patented a vapor-compression system of cooling using ether, alcohol or ammonia. He built an ice making machine on the banks of the Barwon River in Greelong, Victoria.

In the 1870’s, breweries had become the largest users of harvested ice. However, polluted rivers and lakes began to have a negative effect on the ice harvesting industry as sewage caught in the ice became problematic for brewers and food distributors. By the 1900’s, new mechanical refrigeration technologies were being used in the meat packing houses and beer breweries in Chicago.

Bigger Leaps in Refrigeration

New refrigeration technologies allowed the mass transportation of meats and dairy products. Reefer ships began running throughout British held territories from London, India and Hong Kong, to Australia and New Zealand and the newly freed American Colonies.

By the middle of the 20th century, refrigeration units were small enough to be installed in trucks to allow for the preservation and transport of perishable and frozen foods to stores all over town. In 1911, GE released an in-home refrigerator powered by gas. The use of gas eliminated the need for an electric compressor for homes that didn’t have access to electricity. By 1927 they had an electric model as in-home power became more and more prevalent.

Access to refrigeration allowed families to keep foods for longer periods, including meats, cheeses, milk, fruits, and vegetables. This improved the family diet considerably. Refrigeration also allowed meats to be preserved without the use of salt, thus decreasing the sodium content of the average diet.

Refrigerated trucks, ships, and railcars allowed cities to grow up in places other than ports and river ways. This is the technology that allows such modern cities as Phoenix, Houston, and Las Vegas to even exist. Refrigeration also allowed for the preservation of food and prevented tons of spoilage, which allowed more citizens to take on other roles as fewer farmers were needed to feed the nation. This has been part of what has created the modern society of artisans, technicians, and technology workers all being fed by fewer farmers.

Modern Cooling

Today, refrigeration has helped to create advancements in oil refineries, chemical plants, and the petrochemical industry as new processes are developed that require lower temperatures for their use.

These forbearers have helped to create our modern world; a world with in-home refrigeration, air conditioning, and ice constantly available. The average American home of today is the dream of royalty
of a hundred years ago.

If you think your castle could stand to be a little bit cooler, give us a call today at Quality Refrigeration.

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