The Impact of AC

On the tremendous and widespread impact of air conditioning:

Before air conditioning, in a bygone and surely less comfortable era, people employed all sorts of strategies for keeping cool in the heat. Houses were designed with airflow in mind — more windows, higher ceilings. A style once prevalent in the American south, the dogtrot house, was really two smaller cabins — one for cooking and the other for living — connected under one roof with an open-air corridor between them. In addition, many homes had porches where families could spend a hot day, and also sleeping porches with beds where they could ride out a hot night. Many home designs took passive solar design principles into account, even if they didn’t name them as such.

Besides housing design, people had other tricks: taking naps during the heat of the day, carrying hand-held fans around, and, of course, swimming. My grandmother told me she used to pay a bus fare and sit on the open, upper deck for hours, riding all around the city.

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