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Unitary Refrig and A/C Equipment and Systems – Household Air Conditioners

Automatic temperature control, Outside fresh air damper Air filter Complete, original installation kit

Technical Significance:
Unitary Refrigeration Equipment: The idea of a unitary piece of refrigeration or air conditioning equipment was a significant one in its own right, one that had to wait its time. The scientists, engineers and inventors in the early years of the 20th century were intrigued and obsessed with the power of the technology and of its possible market potential. What they saw was the newly discovered principles of physics and heat engines – following, for example, the early works of Carnot, Faraday, Kelvin, and the later work of Perkins, Larsen and Carrier, to name a few. They understood the promise of the technology for the public good, not to say its consumer sales potential. Early engineering work advanced on a multiple fronts with development of compressors, heat exchangers, valves and piping variously strung together in configurations that would be found to work, but only after much experimentation.
The arrival of unitary equipment, all those parts organised into a single whole, a single unit of construction, a “black box”, that could be offered to the consumer market was a significant technological and cultural event. Technologically the refrigerator would need to be seen to be safe, reliable, maintainable and useful. As well, in order to attract the development capital needed, it must be seen as potentially saleable and affordable, contributing to life’s needs and desires. Its socio- cultural and economic significance was marked, for it would change much. As Canadians we would quickly come enjoy potentially healthier lives, expect new levels of comfort and convenience, with a broader, safer, more diverse and enjoyable diet.
Canadians would quickly come to think of their day differently, for the day would be defined and punctuated in different ways than ever before, as a result of the introduction of modern, electric, household appliances, of which refrigerators, freezers and room air conditioners would be a central part, by the mid 20th century
J. M Larsen produced a manually operated household refrigerator of sorts in 1913, but it was not until 1918 that the Kelvinator Company marketed the first automatic, unitary refrigerator for the home. In that year, it is reported to have sold sixty-seven machines. (See Note 1) The historic artifacts in Group 1.00, Unitary Equipment, including significant samplings the early work of Kelvinator of Canada, provide a rare view of the evolution of unitary refrigeration and air conditioning applications, as they evolved in Canada in the first half of the 20th century.
For those formative years, the artifacts in this Group, 1.00, are typical of the offerings of the Canadian refrigeration and air conditioning industry. They personified the applications found in the homes, farms and commercial premises of the period for, those that could afford life’s new amenities of comfort, convenience and privilege.
This Specimen stands as a marker of the embryonic years of household air conditioning in Canada. While vastly under powered, by the standards that would follow, it was for most urban dwellers affordable and a significant market opener.

Industrial Significance:
The development of high heat transfer, capacity compressors, condensers, evaporators and flow control devices, at a price that home owners were likely to find affordable, would be a major challenge and success story for the refrigeration industry in the early years of home air conditioning. The industry would quickly adapting what had been learned in the design of reliable hermetic compressors and coiling for the food industry to high heat transfer systems required for household air conditioning applications.Suddenly the refrigeration and air conditioning industry expanded dramatically with a number of new non-traditional players designing, manufacturing and marketing equipment for household and commercial applications. In the face of increasing competition from manufactures with massive engineering and production facilities, many of the traditional suppliers to the refrigeration field would quickly fade from their earlier position of market leadership, including Kelvinator and Frigidaire.

Accession # HHCC.2003.006

Household, Through-the-Window, Room Air Conditioner, Frigidaire, 1956.

ItemRoom air conditioner ‘Frigidaire’ManufacturerFrigidaire Products Canada Ltd, Scarborough, OntMakeFrigidaireModelSuper 33Share
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Started as a private initiative by a group of enthusiastic volunteers, the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada is a national charitable organization dedicated to preserving and studying the history and evolution of the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technologies. We carry-out mandate by collecting artefacts and archival material and creating exhibits, publications, and other educational programs for the benefit of all Canadians.


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