Historically Speaking: Keeping Cool without AC

There are few things more miserable than the AC going out on a hot summer day. So how did folks cope with hot weather at home before the advent of the air conditioner? The answer’s simple: houses were designed a bit differently to better fit the climate and, most importantly, beat the heat.

The Shotgun House

Shotgun houses got their name from their layout—you could hypothetically shoot a shotgun through the front door and it would go all the way through the house and out the back door. One of the biggest benefits of these oblong houses was that they maximized airflow by allowing cross-ventilation through the lined-up doors and windows. This would flush out the stagnant, hot air while encouraging the flow of new, cooler air to help maintain a reasonable temperature.

Wraparound Porches

Wraparound porches not only provided ample space to gather, but also served as a solace away from the indoor heat. People would sit outside on their porches, enjoying the shade and the summer breeze. These porches also cooled down the air directly outside of the home, helping to ensure that the air that trickled in through doors or windows would be colder than the air radiating off of a sunlit porch.


Designed to improve ventilation, cupolas are small structures with windows or vents that sit atop a roof. The vents are angled downward so that the fresh air from outside filters in to provide oxygen for the people and animals inside. As the fresh air enters, heat and moisture escape, keeping things comfortable while also keeping wood and hay dry.

The Dogtrot House

A dogtrot house features a less common design that’s often associated with the South. These houses are distinguished by an open-ended passage or breezeway between two living spaces. The purpose of the hallway is to optimize airflow between the two areas—one being a living space and the other a kitchen or dining room.


Awnings are used not only for aesthetic purposes but also for providing shade, as they prevent sun rays from entering the home. While some sun is appealing, too much can cause the house to warm up to unbearable temperatures in the summertime. As an added benefit, awnings serve as a source of shade on your porch or patio as well.

Transom Windows

Dating back to 14th century Europe, transom windows are set in a horizontal beam above a door frame. In modern day designs, they are mainly decorative, but their original use was to provide ventilation while the door beneath was closed. This was ideal because air could pass through the windows while maintaining the security of the home.

Enter Modern Air Conditioning

Since Willis Carrier invented the electric air conditioner in 1902, home designs have opened up a bit, while transoms, awnings and other features that help keep a space cool have become less popular. Of course, that means when the AC goes out nowadays, things can really heat up inside. That’s where A.N. Roth can help. Since 1866, when Jacob Roth began selling and installing coal and wood-burning stoves, Louisvillians have come to rely on A.N. Roth Company for heating and cooling solutions for their homes and businesses. So next time you’re having HVAC issues, don’t hesitate to CONTACT US so we can bring comfort back home!