5 Ways People Stayed Cool Before AC

This past weekend was Memorial Day, meaning that the unofficial start to the summer season is here. We’ve just recently had our first taste of hot weather here in the Quad Cities and here already we are wondering how people could possibly have stayed cool without air conditioning in their homes. And with good reason, now nearly 100 million American households enjoy the cool luxury of air conditioning (or around 87% of households) (SOURCE).

So if people didn’t have air conditioning at home – how did they keep cool in the heat of the summer?

Here are 5 Ways People Stayed Cool Before AC:

  1. They actually spent time outside. It seems like while we have the best intentions of staying outside, we usually succumb to the draw of AC at some point or another.
    • Trees – Notice how lots of older homes tend to have large, beautiful trees in their front yard? It’s no coincidence! Planting trees in your yard was much more common place before AC was invented. This way, you had guaranteed shade in your yard for those hot summer months.
    • Porches – While some of us might be lucky enough to have a small patio, we might be hard pressed to say how much we actually use it. Prior to AC, sitting outside in a rocking chair underneath the cool shade of a wrap- around porch was a pretty typical way to spend the summer. When is the last time you saw one of these?!
  2. They lived in different homes. If you live in an older home you may notice some of these structural differences that may have originally been built for life before AC.
    • High Ceilings – Homes with higher ceilings are much easier to cool and can provide more air ventilation.
    • Large Open Rooms – To help circulate air, sometimes people would open up the large windows on both sides of a main room and create a nice breeze for the home.
    • Transoms – These were small windows in the space over a door. Looking at them now you might just think they were installed for aesthetic purposes, but back before indoor cooling them were actually quite functional. In the winter they were kept closed to keep warm, but in the summer you could open them to help cool adjacent rooms and hallways. (SOURCE).
    • Thick Walls – Those that could afford it would have their homes built with thick brick or stone walls. This would block heat from the inside during the day and help keep in some heat during the night.
  3. They went to the movies.
    • Lots of people were exposed to air conditioning in a time long before it was readily available for use in their homes – instead when it got hot in the summer they went to the movie theaters for the cool refreshing air.
      • Audiences got their first taste of AC on Memorial Day weekend, 1925. It was introduced to the public at the Rivoli Theater in Times Square. After that, people piled in during summer months – creating the term “summer blockbuster”. (SOURCE)
  4. They were always using fans. Yes, you’ve heard it before – keep your fans on all the time! Even with central air, it really helps with your home’s air circulation. However, if you were living in a time before home AC, this was an absolute necessity.
    • Hand Fans – Always having a fan on you was very helpful and low cost.
    • Ceiling Fans – still popular and useful today!
  5. They went to great lengths/strange means. When people were sweltering, they turned to alternative cooling methods in a desperate escape from the heat.
    • Frozen Underwear – Some people would actually store a pair of underwear in the ice box for those extra hot summer days… oh my.
    • Refrigerated Sheets – For those of us who just can’t get to sleep in the summer time… hey I think this would still be a great idea even with AC.
    • Didn’t Go Upstairs! – Taking it to the extreme, some people didn’t use the upper part of their home except for at night time.

We hope you found this post to be interesting – please keep up in mind for your cooling needs!