Victorian Homes Provide Heat Relief Sans A/C

With summer approaching, many homeowners are looking for new energy efficient techniques and technologies to keep their homes cool. Yet many of the most efficient ways to keep a home tolerable throughout the summer’s heat aren’t new at all. When it came to beautiful architecture and using housing designs to ensure comfortable temperatures, the Victorians were experts well before air conditioning was an option.

As we’ve seen in classic photographs and paintings from the mid 1800s until 1901 (The Victorian era), people wore a lot of layers. Women wore corsets, undergarments, stockings, petticoats, high collars, long sleeves and huge hats every day. Men were also expected to dress in multiple covers with wool pants, suit coats, ties and long sleeved shirts on a daily basis. Clearly, this community was not going to get any relief from the heat in the wardrobe department, so they were smart about how they designed their homes to keep them as cool as possible.

How They Did It

There were several ways to make a home suitable for the summer even without electricity. Keeping the heat out was the first priority. Victorian homes used awnings, curtains, and shutters to reduce the amount of direct sunlight shining in. The awnings allowed for windows to stay open to let in a breeze, while making sure heat from the sun stayed out. Shutters act similarly to awnings, blocking direct sunlight, but allowing the wind to come through the slats. Light, lace curtains also proved useful as they reflected sunlight and kept the room bright and cool.

Another way the older homes were able to manage hot weather was by having good circulation. I grew up in a townhouse built in 1910 and can attest to how well the layout of this type of home allows for air flow. When you entered through the front door, you could see all the way to the back of the house, where large windows could be found. Like a Victorian home, this layout would create a good breeze from the front of the house to the back. The living room, kitchen, study and dining room were then built off the large foyer with multiple windows in each room to keep the cool air flowing. Victorian homes had similar floor plans and big pocket doors to let even more breeze circulate through the house.

Finally, one of the rarest technologies used by the Victorians was the ceiling fan. The first motorized ceiling fans were built in the 1860s and were powered by water. Due to the price, and short timeframe necessary to have them, they were not very popular. By the early 1900s electric ceiling fans were brought on the market to a more receptive audience. With the open layouts, numerous windows and use of awnings/shutters, the ceiling fans were a great way to keep the cool air moving once inside the house.

When trying to keep cool this summer, rather than going out and buying the latest gadget, or wasting huge amounts of energy with air conditioners, take a lesson from the Victorians. They were able to stay comfortable without any A/C, and still wore more clothes than you can find on a clearance rack. So don’t let impending summer heat get you worried, we now know the secrets of tolerating the heat, while being as efficient with our energy as we can.

Let me know how you plan on combating the heat this summer!

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