It can be hard to imagine a hot Florida summer day without the cooling effects of air conditioning in our vehicles, homes, and work. Yet, for practical purposes, air conditioning systems as we know them today have not really been standard comfort for that long.
What was life like for people who lived in Florida before homes had air conditioning? Let’s take a look back to see what events helped pave the way for modern air conditioner systems. Then we will look at what methods they used to stay cool and survive the heat.
The Mid to Late 1800s
A lot was going on in the mid-1800s. To begin with, Florida went from being a territory of the United States to becoming an actual state on March 3, 1845. Florida was the 27 th state to become part of the growing and expanding U.S.
In 1851, Floridian Dr. John Gorrie was granted a patent for the first-ever ice-making machine. The machine would start to produce ice commercially in just a few short years. His invention would also result in a new appliance for the home: the icebox.
Another new invention that came about in 1882 was the invention of the electric fan. While fans had been around for quite some time, they had to be operated either manually, using steam power, or by burning oil or kerosene.
The Early to Mid-1900s
The first air conditioner was invented in 1902 in New York by engineer Willis Carrier. Mr. Carrier was looking for an effective way to remove humidity from a building used to for publishing. Inadvertently, his invention not only solved that problem but also created artificially cooled air to help keep workers cool, too.
In 1904, those attending the World’s Fair in St. Louis were in for a new treat: the concept of indoor cooling. The Missouri State Building was cooled using Mr. Carrier’s invention.
Mr. Carrier redefined his invention in 1922 when he developed and created new centrifugal chillers. These new chillers improved the efficiency of the air conditioner, while at the same time reduced the costs to build cooling systems.
In 1928, chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants are synthesized at General Motors by Robert McNary, Thomas Midgley, and Albert Henne during a project for Frigidaire. The result of their efforts was the creation of the first non-flammable refrigerant chemicals that could be used in refrigerators and in air conditioners.
Frigidaire released the first cooling units for rooms in 1929, largely thanks to the creation of CFCs. General Electric also designed their own cooling units and built 32 of them between 1930 and 1931.
In 1931, Frigidaire expanded upon its AC production and developed the first-ever central cooling systems for homes. In the same year, two inventors, J.Q. Sherman and H.H. Schultz, filed for a patent for window air conditioning units, which were released in 1932.
The creation of a low-cost window air conditioner unit occurred in 1947, thanks to engineer Henry Galson. That same year, 43,000 of these new units were sold to homeowners.
The Mid to Late 1900s
Advances in air conditioning designs continued to improve in the mid-1900s. New homes were being built with central air conditioning systems . The prices on window units continued to drop, allowing people with older homes but no ductwork to also cool their homes.
In the 1960s, most homes had either central air conditioning or window units to help stay cool year round. By the end of the 1960s, people were starting to migrate to new areas of the country. Two of the states that saw the most population growth during this time were Florida and Arizona.
Then the energy crisis of the 1970s hit. The U.S. Department of Energy developed different programs that required energy improvements be made in appliances, including air conditioners. Since that time, improvements have gradually been made to make air conditioning more energy efficient.
In the 1990s, concerns over greenhouse gases like CFC began to become more mainstream. Fortunately, other synthetic coolants were able to be invented that are eco-friendly and still help keep people’s homes cool.
By 2000, air conditioning units being built were more energy-efficient and eco-friendly compared to units built in 1990. On average, the units built in 2000 were as much as 50% more energy efficient. These improvements have continued through today, with 2018 units being more energy efficient compared to models built in 2008.
How People Stayed Cool Without Air Conditioning
As we saw, the widespread of use of air conditioning by homeowners did not really start to happen until the 1960s. Even though air conditioning was essentially available since 1930 for homeowners, it was still an expensive luxury most people could not afford. Instead, they turned to other ways to stay cool.
Homes built during the mid-1800s to mid-1900s were designed differently. One key feature was the use of high vaulted ceilings. On hotter days, the warmer air would rise and collect at the ceiling level and go out vents or windows. By having higher ceilings, the air below would be cooler.
