How Air Conditioning Changed How and Where We Live

air conditioning image

Image credit Jan Tik/Flickr

Rebecca Rosen writes in the Atlantic about a subject dear to our hearts- the dramatic effect of air conditioning on our house design, the things that we do, and even our patterns of settlement.

Before air conditioning, in a bygone and surely less comfortable era, people employed all sorts of strategies for keeping cool in the heat. Houses were designed with airflow in mind -- more windows, higher ceilings..... In addition, many homes had porches where families could spend a hot day, and also sleeping porches with beds where they could ride out a hot night. Many home designs took passive solar design principles into account, even if they didn't name them as such.

All of those features disappeared as designers got lazy; why think about such things when you can just throw air conditioning in and just turn a thermostat? Rosen also notes that not only did the air conditioner change how we live, in changed where we live.

Many of the central changes in our society since World War II would not have been possible were air conditioning not keeping our homes and workplaces cool. Florida, Southern California, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and New Mexico all experienced above-average growth during the latter half of the 20th century -- hard to imagine without air conditioning. In fact, the Sunbelt's share of the nation's populations exploded from 28 percent in 1950 to 40 percent in 2000. And hubs of business and technology in hot regions of the globe, such as Dubai, may never have taken off.

More in the Atlantic

I was interviewed on the NPR show All Things Considered, discussing air conditioning; listen to Innovative Ideas To Keep Cool, Save Energy

air conditioned nightmare quotes

See all my favourite quotes about air conditioning in Quotes of the Day: On the Evils of Air Conditioning
More on Air Conditioning
The Deluded World of Air Conditioning Revisited

Follow me on Twitter! @lloydalter

Related Content on