History of Refrigeration

Refrigeration has a long history in North Idaho. Refrigeration is the process of removing heat from an enclosed area, thus lowering the temperature in it. The first practical refrigerating machine was invented in 1834.

The two most important figures involved with refrigeration and air conditioning were John Gorrie and Willis Carrier. John Gorrie, an early pioneer of refrigeration and air conditioning, was granted a patent in 1851 for his invention of the first commercial refrigeration machine to produce ice. In the late 1880s, improvements were made to Gorrie’s invention and the reciprocating compressor was used commercially in meat and fish plants and for ice production. In 1902, Willis Carrier designed and invented the first modern air conditioning system, and in 1922, the first centrifugal refrigeration machine. Willis Carrier went on to found the company we know today as Carrier Corporation. Toward the end of the 1920s, the first self-contained room air conditioner was introduced.

Refrigerators from the late 1880s until 1929 used ammonia, methyl chloride, or sulfur deoxide as refrigerants. These refrigerants were highly toxic and deadly if a leak occured. In 1931, the DuPont Company began producing commercial amounts of “R-12”, also know by its trade name “Freon”. With safer refrigerants being introduced, the refrigerator and air conditioner market began to grow. Only half a century later did people realize that these chlorofluorocarbons endangered the earth’s ozone layer. Today, refrigerant companies are working hard to produce safer refrigerants that will not endanger the earth’s ozone layer.

History of Refrigeration in North Idaho

Before the era of mechanical refrigeration, people cooled their foods with ice and snow, which were transported long distances and stored in cellars below ground or in icehouses.

Cocolalla Ice & Fuel Company

North Idaho, and particularly Bonner County has a long history of ice production and thus refrigeration. One of Bonner County ice companies, Cocolalla Ice & Fuel Company, located on Cocolalla Lake  just a few miles south of Sandpoint, was once the largest ice company west of the Mississippi River!

The first icehouse on Lake Cocolalla was a small retail business built to supply ice for Spokane, Washington and delivery was made by horse and wagon. E.J. Bower purchased the company and built a larger plant, Diamond Ice and Fuel, in order to meet the demand for ice by the railroad. Fire destroyed this second building, and in about 1905, Mr. Bower built the largest, and the last, icehouse on the lake. The 700’ long x 20’ high ice house could hold 32,000 tons of ice. Sawdust from local sawmills proved to be a great insulator, and protected the ice over the warmer months.

In 1922, the Sandpoint Daily Bulletin reported just how big the operation was of the Cocolalla Ice Company; “One hundred and ten cars are being loaded daily, or 3,500 tons; while 2,500 tons are being daily shipped up the loading chains into the mammoth icehouse. The (railroad) cars are loaded 16 cars at a time…” for shipment to the railroad’s ice stations that were located in Washington. The business ran until 1929, when it was replaced by the development of the mechanical ice maker.

Other Ice Plants In North Idaho

There was also an ice plant in Blanchard run by George Becker, although he later moved to the Cocolalla plant.

Another local company, the Sandpoint Ice and Fuel Company was begun in the early 1900s by Charles E. Wood, who was eventually bought out by partner John Selle in 1911. The company provided blockes of ice and cordwood for the refrigeration and heating needs of a growing community here, in Greater Sandpoint area. Before Selle added a motor-driven ice-maker to his business in 1926, blocks of ice were cut from frozen lakes in the winter to later be delivered door-to-door in the summer.

Up in Boundary County, ice was cut out of the Kootenai river. There was a big ice house at Bonners (Ferry) that was packed with sawdust all around the sides.

Refrigerator and Freezer Repair in North Idaho Today

First Choice Appliance Repair has been serving the local community in North Idaho since 2012 and we are proud to offer quality repair services for all your refrigeration needs today! Learn more about what we have to offer, and do not hesitate to give us a call at (208) 415-1500.