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How Texans Kept Homes Cool in the Summer Before Air Conditioning

Can you imagine not having air conditioning to keep your home cool during the hot Texas summers? Well as miserable as this might sound, it was notHow Texans Keep Cool that long ago that Texans did not have central air conditioning systems and had to rely upon other ways to remain cool on those sweltering summer days!

In fact, life before air conditioning was something that was common until the widespread use of air conditioning became “standard” in homes in the later 20th century. It was not uncommon to find homes in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s without any type of automated cooling. To stay cool, people came up with some rather creative “cooling hacks.”

  • Ice Chests in the Basement

People would fill ice chests and place these in the basement. Basements are naturally cool and when the ice melted, it would lower the air temperature even more. This made basements a great place to sleep at night. Hence, the birth of finished basements! During the day, people would leave basement doors open and use fans to draw up the cool air and circulate it through the home.

  • Metal or Porcelain Bath Tubs

Those retro-style clawed tubs or big metal/copper tubs did more than just add charm to the home. These styles of tubs are naturally “cool” and helped cool the surrounding air in the bathroom. When filled with cool water, they provided a natural way for people to escape the scorching summer heat.

  • Heavy Dark Drapes

People would keep shutters closed and hang heavy, dark curtains over windows that got direct sunlight in the summer months to stop rooms from Heavy Dark Drapesheating up and becoming too uncomfortable.

  • Using Windows to Vent/Circulate Air

In multi-story homes, the top halves of windows on the upper floor were opened in the day to allow hot air to escape from the home. In the evenings, after the sun set, the lower part of windows on upper and lower floors were opened to allow cool air to enter the home.

  • Doors Were Kept Shut

Another way how homes were kept cool before the age of AC was people would keep the doors on upper level rooms closed during the day to help contain hot air and prevent the rest of the home from getting too hot. The only exception was bathroom doors, which were kept open to allow a cooling effect from bathtubs filled with cool water to help lower air temperatures.

  • Indoor Fans

Electric fans were used to help cool the home. People would place fans in upstairs windows that blew hot air out of the home. On lower floors, they Electric Fanswould face the fans inwards to draw in outdoor air. Together, this created a natural flow of air to help keep the inside more bearable in the summer. Ceiling fans were also used to help circulate air and keep it cooler.

  • Fans Plus Ice Blocks

Prior to the invention of the air conditioning, people would take blocks of ice and place these into a large metal tub or bucket. Then they would sit a fan on a stool next to the tub and turn it on. The coolness of the ice and tub along with the air flow the fan created, resulted in the first type of ancient air conditioning for indoor cooling.

  • Homes Had Taller Ceilings and Thicker Walls

If you look at the architecture of homes prior to the invention of the air conditioning, two common traits are high ceilings of ten feet and thicker walls High Ceiling Homesbetween one and two feet. The exterior walls used several layers of bricks and/or cement blocks to help insulate the home and keep it cooler. The high ceilings helped trap the hottest indoor air higher up, with cooler air in the lower part of the room.

  • Long Covered Porches

There is a reason many of the older homes in Texas have long covered porches – they provided a place outdoors where people could escape the indoor heat and relax. When ceiling fans were invented, it became commonplace to install these on the porch to circulate the air to stay cooler.

  • Shade Trees Were Grown Near the Home

It was not uncommon to find multiple shade trees planted on the east and west sides of homes. The trees provided natural shade from direct sunlight and stopped it from heating up the home’s interior. In addition, once fully grown, people could enjoy eating or taking naps in the cooler shaded areas outside their home.

  • Outdoor Grills and Cooking

Rather than cook indoors on hot summer days, which only added to the heat inside, people took to grilling on wood and charcoal grills or cooking over Outdoor Grills and Cookinga fire pit.

In addition to the above “hacks,” many people had their own personal ways to keep cool during the blazing Texan summer days, like hanging wet laundry throughout the home or sleeping in bedsheets that were cooled in the refrigerator.

How Texans Can Keep Cool Today and Rely Less on Their Air Conditioning

Several of the ways people kept cool during life without air conditioning can still be used today to help control your home’s cooling costs. For instance, the use of ceiling fans can help make you feel around five degrees cooler without having to turn down your thermostat. Other modern “cooling hacks” include:

  1. Upgrade to LED and Fluorescent Lights – Certain types of lightbulbs give off heat and cause air temperatures to increase. Both LEDs and Cooking Meals on the Grillfluorescents use less energy and give off little to no heat.
  2. Cook Meals on the Grill – Using the stove, cooktop, oven, and even the microwave will create heat. Who doesn’t like freshly grilled meats and veggies? Plus you can cook a wide range of foods if your grill has separate side burners.
  3. Increase the Insulation in Your Home – Modern homes’ walls are not as thick as older homes. As such, it is beneficial to have additional insulation blown into the walls, as well as in your attic.
  4. Adjust Air Vents – The air vents in the home should be adjusted. You want to close vents in the basement since it is naturally cool and there is no need to cool it more. On the main floor of the home, adjust vents so they are partially closed. On upper floors open vents all the way. Remember, hot air rises and cool air falls, so the cooled air upstairs will also help cool the main floor of the home.
  5. Avoid Running the Dryer – It is better to install a clothes line and air dry clothes outdoors on hot summer days.Avoiding a Hair Dryer
  6. Run Appliances in the Evenings – Washers, dishwashers, and other such appliances do give off heat, so use them at night when it is cooler, not to mention it also prevents your air conditioning from overworking itself during the hot daytime hours.
  7. Upgrade to a Programmable Thermostat – A programmable thermostat allows you to set different temperatures for various times and days of the week. It makes no sense to use your preferred setting during the day when no one is at home. Setting it a few degrees higher helps reduce how often it runs along with lowering your electric bill.
  8. Give Your Air Conditioner Unit an Annual Tune-UpRely on an experienced air conditioner contractor to discover potential problems sooner, rather than later. Not only will it cost less to fix, but it also ensures your AC is running efficiently and effectively to cool your home and avoids unexpected failures on sweltering summer days.
  9. Replace Air Filters Often – Depending on the type of air filter you have, you may need to replace it monthly, every other month, or once Air Conditioning Tune-Upevery 90 days. Clean air filters ensure air flow is maintained in the home and the AC functions correctly.
  10. Have Air Leaks in Ducts Fixed – Small air leaks in ductwork can cause your AC to run more often and harder, since the cool air is escaping long before it even reaches the rooms in the home.
  11. Insulate Ductwork – If your ducts are under the crawl space of the home, you can increase the effectiveness of cooled air by insulating the ducts.
  12. Upgrade to a New, Modern AC System – If your AC system is more than fifteen years old, it is probably nearing the end of its usefulness, where repairs will end up becoming more common and costly. In the long run, it can be cheaper to have a newer, more energy efficient air conditioner replacement model

To help keep your home cool and comfortable all summer long, contact the air conditioning and cooling experts at Christianson Air Conditioning & Plumbing today! We offer:

  • AC MaintenanceNew AC Unit
  • AC Service and Repairs
  • New AC Installations
  • Ductwork Repairs and Installation
  • New Construction Heating and Cooling System Installs
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Air Diagnostics and Balancing, and More

We service homes in the San Antonio, Austin, New Braunfels, and Temple communities, as well as the surrounding areas! Please feel free to call one of our area offices directly for more information or to schedule regular or emergency service.

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