Another feature found in homes during this time were windows on opposite sides from each other. By opening windows on opposite sides of the home, it created a natural breeze and air flow. In two-story homes, people would open all of the upstairs windows to create air flow and allow the heat from the lower floor to escape.
One key feature found in homes from this period were wide, long, and covered front and back porches on the north and south sides of the homes. The porches provided sufficient shade from the sun and were much cooler than staying indoors on hot summer days.
Homeowners also planted trees on the east and west sides of the home to provide shade. Mature trees would help stop direct sunlight from shining into the home and help keep it somewhat cooler inside.
In the evenings, it was common for people to sleep downstairs, if they had a two-story home, because the upstairs bedrooms were too warm. In homes with basements, these were used more frequently in the summer months since they were naturally cooler.
Aside from how homes were built, people became resourceful to escape the heat. People would go to the movies more often in the summer as most theaters in the 1920s and onward had central air conditioning. They could enjoy watching the latest Hollywood films in the cool indoor air and get a brief reprieve from hot summer days and nights.
In the 1920s, the prices of electric fans dropped and were much more affordable. Many homes started using window box fans and ceiling fans to help create air flows to cool the indoor air.
Another effective cooling method was to make a swamp cooler using the scientific principle of evaporative cooling. People would hang up wet sheets and clothing inside the home. As air blew on it, either naturally from a cross breeze in the home or from fans, it would cause the water to evaporate into the air and lower the surrounding air temperature.
People also would order extra ice for their icebox and place one block into a steel tub. They would set up a fan next to the tub and turn it on. As the ice melted, it released cold air. By using the fan to circulate this air in the room, it essentially became an air conditioner thanks to evaporative cooling.
In addition to these methods, people would take sheets and clothing and place them in the freezer to cool them down before using them. Some people would even freeze wet sheets before hanging them up as part of their indoor swamp cooler to make the cooling effects last longer.
In the 1950s and the 1960s, attic fans were very popular. These types of fans were also referred to as whole house fans because they were installed in the attic. They would suck up the hot air out of the home and vent it outdoors through the attic. Even after central and window air conditioning became more standard, attic fans were still used to help remove hot air from homes.
Eventually, as air conditioning systems became more affordable, people did not have to worry about coming up with creative ways to remain cool on hot summer days. The only time they would have to worry is when their air conditioner stopped working.
How to Stay Cool Year Round Today
Homeowners today rely on their air conditioning systems to stay cool year round. Even in the middle of winter in Central Florida, we can have periods of heat with temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s. One mistake homeowners make is not performing semi-annual maintenance on their home’s heating and cooling system.
Skipping maintenance is not good because it can lead to unexpected breakdowns and emergency service calls. In addition, systems that are not well-maintained have a much shorter lifespan and have to be replaced more often.
To ensure your home remains cool and you do not have any surprise problems with your home’s air conditioning, please feel free to call Air Rescue at (813) 612-5600 to schedule preventative maintenance today!
We also offer heat and air conditioning repair services, new HVAC system installations, air duct cleaning, repair and replacement services , and more for homes and businesses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and the surrounding areas.
Aside from your home’s heating and air conditioning (AC) system, two “accessories” some homeowners use are humidifiers and dehumidifiers. These optional components provide different benefits to ensure indoor air quality is maintained year round. They help enhance the efficiency of your home heating and cooling system, as well as help keep ducts cleaner so you need less frequent air duct cleaning .
The objective of both humidifiers and dehumidifiers is to regulate and control the amount of relative humidity in the air inside the home. Ideally, you want to have indoor air humidity levels between 35% and 50% relative humidity. In the wintertime, you will want the humidity levels to be closer to 50%, while in the warmer months you want to keep the percentage of humidity in the high 30s to low 40s.
Let’s take a look at what humidifiers and dehumidifiers are, the benefits they provide, and why you need one for your Tampa Bay Area home.
What Is a Humidifier?
