How Did People Keep Cool Before Air Conditioning?

air conditioning history

When the first modern air conditioning unit was invented in 1902, it wasn’t invented with home cooling in mind – it was invented for industrial purposes. Home air conditioners didn’t actually come along until the 1950s, and today, it’s hard to imagine living life without them.

We all know it can get pretty hot during the summertime, so how did people stay cool before air conditioning?


The temperature underneath the ground stays around 50 degrees all year long, so in order to stay cool, many people made their home in a cave or built it into a hillside to take advantage of the earth’s cooling ability.

Stone Homes

After seeing how the stones in caves stayed cold, many people started building above-ground homes out of stone or brick to mimic the cooling that cave walls provide.


Try this: Dampen a pillow case and place it in front of a fan. When you turn the fan on, feel the breeze that travels through the pillow case; it should be pretty cold. Ancient Egyptians, Indians, Romans, and Greeks used this same method to cool the warmer parts of their homes. In order to create cooler drafts, they dampened a mat or a sheet and hung it in a doorway or open area.


Architecture played a big role in keeping homes cool. By creating archways, large windows, and high ceilings, builders could funnel in outdoor breezes and create cross-ventilation. Porches built in the shade also gave people an area to cool off during the evening.


To create the most amount of shade possible, homeowners often planted trees on the east and west sides of their home. The trees not only blocked the hot rays of the sun, but also cooled down any breezes that blew through the area and into the home. Come winter, the trees would lose their leaves and allow the sun to shine through and heat the home.


For quick relief, there were always fans to keep cool. Early hand fans were made from leaves, feathers, paper, or fabric, and were shaped in half- or semi-circles to make them easy to hold. In the 1880s, electric fans were invented and by the early 1900s, many homeowners were incorporating them into their daily summertime lives.

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