If you had a time machine, there are likely a dozen things you would do in the past. One of those things is probably not spending time in a home with no air conditioning in the middle of the Sun City summers. Of course, people did it, and they did it in even hotter climates. So how exactly did people keep cool? Let’s take a look at some of these early versions of cooling down.
The idea of wanting to cool down your humble abode when the sun in the sky seems relentless and set upon melting everything in sight is not new. People have been cooling their structures for millennia, but they did not have the technology and mechanical advancements we have today. Let’s begin with simple physics. One of the most effective ways of air circulation includes a cross draft. This refers to the interior breeze that forms when two openings in a building collide. That is, you may have noticed that if you open to windows on opposite sides of your home it often helps the air circulation and even creates a minimal draft. This works a lot more efficiently when there is one room that allows for the uninterrupted airflow. This is why you’ll see many classical Southern homes—where the heat is much more prevalent— be one big long room with windows on opposite ends. Other common tactics used in the South, for example, included the wrap-around porch that provided shade and allowed windows to remain open and let air in. The dogtrot house, which was a type of design that joined two cabins together with an open hall that runs through the center. This house used the design to help airflow and cool the surrounding rooms.
Experimenting with thick walls was also a way that people protected themselves from the summer heat. It is a reason why cave-dwellings were so effective in keeping out the heat and other elements. The thickness of the walls would protect from the absorption of heat. So builders began using thickly walled dwellings. Their thermal mass tended to maintain internal temperatures pretty consistent.
We may not think about it much today but high ceilings were used often to help the heat rise to the top and therefore leaving the bottom half—where you are—relatively cool. This is often called the stack effect and uses the naturally occurring idea that heat will rise to the top. Once ceiling fans were invented, they helped with this too, pushing the cool air down in the summer. Chimneys played a similar role in this by allowing air in and ventilation through the top of the house.
Other than sleeping on the roofs, people of lower class and living in apartment buildings didn’t have too many choices. It’s true, many people would sleep in their rooftops to enjoy the cool air and try to get some sleep. The awning, however, provided a nice little respite. These simple little additions to homes and apartment buildings helped a lot of people keep their houses a little cooler. These awnings gave a little shade and protected from the incoming sunlight while allowing people to keep their windows open if it was raining or there was a stronger draft coming in.
Luckily for us here in 2019, the advent of air conditioner is not only here but highly advanced. So much so that you can control your temperature from your smartphone. Who would have thought one hundred years ago that you would be able to control your thermostat from work to cool your house by the time you got there. Amazing! Call Mechanical Technologies for information about your ac options; whether you need a repair, a new install, or looking at refrigeration as your next step.