In our last blog post, we looked at the ways that air conditioning changed the world forever, and truly, it was an exhaustive list. It’s no secret that air conditioning changed our world, especially in hot areas such as Tampa and Hillsborough County, where we often provide AC repair services.
While it’s great to see how the world changed after air conditioning, it’s also enlightening to look at how it was before. More specifically, how people dealt with the oppressive heat before they didn’t have a way to cool it. As an extension to our previous blog post, let’s look at the many ways that people used to deal with hot temperatures.
They Built Things Differently
Architects all over the world must have been elated when air conditioning was invented, because suddenly they were no longer shackled by climate-imposed limitations. Indeed, buildings back in the day had to be specially designed to accommodate hot air, and you can bet that super tall buildings like skyscrapers weren’t very practical back then.
There are a few different ways that buildings were designed differently in those pre-AC days:
If you want a good example of what homes looked like before air conditioning was normalized, look no further than the American South. There are still many older homes that are still standing, and they have telltale architectural cues that indicate a pre-air conditioning era.
Porches are a great example. Before AC was common, houses were built with wide and spacious porches, often around the entire base of the home. These porches had generous shade roofs and lots of room to get comfortable. Why? Because back then, it was often cooler to be outside in a shaded area instead of inside a hot home. Without air conditioning, spacious buildings would easily turn into hot boxes.
Commercial buildings were also much more simple back then than they are now. You couldn’t get too architecturally creative with structures, because it would compromise heat efficiency. Buildings were often designed with wide windows, open spaces, and high roofs, so that air could rise above the common areas.
They Were More Selective About Where They Lived
It’s easy to sit around in Pasco County Florida and think, “how on Earth did people survive Florida summers without air conditioning?” It’s a good question, but the answer is that there were just far fewer people living in Florida precisely because of the heat.
We won’t pretend that humans have always avoided hot areas. Areas like the Sahara have been inhabited for thousands of years, and Florida had its fair share of native inhabitants and subsequent descendants of European colonizers. But, as a general rule of thumb, you’d find far more people living in cooler regions.
Air conditioning was a game-changer because it meant that hot regions became far easier to live in. Regions such as Tampa, Texas, and Arizona got huge population booms because there was suddenly prime real estate all over the place that didn’t come at the cost of being cooked to death. While there were hardy folks who endured the hot states before air conditioning came into vogue, the reality is that the population of said regions would be drastically lower today if AC had never come along.
They Just Handled Hot Temperatures Better
One important consideration of pre-AC populations is that they simply endured the heat better because they were used to it. Scientists speculate that modern first-world country humans are much more sensitive to heat than their predecessors because we’re used to a life of cushy, cool indoor spaces. Even if we have to endure the heat for a time, we always end up coming back to cooled areas.
People in the olden days (or today, in many parts of the world) didn’t have this luxury, and their bodies were better equipped for it. Going way back in time, it’s also important to remember that humans evolved and adapted to their native regions. Sure, the Central American jungles may seem suffocating to outsiders, but to the natives who lived there for generations, it was all they knew and their bodies had adapted to it. Now, in an age where people intermingle all over the world, the only way that many people can reasonably tolerate extreme heat is by running to the refuge of air conditioning.
They Took Naps In the Shade
Today, you’ll probably be frowned upon (at best) if you decide to take a nap at work. But for people in the days before air conditioning, it was business as usual. The sun’s heat tends to peak in the early afternoon, and many people would bypass this time of day altogether by taking a sweet nap in the shade, ready to be productive again after the hottest temperatures had come and gone.
It wasn’t unusual at all to take breaks from the heat — even extended ones. Did you know that summer vacation is a relic of a non-air conditioned lifestyle? Countless schools and businesses took the entire summer off because the heat was simply too oppressive.
They Had Public Water Areas
Today, most fountains exist for purely aesthetic purposes — in fact, most of them forbid human entry entirely. But things were a lot different when hot temperatures were the norm. Public fountains were a place of stress relief and community bonding. And we’re not just talking about public fountains; some cities had much simpler trough-like devices that held large amounts of water for drinking and cooling off.
Even today, getting wet is one of the most reliable ways to cool yourself off. You can bet that if people had a nearby source of H20, they’d be taking advantage of it on hot days.
They Made Judicious Use of Ice
One of the gags in Disney’s Frozen is when Kristoff, the lead male character, realizes his livelihood of ice-harvesting is doomed after an eternal winter engulfs his land. But even though the profession of an “ice harvester” sounds silly to us, it was quite real — and quite valuable.
Before we had air cooling technology, freezing water was an ambitious undertaking, and not really possible unless you had sophisticated methods, such as underground ice rooms and wind catchers. For this reason, it was common for people to “hoard” ice during the winter months, so that it could be preserved until summer.
This ice would be brought out for certain purposes during hot months, and it was extremely valuable. Ice, after all, only lasts so long under oppressive heat.
Air Conditioning Repair and Installation in Greater Tampa
Even after just writing this list, we feel tired imagining living a life without air conditioning. While this isn’t a reality for most folks in Florida, it might be if your air conditioning unit is on the fritz. While fall is fast approaching, anyone in Pasco County knows that Florida never truly gets cool, so AC repair should be a top priority for you if your HVAC unit isn’t working.
At Benjamin Brothers, we offer AC repair services to people in Pasco County, Hillsborough County, Greater Tampa, and more. Contact us today to get started.