If you’ve ever stepped outdoors during the sweltering summer months and wondered how people survived before the invention of air conditioning, this post is for you. Turns out, air conditioning is an easy, but not the only, way to keep your living space at a livable temperature. Here’s a look at some other ways people keep their homes cool. In the age of global warming and rising energy costs, these different architectural ideas often referred to as “passive cooling” may become popular again.

Chilling with Stepwells

Think of how areas closer to water tend to be cooler than those with no water nearby. This works because when the water evaporates it provides a cooling effect. Stepwells have been common in India for centuries as a way to keep spaces cool. This generally requires a small body of water on the property, either surrounding it or below it. A similar architectural technique is adding small pools inside the home, such as under the stairs, or creating a surround of water around the home. For an eco-friendly approach, many modern homeowners opt for recycled water as well.

Creating a Breeze with Wind Catchers

Wind catchers are very common in the Middle East where temperatures are frequently over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and air conditioning is not very common. These literally work to catch the wind and improve airflow inside your home. There are three main ways to make this architectural idea work, including a chimney-like structure and two kinds of tunnels.

With the chimney, there is an opening that is activated by wind and it pulls air down into the home. With the tunnel, natural breezes are created and the hot air exits the home through the tunnel. With the second type of tunnel, the air is cooled in the underground space and hot air is pulled out. The cool air is pushed into the living space. All three of these have been adapted for modern architecture.

Shading for Cooler Temperatures

It is common knowledge that putting plenty of tall shade trees around the southern and western exposures of a home helps to keep the internal temperature lower. In some newer homes, builders are extending this idea to include placing moss and small plants on the roofs of homes to reduce internal temperatures. Another traditional idea that is regaining acceptance is shading windows with balconies and extended roofs or awnings.

If you are building a new home, consider adding passive cooling elements to your design. For the rest of us, keeping our air conditioning system in good working order is the best way to save money on air conditioning this summer.

Photo source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windcatcher