Thermometer Sun 40 Degres. Hot summer day. High Summer temperatures; black and white picture

How Did Humans Handle Intense Heat Before Air Conditioning Became Popular?

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Intense heat comes in two flavors: dry and humid.

Dealing with intense heat has never been a “one silver bullet” type thing but an entire ecosystem of thinking and practice.


Homes made of concrete take a long time to heat up and to cool down. The way the older ones were built, however, made it easier to be in them while it was very hot. The ceilings were tall and the windows oriented to catch a breeze. In very old homes, built before electricity, there would be large cloth “fans”, with large ropes attached to them which either people or their domestic staff took time to rock in a motion similar to how a large church bell is rung. This works on dry and on humid days.

Houses with flat roofs would be cooled down by throwing a lot of water on the roof terrace after sundown. It evaporated quickly but made the rooms more bearable. It was not uncommon for people to sleep on roof terraces in the open, with mats and thin mattresses laid out on floors or on cots. It can get cool after midnight and sometimes early mornings can be positively chilly.

Homes built for heat sensitivity oriented their windows to catch the breeze. There were slatted shutters on the outside to avoid direct sun while the inner shutters on the windows were left open. These can still be seen in use in the warm regions of Mediterranean Europe. Of course, this is good on humid days too.

Most importantly, people didn’t stay cooped up in houses as they do now with air conditioning but came out for strolls or neighborly chats.

Food and drink

People in hot regions drink a lot of fluids, and since water alone could be boring, and alcohol not culturally prevalent, interesting drinks have been invented. In some cultures, foods are deemed to have a warm or a cold effect – which affects how we combine things and how we consume them. In Indian culture, for example, mangoes are a “warm” food and always served cold. Melons are deemed naturally “cool” and are served at room temperature. Yoghurt is deemed “cool”. Drinking lemonade with mint leaves crushed into it for freshness is common too.

People traditionally ate seasonally. So in the northern hemisphere, we wouldn’t be eating cauliflower, a “warm” food which causes wind, in the summer, nor watery vegetables such as cucumber, water gourd, etc. in the winter. Rich foods are avoided in the heat as are foods easily spoiled such as milk-based sweets.

Few festivals fall in the extreme heat of summer so nobody feels deprived.


Adventurer Ranulph Fiennes says there is no such thing as bad weather, only wrong clothing. It holds true in excessive heat as well.

People in warm countries wear loose fitting and flowing clothes in cotton and linen, which have excellent capillarity for wicking away sweat and keeping the wearers cool.

It is not impossible to return to a simpler living. It does, however, require that we rethink the structure of our entire life, and make suitable changes.

However, seeing as how air conditioners are a must nowadays, we cannot live without them. Neither should you. Call the best HVAC service in Miami and Sarasota – Chills!


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