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What Did We Do Before Modern Air Conditioning?

modern air conditioning
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Let’s look back at history and discuss how people survived our hot steamy South Florida summers in the days before modern air conditioning existed.

First, I’m sure many of you have heard the term “ton” of air conditioning. This goes back to when huge blocks of ice were set up in an area with fans blowing across them to produce cold air. The term “ton” came from what was then a roughly 3’ x 3’ cube of ice. Water weighs around eight pounds per gallon, so around 250 gallons of water weighed in right around 2,000 pounds. They would then figure out how many tons of ice was required to cool the space, and as with many things in our world, the term stuck as air conditioning moved forward.

My next question was what if you were somewhere that you didn’t have a guy bringing you a ton of ice? I’m not sure, but I would imagine that would likely be a relatively expensive venture. I know it would be today for sure. The first answer I got in my quest for knowledge was windows, fans, and the way the structures were built.

Houses were often built with the wind direction in mind, which is why you see many east/west facing structures in older homes to take advantage of the breezes. Next up of course was the use of fans. The permanent ceiling fan I think was unique to us in the sunshine state, although I can’t say that as the gospel truth. I have only seen it three times in my travels, however, picture if you will a fan approximately four feet in diameter that is mounted not to the ceiling as fans we see today, but rather it was built into the ceiling leading up to the attic. People would open all the windows in the home and the fan would blow air up into the attic, creating a nice little breeze throughout the house.

Screened porches were often added to allow people to take advantage of bug free evenings, and in times of yore people felt that sleeping outside in the fresh air had its health advantages. You would also see homes with higher ceilings and thicker walls to help ward off the heat.

I strongly advise if you are thinking of purchasing a home or condo that has never had air conditioning except maybe the old window shaker units, that you involve an HVAC professional before you make the purchase. I think we can all agree that air conditioning is something we are all overjoyed with not having to live without, however, retrofitting an older home can add up the dollar signs very quickly. Many times, in addition to ductwork needing to be ran, the electrical system will need to be addressed as well. Again, my advice is to get the professional help and answers you need before you ink that contract.

Speaking of inking a contract, somebody told me they heard Vanilla Ice was getting a reality TV show; please say it’s not true — I don’t think I can stand another round of ice, ice baby.

House Whisperer out!!


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