Before Air Conditioning: How Did We Stay Cool before AC

In America today, air conditioning is often taken for granted.

We assume that the businesses we frequent and the homes we live in will be cool and comfortable, every day.

In America, air conditioning is taken for granted.

But it wasn’t always that way.

Especially in the South, where heat and humidity can be life-threatening, keeping cool has always been important.

Before air conditioning, we had to find innovative ways to beat the heat.

With summer on the horizon, we decided to explore some of the more unusual ways we stayed cool before AC.


Before AC, homes were built differently to abate the intense summer heat.

In the Southeast, where extreme humidity often made the high temperatures worse, homes were built with a few key features to fight the heat.

  •         Porches—Take a drive through any Southern town, and you’ll likely find plenty of older houses that have porches. That’s because the porch was the perfect place to cool off, be shaded from the sun and enjoy time with your family. Wrap around porches served a dual purpose: they provided a place to cool off and shielded the first-story rooms from direct sunlight.
  •         Dogtrot style—The South was also famous for its Dogtrot houses, which featured a large breezeway running through the house’s middle. The breezeway separated the kitchen area of the house from the living area, allowing the heat from cooking to be maintained separately from the areas where families slept. Plus, the breezeway allowed cool air to circulate more efficiently.
  •         Shotgun style—Shotgun houses, especially prevalent in Louisiana and Georgia, featured a long, narrow construction style. This allowed windows to be placed directly across from each other along the length of the house, providing ideal air circulation from one end to the other.
  •         Tall ceilings—Heat rises, which makes tall ceilings a great architectural feature for a home without air conditioning. As the heat in a room rises, it displaces the cooler air that has gathered near the ceiling. The cool air disperses downward, cooling the room for the home’s residents.
  •         Transoms—You know those lovely window patterns at the top of historic homes’ doorways? They’re more than decoration. They allowed for airflow to enter a room while allowing people inside the rooms to retain their privacy.

Naps During the Hottest Part of the Day

If you visit a country like Spain or Italy, you may notice that businesses shut down around noon and don’t pick back up until early evening.

Known as riposo or siesta, this time of the day is typically the hottest. Lying down for a nap during the hottest time is an easy way to skip over the heat and recharge your batteries.

Wet Pillows and Fans

Before air conditioning was wide spread, a favorite way of cooling off at bedtime was to dampen your pillow or pillow case and let a fan blow cool air onto it for a few minutes.

This made the pillow extra cool for when you finally laid down to rest.

Huge Blocks of Ice

Believe it or not, people would freeze chunks of ice and then position them in rooms around their house.

The ice worked to dispense cooler air around the room and give relief in the most miserable parts of the day.

Be Thankful for Air Conditioning…and Make Sure Your Unit Stays in Good Shape

This list probably made you thankful to have air conditioning in your home.

But when’s the last time you got maintenance on your AC unit?

Maintaining your AC unit and its many parts will help ensure that your home stays cool throughout the brutal Tennessee summer.

Synergy Service can help make sure your home’s AC system is in top shape.

Contact us for AC maintenance today.