The Pre Air Conditioning Era

What did people do before air conditioning?  Today, the thought of entering a building and not being greeted by cold air seems crazy.  Now I know that there are plenty of people out there who do not have air conditioning in their homes or only turn it on in extreme situations.  I applaud those people, but the fact remains that for most of us, whether our a/c starts going full blast in May or we hesitantly turn it on come a July heat wave, we have gotten very used to it.  It exists in our cars, work, the grocery store, the bank, the movie theater etc….  We are surrounded by its comfort and have learned to take it for granted, so what did people do to keep cool before its existence?

Some forms of air conditioning have been traced back to ancient Egypt when people would hang reeds wet with water from their windows and let the evaporation process cool off the breezes that blew into their homes.  However, until the advent of modern air conditioning in 1902 by Willis Carrier, people’s lives were very different than they are today in many different aspects, the most of which was architecture.

Before air conditioning was popular and available homes and buildings were built differently.  Their design, position and the materials they were built out of were all carefully chosen to keep the home cool in the summer months.  For example, trees were usually planted on the east and west sides of the home to block the sun as it rose and set.  Ceilings were higher in order to allow the hot air to rise to the top and keep people cool down on the floor.  Thicker walls out of brick, stone or adobe were used for the home.  These created a “cave effect” in the home to keep it cooler.  Lastly, the front porch was a very important “room” of the house where people could sit outside and enjoy the fresh breezes.

Of course, people didn’t just rely on their home’s construction to keep them cool.  They also employed some other tricks (some of which we still use today):

  • Hand fans
  • Rotating fans
  • Awnings on windows
  • Hanging wet laundry in the doorway
  • Putting underwear in the icebox
  • President Garfield even had a set up where air was blown through sopping wet sheets

The 20th century was shaped by Carrier’s invention in that the design of homes no longer have to be controlled by the climate, air conditioning in the work place has increased productivity, and the population has grown in the hot southern states of the United States.  Though it would be hard to imagine life without it, it is important that we maintain and take care of air conditioning through annual inspections in order to ensure that it will work properly and efficiently…unless you want to try to the underwear in the icebox method.  For more information about air conditioning and a/c inspections, please contact Kratz Heating and Air.