I grew up in Southwest England where no one had air conditioning. We just opened the windows and let the cool breezes flow through the house. England has no black flies and few mosquitoes so even without screens this wasn’t a problem. We did have the occasional really hot day and then we would all go outside and sit in the shade of a tree, run through the sprinkler, or play along the water’s edge to stay cool. My childhood memories are probably seen through slightly rose-colored glasses but when I think of summer it’s a time for going outside to be cool.
Now, though, I’m in New Hampshire and I live in a house with central air conditioning. And even if I may think I miss the old ways, I’m the first to admit that on a steamy hot day when I’ve been working out in the yard, it’s a relief to walk in through the back door and feel the coolness wash over me. Some days though, I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t traded some of our social opportunities for a little extra comfort. I also wonder if we really need our houses and stores to be quite so cold—these days I always take a coat with me when I go grocery shopping, not to wear en route, but to put on when I go inside the store!
I also wonder what the good people of New England did back in the days before air conditioning?
Well, there were more fans, more open windows in the evenings and at night, and more attention was paid to creating shade—either by planting trees, or simply by closing the shades. Even today, while many of us do have air conditioning of some sort or another, those ideas will still pay dividends and keep the energy bills lower.
And did you know that if you have ceiling fans you should reverse the direction of their rotation winter and summer? In winter when you want to push the warm air down your fan should rotate slowly clockwise, in summer when you want to circulate cool air it should rotate counter-clockwise.
Oh, and one last thought? When all else fails, you could always find your inner kid and go run around under a hose!