What is the history of cooling a home in summer

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Cooling a home has become more important for many of us during long heatwaves in the summer. While today our air conditioning bills might reflect the need to keep cool, long before such technology people practiced different methods to keep cool. Some of the techniques might even give us a few ideas to keep our homes relatively cool for less money.

Early History of Cooling

By the late 4th millennium BC or at least early 3rd millennium BC, it was evident that if people were going to live in cities then they had to figure out a way to keep cool. In Mesopotamia, modern Iraq and Syria, and Egypt the earliest cities already show evidence for cooling methods. Already by 7000 BC, homes were made of mud in the Middle East, which allowed them to stay relatively cool in the summer months. Mud insulates a home from heat seeping in during the summer, while it also acts to seal in heat during the winter. However, to live in larger cities, home also had to be designed differently. One form of design that helped things stay cool was to keep houses near each other. Cities were very compact, which helped to create more shade. This allowed many homes not to receive direct sunlight at all hours and created shade for people to move around their homes, courtyards, and neighboring streets. The use of mud for construction material also enabled homes to stay relatively cool by insulating homes from outside temperatures. Courtyards and alleyways between homes were used as a way for air to circulate and create a breeze, and to create cross drafts, helping to keep air flowing and create cooler conditions. Homes could also be oriented towards the direction of prevailing windows, helping air flow through the house. Ventilation were also sometimes built that encouraged trapped air to flow through the house. Two outer walls, with a small gap between the two, or a vent would be built that would capture air and that air would be circulated around the house. Another early device known to capture wind and circulate air in houses in Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere in the ancient Near East were wind catchers. These were tower-like structures built to capture airflow and then that air would be brought downwards to the home. Clothing itself was also effective for staying cool. What may seem counter-intuitive, but wearing wool or thick clothing in summer could help cool someone in a hot place. As the person quickly sweats, air hitting that moisture, as well as possibly water added, would then make the person's skin feel cool. Encouraging sweating or using water in cloth which did not evaporate quickly could act as a coolant. Planting vegetation also helped to keep houses cool. By planting along the walls and courtyards, this helped to produce cooler temperatures by preventing the walls from absorbing heat.

Later Technologies

The Rise of Modern Cooling