Can you ever imagine living without your air conditioner in summer? The first thing that flashes through your mind is, “It’s so hot. How can I live without an air conditioner?” How about the winter without a heating system in place?
People did live without air conditioning systems as close as about a hundred years ago. They lived in houses that had no HVAC systems or the technology that we have, and take for granted, today. There was no electricity to help them keep warm or cool and yet they lived comfortably and remained healthy too. Their houses were warm in winter and cool in summer.
One important thing about the houses of yesteryears is their structure. The way these houses were built speaks a lot about the ways to live comfortably in winter. The first thing is that these houses had been very thick walls that helped to retain indoor warmth from seeping out. Similarly, the walls also helped to keep the cold air from entering into the house.
Sometimes, homes had double walls to keep the indoors warm. It was not uncommon to see people building a concrete wall on the outside and have a wooden one inside. This double wall served as an excellent insulator.
The bricks used in house built a century ago, were large and thick. This made the walls thick, and prevented indoor air from moving out. Typically, bricks take a long time to heat and also a long time to cool. Thus, in winter, when the indoors are kept warm, the bricks once warmed, do not lose their warmth quickly. This works both ways.
The absence of electricity was not a problem for the people of the yester years. They used natural resources to keep warm in winter. Almost every house had a large fireplace in each room and the lighting a fire would be a daily ritual at dusk. Each fire place would have sufficient logs to last the entire night. Flames from these logs would provide warmth in the room. This warmth would be absorbed with the walls, which would either be made of thick bricks or stone.
Both stone and bricks have strong energy retention properties that helps keep the indoors warmer and for longer periods of time too.
People who lived in places that were cold, painted their homes with dark colors. Dark colors absorb heat quicker and more efficiently that light colors. As that radiation from the sun warms that outdoors, the dark color paint absorbs that the heat and retains it as these colors do not reflect sunlight as light colors do.
In the yesteryears, people used a lot of glass in the construction of houses. They would usually place large amounts of glass on or around the south side of the house. This means that the glass will be in the sunlight most time of the day. The rays of the sun would penetrate into the house and warm the indoors. Radiation from the sun gets converted to heat energy that warms the entire room. The heat slowly moves further indoors and warms the entire house. The result is warmth and increased indoor temperature.
These houses usually used thick and dark curtains to prevent heat loss.
Heat retention methods
Sometimes, windows can also help in reducing heat transfer from the indoors. Some house would have cement fillings in the gap between the window frames. This would result in decreased air flow and thus heat retention.
History says that Romans had an advanced way of heating their homes. They used underfloor heating which they called hypercaust. This hypercaust would get its heat from wood fire.