Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Did People Do It?

That is what they asked last night on the news. There will be a story later this week on how people used to survive the heat. Way back when, before air conditioning. It makes me want to thrust my hand in the air and wave it around like I were in school... "Pick me! Pick me!" So, this is me scooping the news and letting you know how to survive the heat.

First off, people had shutters on their houses for a reason. They weren't just decorative. They protected against extreme storms, hail and heat. During the night when it was cool all the windows were opened and the house cooled down. In the mornings when the sun came from the east, the shutters on the east were closed. They were opened in the afternoon. Then as the sun got to the west side of the house the shutters were closed on the west side of the house and opened at dusk.

Those tall narrow windows served the house well in another capacity. You opened both top and bottom of the window at the same time. Cooler breezes closer to the ground would come in the bottom and as heat rose it could escape out of the top of the window. That way they developed natural air circulation. Bigger houses had a cupola type structure on the roof. When windows there were opened a breeze would pass through the small structure and act like a whole house fan. The rising heat would get pulled from the house and there would be enough air movement to create a cooling effect.

An architectural bit of nirvana that needs to make a come back.... the sleeping porch! Usually a screened porch on the upstairs back of the house. It would be fitted with daybeds or chaises and no matter the heat of the day, at least you could get a good nights sleep.

If you had enough space for a decent garden then you could bet that there was also a small summer kitchen out back. It was a small little shed that matched the house and was only about eight by ten feet. It had a smaller wood burning stove. Once the food was cooked then it was delivered into the house. I've also seen the century plus homes where the kitchen was built as an ell off the back of the house. Almost with out fail there will be a door on the end of the kitchen that attaches to the main house and across from it, a large window. This layout was planned for cross ventilation. So if you didn't use or have a summer kitchen then you could at least protect the house from heat build up. This is the reason that I planned for my outdoor kitchen. It might be a more modern take, but the idea is the same... keep the heat outside.

Don't run the dryer. Use a clothesline. Personally, I love hanging out clothes. It is a mindless, relaxing task. Keep in mind that the sunlight also sanitizes. A good thing all around.

Don't turn on the TV until it is close to dark. You would be surprised how much it heats the house up. Same with lights... turn them off.

When the girls were little and they would come in all hot and sweaty, I'd have them go stand in the big ol' claw foot tub and run in cold water. That inevitably turned into some degree of splashing and giggling, but it worked. Cool off your feet and the rest of the body will follow. This is why I want an outdoor shower as well. It is pleasant and cooling and when there is a bit of a breeze, it is heaven.

There is also a lot to be said for a simple fan. You know the kind that you hold in your hand. I remember as a child going to a packed church and being squeezed into a pew amidst sweaty suited adults and everyone was waving their small hand fan with the illuminated picture of Jesus on one side. A literal case of "Jesus Saves".

Now with having given you all of this valuable information, I must admit that Mac put in the window air conditioner in the bedroom yesterday afternoon. We ended up with a heat index of 114 degrees and he didn't think he could cut the mustard any longer. I do feel guilty over the energy expenditure though.

Me, well I took a nap in the heat of the day then went out and spent the evening mowing when the temp dropped to a heat index of 104 degrees. I wore a hat, drank water... it wasn't so bad.


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