As summer nears, it is befitting to tell more of the air conditioning story. Next up, meet James Alex Trane.
In many ways Trane is a classic American success story that grew into a global one. James Alex Trane (April 29, 1857-January 24, 1936) was born in Tromsø, Norway. He was an immigrant to the United States who settled in La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1864, finding work as a steamfitter and plumber. In 1885, he opened his own plumbing shop.
Besides being a steamfitter and a plumber, James Trane was also an inventor. He designed a new type of low-pressure steam heating system, Trane vapor heating. Reuben Trane, James’ son, earned a mechanical engineering degree (B. S. 1910) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and joined his father’s plumbing firm.
In 1913, James and Reuben incorporated The Trane Company. By 1916, the Tranes were no longer in the plumbing business, but rather were focusing their attention on manufacturing heating products. In 1925, Reuben Trane invented a new type of heat transfer device known as the convector radiator. It consisted of a new style of heat exchanger in a sheet metal cabinet—a highly efficient, lightweight replacement for the bulky, slow responding castiron radiator. In 1931, The Trane Company developed its first air conditioning unit, the Trane unit cooler, and in 1938 its first centrifugal refrigeration machine, the Turbovac.
Growth through innovation: The idea of using technology to give people relief from summer heat was a radical and unproven idea when Trane became an air conditioning pioneer in 1931.
Trane fundamentally changed the concept of air conditioning large buildings with the 1938 launch of Turbovac, the industry’s first hermetic, centrifugal refrigeration machine. This was the beginning of a long chain of innovations leading to Trane’s current CenTraVac®, the industry standard for large commercial air conditioning systems. This is the most energy efficient system available anywhere for large buildings and it has earned Trane the “Best of the Best” Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.