When you are outside in the heat of summer, there is nothing more refreshing than crossing the threshold of your home to be met by a fresh blast of cool air, courtesy of your air conditioning system. But what about in the days before air conditioning?
How did people find relief from sweltering summer days? There were numerous tricks to try to cool down, but some of the most effective involved design elements in the home itself.
Those long, wide wraparound porches that were so common in home design in the late 19th and early 20th centuries weren’t just architectural fashion. Their open-air shelter provided excellent respite for homeowners keen to sit and enjoy the welcome summer breeze.
It wasn’t just for gathering with the neighbors in the evening. These multi-sided porches meant that residents could get shelter during the heat of day too, moving away from the sun as it ascended to its peak in the sky.
Believe it or not, how cool it is inside your home has a lot to do with its construction materials. That is in part the reason why so many homes were built and insulated with stone.
Stone is slow to absorb heat, meaning that if it is hot outside, it will take longer for that heat to transfer to the inside of the house.
It’s no surprise to learn then that stone walls will keep the interior cooler for longer if the exterior temperature dips at night.
One perfect example of how a home’s design can permit the free flow of air, keeping residents cooler is the shotgun style home.
Shotgun homes are built with rooms immediately following each other, with doorways aligned directly, without hallways. This allows for direct circulation of air.
The long, narrow floor plan calls for high ceilings and generally came with abundant windows along the sides, which means that hot air gets drawn up and the windows let the hot air out and draw air in from the outside as well, creating a refreshing cross-ventilation breeze.
By today’s design standards, high ceilings are a major perk because they amplify the sense of available space. Back in the day, high ceilings also served to draw hot air upwards and then outwards, as there were typically groups of windows near the crest of the ceiling. This helped to circulate the air, increasing comfort inside.