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Ancient History: What Did We Do Before Air Conditioners?

Gregory

Air conditioners may seem like a staple of society, and many places across the country and the globe can’t survive the summer without them. But what did we do before these air-cooling machines were invented?

 

Let’s go all the way back to ancient Egypt, where, like most technological innovations, its roots can be traced. Egyptians found that by hanging wet reeds in their windows, the entering air was cooled as the water evaporated.

 

 

 

Next up are the Romans, who were some of the greatest engineers of all time–modern day plumbing is credited in much part to their aqueducts and underground piping systems. They also used those pipes to heat and cool their houses, as the rich ran the pipes under the floor.

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Going a completely different route, in the Middle East architects made giant buildings called wind catchers. These were towers made up of four windows that created a cyclone effect with the wind, having the cool breeze from the ground funneled up and having the hot air escape.

 

Those methods were all operable without the constant use of manpower. Many other ideas, such as rotary fans and hydraulic power, required constant maintenance and manpower at all times.

 

Yet, in 1841, British engineer David Boswell Reid created what was considered the first air-conditioned building, St. George’s Hall, when he worked out a way to control the temperature of a room using steam power.

 

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In the early 1900’s, Willis Haviland Carrier invented the first all-electric air conditioning unit, surpassing all previous machines and designs. Yet, that could not have been accomplished without the innovations made by his ancestors.

 

Do you think you would have survived in a world without air conditioning? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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12 Responses to Ancient History: What Did We Do Before Air Conditioners?

  1. Brian Beckman says:

    Ah hell naw. Gotta have me some AC.

  2. Dick Czmowski says:

    i can handle any kind of heat with some air-conditioning

  3. Dave says:

    Very cool … !

  4. Tom Dolan says:

    When I was 11 my parents had central air conditioning installed. That was way back in 1955! No one in the entire neighborhood had air conditioning back then so the neighbors came over just to marvel at how comfortable a house could be in the summertime. A few years earlier, neighbors came over to see a 17” black and white RCA console tv. All we had then was an attic fan that pulled warm outside air in through the windows. Those were much simpler times but still fun for a kid.

    • Gregory says:

      Thanks for sharing, Tom! We love hearing how others have experienced these changes, and we’re glad you shared those fun times with us! Things were simpler back then, but technology nowadays is evolving so quickly.

  5. Steven Moomey says:

    George Washington’s Mount Vernon Home was Air Conditioned. They packed ice from the river in the Winter, in the cellar, insulated it with straw. During the Summer they used the ice to keep food cold, and uncovered portions so a breeze could blow across the exposed ice and into the house. In Colonial Williamsburg, the Pharmacist house had a similar set-up.

    • Gregory says:

      Steven, this is a fascinating piece of history! It makes you wonder how they figured all that out in the first place. They surely proved their ingenuity back then! Thanks for educating us with that piece of historical air conditioning trivia!

  6. Leo says:

    Back in 1953-4, my parents had a house built in the suburbs [NJ]. It had forced-air heating [ducts]. Within about 6 years, central air was added [easy because the ductwork was already there]. So, I’m a “central-air-baby-boomer,” and to this day, I cannot live without being frosty cool!
    Before the install, only Mom & Dad’s bedroom had an air-con in the window. I remember that it had only ONE switch.. Cool-Off-Fan. That was IT!
    That old clunker [Philco] was still working in 1986 [or so] when they sold the house.
    However, it wasn’t until 1989 that I owned a car with a/c.. or at least with WORKING a/c!! WOW – what a
    “luxury” I was I missing for all those years!!

    • Gregory says:

      Wow, Leo!! Thanks for sharing your story with us. It’s crazy to imagine living in a world without AC when we’ve become so accustomed to it.

  7. Russ says:

    Born 1957, growing up in in Central Oklahoma, my parents sold the farm I had my first 5 years of life at moving into the rural town renting two houses the first year before buying what I considered home till age 14. NONE of these locations had A/C as well many (most) of the town businesses lacked it also.
    One last move to what became my home till leaving after High School graduation was in 1971, the home only had a floor furnaces and after the winter passing, my folks had central heat installed. The recommendation to add air in the package was accepted and the summer world of the whole family changed with each Oklahoma summer there after.
    Personally I absolutely want the comfort a/c provides, but too for different reasons (military and other work) have been without it and one just has to make do. But man oh…. man when we have it all is COOL.

  8. Rex says:

    We grew up through out the 60s and 70s with out AC We would put a box fan in the window to pull the warm air out during the day and turn it around at night to pull the cooler air in.

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