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Life Before Air Con

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When the summer heat kicks in, air conditioning feels like a lifesaver. Ubiquitous in shops, offices, vehicles and increasingly in homes, most of us take air con for granted and can’t imagine life without it. Yet, as a fairly recent invention, people did survive without air con, although life was very different.

A cool invention

American Willis Carrier is credited for inventing air conditioning, back in 1902, although its sole purpose was to cool down industrial processes – the fact that it also kept workers cool was an incidental bonus. Since the early air con units were expensive, it was a long time before they became commonplace in businesses and homes, with demand picking up after World War II. So, what was life like before air con came on the scene?

Life before air con

People survived the intense heat of summer mainly because dwellings were built differently in the past. In very early times, people lived in caves or underground homes to stay cool, and in some cases, this still pervades today. For example, homes in Coober Pedy in the sweltering Australian Outback are built in hillside caves, or dugouts.

Building materials were also different prior to air con, and the thick brick used was effective at keeping heat out. Buildings were also much taller with higher ceilings, which allowed heat to rise and escape through vents or disperse using ceiling fans. Many buildings pre-air con also came with opposing windows in a room that would allow for the cross ventilation of air.

Homes also came with large eaves, awnings and porches that would serve to shade the building. Instead of staying indoors, people would congregate on porches to keep themselves cool, often sleeping outside on balmy nights or napping during the hottest part of the day. Trees were also planted on the east and west sides of a building to shade the sun. Those living in buildings with flat roofs would drown the roof with water after sunset to lessen the effect of the temperature inside.

People would also conjure up inventive ways to stay cool during hot days and nights. They would hang up wet laundry in doorways to provide a cooling breeze and keep clothing and sheets in the freezer or in ice boxes prior to use. As the price of electric fans dropped during the 1920s and beyond, these became popular for cooling a room down.

When air con was invented but still not widely available, people would congregate in places where this cooling system was in place. In particular, the cinema was often one of the early places to install air con, so it became a popular place to visit when it was humid outside.

The continued development of air con

After air con was invented in 1902, further modifications were made to the chillers used in the systems in 1922. This made the early air con units more efficient and cheaper to install. By 1929, Frigidaire had created cooling units for use in single rooms and just two years later, it developed its first central cooling systems for homes. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that the more convenient window air con units were created, although these were mainly a privilege of the wealthy.

So, how does air con work exactly? Essentially, systems suck up warm air through a grille. This air then flows over chiller pipes containing a coolant fluid, cooling down the incoming air and reducing moisture. Next, the air flows over a heating element, which if it is turned down, will return cooler air into the atmosphere.

Air con systems have continued to advance over the years. As well as becoming more affordable, the systems used today are made from coolants that are more efficient and environmentally-friendlier than their early predecessors.

Despite people managing to survive before air con, it has since become a vital part of our lives.

If you require the latest air con innovations using energy efficient and eco-friendly systems, GREE UK offers a wide range of specialist air con services suitable for many sectors.

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Life Before Air Con

by GREE UK time to read: 3 min