A humidifier helps add humidity to indoor air. It is perfect for dry air conditions that can cause humidity levels to drop below 35% relative humidity. There are small units that work well in small, individual rooms. You will also find larger units that help humidify multiple rooms or bigger areas in open floor plans. In addition, there are humidifiers that can be connected directly to your home’s central heating system to humidify the entire home.
What Are the Benefits of a Humidifier?
During the colder winter months, the relative humidity in outdoor air drops significantly. This drop also occurs inside your home. As the humidity levels drop, it can cause a variety of problems, from dry skin to colds and flu. Using a humidifier offers these benefits:
- Helps keep skin soft and moist. If you notice your skin cracking, peeling, or feeling itchy in the winter, you most likely have low humidity levels.
- Helps keep indoor plants healthy. Even your houseplants can suffer from reduced humidity levels in the winter. While they do get some moisture when you water them, they also draw in water from the surrounding air. If you notice your plants do not seem happy in the wintertime, it could be caused by insufficient humidity in the air.
- Helps reduce the spread of illnesses. Bacteria and viruses are unable to spread as easily in humid air. This is why people rarely get a cold or flu in the summer.
- Helps prevent sinus infections/problems. If you have sinus problems or get regular sinus infections in the winter, increasing the amount of humidity in the air can help. As you breathe in the humidified air, it restores moisture to the nasal and sinus passages.
- Increases recovery time should you get sick. In the event you do get a cold, flu, or sinus infection, using a humidifier can help shorten the time you are sick. Symptoms like sore throat, running nose, coughing, and sneezing are also reduced with higher humidity levels.
- Makes it feel warmer inside on those cold and brisk days. Dry air will feel colder than it really is because of the lack of humidity. Humidifying the air helps add moisture and this also helps make you feel more comfortable. As such, you may not need to keep the thermostat set as high and could reduce your heating bills.
- Eliminates static electricity from the air. If you have problems with static electricity in the wintertime, this is because there is not enough humidity in the air. Using a humidifier will get rid of static electricity and those surprise shocks!
Why Do I Need a Humidifier in Tampa?
Tampa and the Tampa Bay Area tend to be warm with humid air conditions most of the year, although, from November through mid-to-late February, temperatures can become unseasonably cold without any warning.
Whenever the jet stream drops and pulls the cold northern air down from Canada, it can reach all the way to the Tampa Bay Area. If it remains around for several days, the humidity levels quickly drop.
In addition, with cooler winter temperatures and shorter days, the humidity levels will also drop on their own. This is why an 80-degree day in January feels much more comfortable than an 80-degree day in April.
This past winter, temperatures were much colder than they have been in quite some time. If you experienced a shock when you opened your January heating bill, you definitely should consider getting a humidifier before next winter—not to mention all the other benefits it can provide to improving the indoor air quality during the wintertime in your home.
What Is a Dehumidifier?
A dehumidifier helps remove humidity from indoor air. It is well-suited for humid conditions where indoor humidity levels are higher than 50% relative humidity. There are small dehumidifiers that can be used in a single room and are perfect for small rooms in the home. There are also larger capacity dehumidifiers that work well in open floor plans and larger rooms. You will even find whole-home dehumidifiers that can be connected to or built-in as part of your home’s AC system.
What Are the Benefits of a Dehumidifier?
Dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air which provides many benefits for homeowners. Most modern portable units are quieter than previous generations. While some of these units do require you to empty the water pan when it is full, others can be connected directly to a discharge drain. You also do not have to worry about emptying the water pan on whole-home systems.
Some of the more common benefits gained include:
- Better indoor air quality. It is important to maintain the right humidity levels in the home year-round. During the warmer spring, summer, and fall months, humidity levels are much higher, so the air inside can also be more humid.
- Reduces and eliminates musty odors from the home. If your home smells musty, this is a sign you have high humidity indoors. Regularly using a dehumidifier can help get rid of this odor and make your home smell better.
