What did we do before Air Conditioning?


For the odd week that we are lucky enough to experience really hot weather in the UK, many of us find it too uncomfortable to be really warm during the summer time. Ironically enough we try and spend most of it trying to cool down by eating ice creams and putting the air conditioning on. Luckily for us, air conditioning was invented, as we know it, in 1902. So this week we have come up with a few techniques that people from the past used to use in order to shade themselves from the intense heat.

The entire concept of air conditioning, although not the machines you see today, can be traced right the way back to the Ancient Egyptians. To keep cool they used to soak reeds with water and hang them in the windows. Not only did this provide some shelter from the direct sunlight but it also meant that when the air blew through the reeds and the water evaporated, the air cooled around the house. This along with swimming was one of the first ways in which people used to cool down in the summer.

Another technique which was used by the Ancient Romans and was only an option for the very wealthy was to run cold water between the walls of their homes. This helped the cool air to circulate through the home and act as an air conditioning system.

One of the most obvious ways of keeping cool that was used by our ancestors was by living in caves. Although this probably was not the main reason for living here, one of the benefits would have been that they kept cool all year round.

The Ancient Greek technique was actually used right up until the Renaissance period and again was very costly therefore only the very rich could afford the luxury of keeping cool throughout the summer. The Ancient Greeks used to drag snow from the nearby mountains into the towns and cities where those that could afford it would place the snow around their homes. This again was another evaporation technique which meant the air in the home was cooled.

Today one of the best ways of keeping cool, other than the traditional air conditioning units and fans, is to live in a house made from bricks. No, not because someone is going to “huff and puff and blow your house down” but because bricks are a natural solar energy source. During the day the bricks absorb the heat keeping the house cool and in the evening this heat is released.

Over the years, there have been some very innovative ways in which the civilizations have kept themselves cool with what they have and who knows what we will be using in the future!