How Homes Kept Cool Before the age of Air Conditioning
A Few of These May Even Help You Today!
While many San Diegans can be found hugging theirs during August and September, the “air conditioner” did not become a common home appliance until after 1950. How did they live in Borrego!
While we find it hard to believe that our grandparents survived blistering Southern California summers without air conditioners, smart design of old homes actually helped inhabitants to stay cool. Here are some of the modification that could help you reduce the usage of your system.
If you have visited Old Town’s Whaley house or any of San Diego’s other old Victorians, most likely you were impressed with the 12-foot high ceilings. Where today builders create homes with eight-foot ceilings, some old homes even had ceilings as high as 14 feet. This design allowed hot air to rise to the ceiling, leaving lower areas in the house cool and comfortable.
Architects 100 years ago designed homes with a “stack effect.” Because the air in the ground stayed cool, basement windows were left open at night. Residents also opened top floor windows, generating a cool breeze through the building from bottom to top. In southern states on the east coast, homes were built on blocks so that breezes could flow underneath the buildings and keep them cool during hot summers.
Large, Curtained Windows
Many older homes had large, double-hung windows. In this case, people open the top panel to let hot air near the ceiling to escape and open the bottom panel at night to allow cool air to flow inside. Thick, long draperies helped keep the heat out, too.
Anyone who has watched an old detective movie (particularly one set in New York), has most likely seen the detective’s glass door with his name emblazoned. Above that glass door is a small window called a “transom.” Some of these old movies depicted the heroes breaking in or out of the office by squeezing through the open transom. The transom allows warmer air at the ceiling to flow out of the building or to circulate up to higher floors. In general, transoms over exterior doors usually had hinges that allowed easy access for people to open and close it, helping create airflow while still providing security.
Wraparound porches provided shade from the sun while still allowing light to come into the building. It is common to see screened and furnished sleeping porches in these old houses. People could sleep outside their houses to enjoy the cool breeze in the summer night but avoid bug bites.
Unlike today, early nineteenth century architects and designers in hot areas put light-colored tin or copper roofs on their buildings to reflect light rather than absorb it. Today’s dark asphalt or cement shingles absorb heat preventing the heat in the home from escaping.
The smartest of the “three little pigs” built his home of brick because back then, those walls could be up to 24 inches thick. No wolf breath will get through that. Nor will the heat. The stone or brick provides insulation both from the suns rays and the hot air. Root and fruit cellars were also lined with stone or brick in order to retain the cold and preserve the food.
Perry Plumbing Heating & Air Helps You Seal Up Your Home for Energy Savings
Are you facing another summer high electricity bills due to air conditioning use? Spend only $89 on Perry Plumbing Heating & Air HVAC tune up to seal up ducts, check the coil, filter, regulators and much more! After all, you probably haven’t run it for 10 months. A machine with sophisticated belts, motors and fluids, starting it up in good shape ensures you get the cool air when you need it.
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