- Helps alleviate allergies. If you suffer from allergies, higher humidity levels can sometimes trigger reactions. Lowering the amount of humidity will help those with allergies to dust, pet dander, pollen, dust mites, mold, and mildew.
- Helps reduce asthmatic symptoms in people with asthma, as well as other respiratory conditions. Increased humidity levels can irritate respiratory conditions, including asthma. Reducing humidity levels makes it easier to breathe and avoid having an attack.
- Reduces the likelihood of mold and mildew in the home. Mold and mildew thrive in moist, damp, and humid environments. This is why both are typically found primarily in bathrooms. Yet, if you have problems with mold and mildew in other rooms of the home, you will want to reduce humidity levels to resolve this issue.
- Slows the growth and spread of dust mites. Dust mites are small microscopic creatures that feed on pet dander and dead skin cells. They thrive and increase in numbers when there are higher humidity levels inside the home. Reducing the amount of humidity in the air helps reduce their numbers.
- Helps reduce condensation problems within the home. If you notice condensation on your walls, windows, or other areas inside the home, this is often caused by the cooled indoor air reacting with the humidity in the air. As it cools, it turns from a water vapor into a water.
- Makes you feel cooler when indoors. Removing excess humidity will make the indoor air feel cooler naturally since a dehumidifier does help cool a room . When you feel cooler, you may not need to turn down the thermostat as much and could save on your cooling costs.
Why Do I Need a Dehumidifier in Tampa?
Tampa and the entire Tampa Bay Area are next to the Gulf with numerous inlets and other freshwater rivers, marshes, and streams nearby. Being near a constant source of water typically results in higher humidity levels from the early spring through the late fall.
Not only is the outdoor air more humid, but also the air inside your home. A good sign humidity levels have risen indoors is if the air feels “stuffy” even while the air conditioner is cooling the home. If you want to come home to better quality air that is not “stuffy” after a long day at work, then you will want to get a dehumidifier for your home.
Air Rescue recommends a whole-home dehumidifier solution for homes in the Tampa Bay Area. A whole-house solution makes it easy to remove humidity from multiple rooms more efficiently compared to portable units.
To learn more about humidifiers and dehumidifiers for your home, as well as heating and AC maintenance and repairs, and air duct cleaning, repairs, and maintenance , please feel free to contact Air Rescue at 813.375.9982 today! We have been serving the entire Bay Area since 1946 and offer 24-hour emergency services.
It is worth noting, if you have air leaks around your windows, window treatments cannot stop or prevent this type of problem. Instead, you will need to have your windows resealed using caulking or weather-stripping to stop and prevent any noticeable air leaks. Even here in Florida, it is a good idea to reseal your windows annually as the hot sun can cause caulk and weather-stripping to crack and peel.
Exterior Windows Treatments
There are a few different types of exterior window treatments you can add to your home to improve the efficiency of your air conditioning. Some of these can also improve the exterior appearance of your home—so you get a two-for-one bonus with these!
- Closeable Shutters: Window shutters on the exterior of the home highlight the window and are a great accessory to give your home more charm. Closeable shutters allow you to pull them shut on windows that get direct sunlight and stop the UV rays and solar heat from transferring through the glass window panes and into the home.
- Windows Screens: Window screens can help diffuse solar heat and UV rays. The mesh of the screen should be made from a high-quality material. To gain this benefit for the full window, select screens that cover the entire window.
- Awnings: Awnings can be added above windows to block out sunlight and serve as a shade. Awnings come in different materials, from canvas and metals to synthetics. There are even awnings that use solar panels for the shade. Not only are you reducing solar heat gain into the home, but you are also generating electricity for your home at the same time!
More traditional awnings can be installed with adjustable arms. These allow you to adjust the angle of the awning, as well as retract the awnings when you don’t want to shade the windows.
- Roof/Window Overhangs: If you are building a new home, consider adding overhangs over windows that will get direct sunlight. Overhangs are easiest and less expensive to add during new home construction. For existing homes, making this type of renovation can be rather costly, so awnings are often a more cost-effective way to add overhangs.
