5 Ways Homes Were Designed To Stay Cool Before Air Conditioning

Air conditioning was invented in 1902 and came to the first home (in Minnesota) in 1914. But what did people do before there was such thing as air conditioning? The design of the home was the crucial factor. Here are a few home styles designed to maximize your chances of not dying from heat stroke:

1. The Dogtrot

Interesting name, right? The dogtrot takes its name from the breezeway between the two halves of a home — that your dog could, literally, trot through. Both sides could get fresh air, and the porch overhang shielded the front windows from the sun/rain. This style of architecture was popular on 1800s Southern plantations.


2. Sleeping Porch

As the name might suggest, folks used to sleep on porches in the days pre-A/C. This is the sleeping porch from Eleanor Roosevelt’s home in Hyde Park, New York.

RELATED: Here Are 6 Plants That Will Help Keep Your House Naturally Cool


3. The Shotgun

Another Southern tradition, the narrow width of the house meant the windows and the doors could take better advantage of cross-ventilation. The overhang roof shielded the occupants from the sun and rain, too. (Of course, on “The Waltons,” they were always sweating in the heat, and plopped down on the porch with hand-held fans. Livvy, how about some more of that lemonade?)

4. The Cupola

The small dome that sticks up at the very top is supposed to allow for ventilation, on the theory that hot air rises. Fresh air would flow through the tall windows and doors shielded by the porch.

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5. Shutters, Trees & Vines

One of the keys to keeping a home cool is to block out the sun. Shutters and strategically planted trees keep the sun at bay while vines, despite being bug super-highways, help keep walls insulated and cool.

RELATED: This Tiny Portable Air Conditioner Will Keep You Cool Wherever You Go

Closed French Window with Ivy. Ivy is encroaching on the shutters of this traditional French window.

Other Ways To Save On Air Conditioning

Of course, these days there are other things we can do around the house in order to keep the temps (and electricity bills) low. Consider closing the blinds in order to block warmth from sunlight. According to Family Handyman, “Shading blocks direct sunlight through the roof and windows, which is responsible for about half of the heat gain in your home.”


Regularly changing the filter in your air unit and nixing oven usage when temps are high can also help reduce air conditioning use. And did you know certain plants, like aloe vera and various ferns, can contribute to a cooler at-home atmosphere?

Yeah, nature is pretty cool like that.