Keeping it Cool: How People Survived Before Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is an invention that we have all grown to love. Whether its in our cars, homes or office buildings, it allows us the freedom to go through our lives without feeling the intense heat indoors. Your Denver commercial heating and cooling company helps control indoor temperatures with air conditioning, but how did people stay cool in the summer before air conditioning? Find out below:

5 Ways Homes Kept Cool Before Air-Conditioning

The modern home air conditioner was invented in the 1920’s, but it didn’t become a common fixture in the home until the late 20th century.  As most of us know, people used a few tricks to keep their homes cool before air conditioning!  Here’s how they (and some of us!) did it…

They Bathed in the Tub and Kept the Ice Chest Full

Who remembers taking cold baths in the big metal tub?  We certainly do!  Not only did this help keep the house cool by avoiding the need to have to heat the bathwater, but the cold tub would actually help to cool the air in the room.  And if a family was lucky enough to have an ice chest, they would keep that thing stocked in the basement and it would create a base of cool air that could drift up through the house.  

They Created a Natural Breezeway By Opening Certain Windows

In the north, homeowners survived the summer by opening the windows in the basement and on the top floor.  This would generally create a siphon-effect that kept air flowing through the house.  And when electric fans came on the market, people would accentuate this by having an inflow downstairs and outflow upstairs!  (Some people were even known to set a large block of ice in front of one of the fans!).  Some homes also installed transoms over the main doors.  These small windows (example below) were known as “fanlights” because they functioned like a fan on hot days. 

They Opened the Tops of Windows in Daytime, Bottoms at Night

Many of the famous historic homes of the south were built with very large, tall windows on the first floor, as seen in the 1940’s photo below.  These had a top and bottom opening.  During the heat of the day, the top was opened to let the heat out, and as the temperature turned, the bottom was opened to let the cool air in.  These windows typically had large, thick drapes that could be drawn to further keep the heat out while not restricting light.

They Built and Spent Lots of Time on Long, Covered Porches

Porches are certainly made for sitting and rocking, but they also had a second purpose – the porch roof would protect the first floor from direct sunlight and cool the air that would come in through the windows.  This is why you often see full wrap-around or very long porches in houses in the south.  Many even went so far as to have part of the porch screened off as a “sleeping porch” for the very hot days.  There was nothing better than throwing a cool sheet over the bench or swing and taking an afternoon nap on the porch…

 They Built Tall Ceilings and Thick Walls

For the people who could spend a bit more money, tall ceilings thick brick walls were used in building to insulate the homes and keep them cool.  In many of the early and mid-1800’s homes, you’ll regularly find walls that are 12-24 inches thick.  This blocked the heat from getting in during the day and then provided some warmth in the evening chill set in.  This 1865 photo of an upper class Victorian home shows 12 foot ceilings and deep windowsills, which indicates thick, brick walls.


First Posted on: Keeping it Cool: How People Survived Before Air Conditioning

Air Conditioning: An Invention that Changed the World


On a list of the most convenient inventions of all time, air conditioning would definitely be near the top. Instead of suffering from the scorching temperatures of summer, we can simply adjust the controls in our homes and wipe away the stress the outside temperature might be causing. All you have to do is make sure your air conditioner is running smoothly by checking with your commercial air conditioner repair in Denver, and you can beat the heat in no time. Besides making us cooler and happier, how did air conditioning impact the world? Learn more below:

How air conditioning changed the world – BBC News

Imagine we could control the weather – pushing a button to make it warmer or cooler, wetter or drier. The implications would be enormous. No more droughts or floods, no heat waves or icy roads. Deserts would become verdant. Crops would never fail. In fact climate change has sparked some crazy-sounding ideas for hacking the climate, such as spraying sulphuric acid into the upper atmosphere, or dumping quicklime in the oceans. Clever as humans are, however, we’re nowhere near precision control of the weather. Outside, at least.

Since the invention of air conditioning, we have been able to control the weather inside, and that has had some some far-reaching and unexpected effects. Ever since our ancestors mastered fire, humans have been able to warm themselves. Cooling down when it’s hot has been more challenging.

The eccentric Roman emperor Elagabulus sent slaves to bring snow down from the mountains and pile it in his garden, where breezes would carry the cooler air inside. Needless to say, this was not a scalable solution. At least, not until the 19th century, when Boston entrepreneur Frederic Tudor amassed an unlikely fortune doing something similar. He took blocks of ice from frozen New England lakes in winter, insulated them in sawdust, and shipped them to warmer climes for summer.