- Storm Panels: This option allows you to stop heat gain by essentially blocking out the light from coming into the home. Storm panels aren’t as attractive as closeable shutters. However, most people already have these for their homes in case of a bad tropical storm or hurricane.
Interior Window Treatments
Inside your home, there are just as many different options from which to choose to help block out the bright sunlight and maintain cooler indoor temperatures. Best of all, you can use more than one of these on your windows to increase the benefits and efficiency of your air conditioning!
- Insulated Cellular Shades : This type of window treatment is normally white on the outward facing side and can be any color you want on the interior side. The white reflects back the bright sunlight and reduces heat gain inside the home. However, the shades must be partially or fully closed so the amount of natural light coming into the room is diminished.
- Curtains and Drapes : If you have curtains or drapes you can fully close and open, these can help keep your home cooler. The amount of benefit they provide largely depends on the type of materials they are made from, along with their color. For instance, for maximum benefit, the backside of drapes and curtains should be white.
- Thermal Window Shades: These are similar to conventional window shades, except they are specifically designed to control the amount of heat transfer into the home. You can find reversible styles that are white on one side and a dark color on the other side.
White should face outward when you want to reduce heat transfer into the home. The dark side is used when you want to increase heat transfer into the home during those brief cold snaps we experience.
- Windows Blinds: The quality of the blinds will determine how effective they are at blocking out heat. Thin, plastic blinds are not as effective as thicker wooden styles. Aside from helping keep out unwanted heat, blinds do allow you to control the amount of sunlight coming into the room.
- Window Films: You can add different types of reflective window films to transform your windows into heat blocking windows. They are ideal for Florida homes since we tend to use our air conditioners almost year round. The thing to remember with films is they will also block out any heat gain during the few, short cooler periods we experience in the Bay Area.
- Insulated Window Panels: These panels clip or snap into the frame of the window. They can be full sized and cover the entire window or half sized and only cover the upper or lower section. They typically consist of a foam core that is covered in some sort of material to make them more attractive.
Just like insulated cellular shades, they will block out all sunlight entering the home. However, they are inexpensive whether you purchase a kit, make your own, or custom order them for each window in your home. The only drawback is you will need somewhere to store the panels when you are not using them.
- Decorative Interior Shutters: You can have decorative, closeable shutters installed inside your home on your windows. This style of shutters can be opened so you have access to the window or be partially or fully closed. Many styles have adjustable louvers you can move to control the amount of light coming into the room while they are closed.
- Quilted Roller Shades: This style of shade has a soft cloth or another type of material on its exterior. There can also be several layers of some form of batting used in its design. The exterior facing side should be white or a light color to reflect sunlight back and help control heat gain into the room. The interior side can be any color you desire to fit with the décor and color scheme in the room.
By lowering the amount of heat transferred into the home, your air conditioning will have to run less often to maintain your desired indoor temperature. Not only will your home be easier to keep cool, but you could also notice a reduction of your electric bills.
Will Window Treatments Block Out the Cold, Too?
Stopping cold air from getting into your Tampa Bay Area home when we have a cold snap is also possible with certain styles of window treatments. Curtains, drapes, shades, insulated panels, and storm panels can all help. However, as mentioned previously, if you have air leaks and your windows need sealing, then these treatments will not be as effective.
Other Ways to Boost the Efficiency of Your Air Conditioning
Choosing the right window treatments is just one cost-efficient method for increasing the efficiency of cooling your home. When it comes to your home cooling system, there are several things you should do to further increase its efficiency, as follows:
- Check your air filter monthly and change it when it is dirty.
- Have your ducts sealed to stop air leaks.
- Schedule annual AC maintenance and tune-ups .
- Have a modern, digital programmable thermostat installed.
- Have a new air conditioner installed in your unit is more than 15 years old.
To have any of the above services performed, or if you have questions about AC maintenance and what services your air conditioner needs, please feel free to contact Air Rescue at (813) 612-5600 today!
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