Until artificial ice-making took off, mild New England winters caused panic about an “ice famine”. Air conditioning as we know it began in 1902, but it had nothing to do with human comfort. New York’s Sackett & Wilhelms Lithographing and Printing Company became frustrated with varying humidity levels when trying to print in colour. The same paper had to be printed four times in four colours, and if the humidity changed between print runs, the paper would slightly expand or contract. Even a millimetre’s misalignment looked awful.

The printers asked heating company Buffalo Forge to devise a system to control humidity. A young engineer called Willis Carrier figured out that circulating air over coils that were chilled by compressed ammonia maintained the humidity at a constant 55%. Buffalo Forge was soon selling Willis Carrier’s invention wherever humidity posed problems, such as to flour mills and the Gillette corporation, where excessive moisture rusted the razor blades.

These early industrial clients didn’t much care about making temperatures more tolerable for their workers – that was an incidental benefit. But by 1906, Carrier was exploring the potential for “comfort” applications in public buildings like theatres. It was an astute choice. Historically, theatres often shut down for summer: no windows, human bodies tightly packed together and, before electricity, lighting provided by flares.

New England ice had been briefly popular. In the summer of 1880, New York’s Madison Square Theatre used four tons a day: an eight-foot fan blew air over the ice and through ducts towards the audience. Unfortunately, though cool, the air was also damp, and with pollution increasing in New England’s lakes, the melting ice sometimes released unpleasant smells.

Willis Carrier’s “Weathermaker” was much more practical. The general public first experienced air conditioning in the burgeoning movie theatres of the 1920s, and it quickly became as much of a selling point as the films. The enduring Hollywood tradition of the summer blockbuster traces directly back to Carrier, as does the rise of the shopping mall. But air conditioning has become more than a mere convenience. It is a transformative technology, which has had a profound influence on where and how we live. Read more about the transformative powers of air conditioning at

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6 Smart Ways to Cut Air Conditioning Costs

Many of us never paid attention to all the energy and money-saving tips our families used growing up. Whether it be from clipping coupons to making sure all the windows and doors were shut in the summer time, there are lots of little tricks we use to help our wallets. As the summer approaches and temperatures skyrocket, make sure you check if your air conditioner is working properly. If not, rely on a smart, service-based air conditioning repair company to help . Below are some more money-saving tips to prepare for summer:

6 Ways Your Mom Saves on Air Conditioning

If the home you grew up in was anything like ours, your mom had a lot to say about how to do things, especially about how to save money.  But if you’re anything like we were growing up, you weren’t paying much attention.   Here are 6 tips to save money on your air conditioning this summer, because we all know now that staying cool means saving money.

1. Clean or replace your air filter every month. 
Unless you have a filter that lasts for three months, you should be removing your dirty filter monthly and replacing it with a new one to allow air to flow freely.  Dirt and dust build up on your air filter, causing your air conditioner to work harder and use more energy to cool your home.  Take our advice, buy three filters at a time and write the date to replace on the side of the filter to help you remember.

2. Check all of the air duct returns in your home regularly to ensure they are open. 
People are often surprised to discover they’ve forgotten about a vent in less used or spare rooms of their home.  It doesn’t do any good to spend money on air conditioning and leave the vent closed.

3. Save money by installing and using ceiling fans, correctly. 

You can fool your brain into thinking the room is cooler than it is by using a ceiling fan to blow air across your skin.  A ceiling fan won’t lower the temperature of the room, but the moving air will make you feel more comfortable.  However, be sure to adjust the direction of the blades every season however.  Your fan should rotate counterclockwise in the summer.  Turning fans off when you leave a room will save you even more

4. Install a programmable thermostat.  Mom may not have had this kind of technology back then, but we’re sure she’d take advantage of it now.  Many of the latest thermostat models on the market today come equipped with the ability to adjust to your daily and weekly schedules and can even be controlled remotely from any computer, tablet, or smart phone.

5. Simple but effective. Close your curtains and blinds during the day and avoid using heat-producing appliances.  Don’t overlook the simple things that add up to big savings.  Your mom would be so proud.

6.  Don’t Neglect to Maintain Your Air Conditioning. Your air conditioner needs annual maintenance to perform at its peak.  Having your system tuned up every summer can increase your air conditioner’s efficiency by up to 20%, as well as extend the life of your system up to five years.  A licensed, reputable technician will clean the condenser, ensure your system has enough refrigerants, and ensure that your system has adequate airflow over the coil. Read the full story at


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