Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Heating and Cooling Of Yesteryears

Do you wonder how people kept themselves warm or cool as the case may be in houses of yesteryears? No one can imagine themselves living in conditions with an air conditioner in summer and a furnace/heater in winter. The first thing that flashes through your mind is,How can I live inside my home when it is so hot or so cold? 

About a century ago, people were accustomed to living without heating and air conditioning units. There was no technology or the HVAC systems that we have and are taken for granted during these past few years. Electricity was also not available and yet, people lived comfortably and remained healthy. Houses were designed to keep cool in summer and warm in winter. To know about the way houses were designed and built hundreds of years ago, take a look at some of the essential features that were addressed by architects.
  • Natural resources – For those who lived centuries ago, the absence of electricity did not pose a problem for keeping warm or cool during the changing seasons. Houses were naturally insulated thanks to the structure and materials used to build them. Every home had a fireplace which was religiously lit at dusk to keep warm. The fireplace would always have sufficient amount of logs that lasted the entire night. The warmth which was derived from the fire would be absorbed by the walls made of stones or bricks, which had strong energy retention capacity to keep the warmth inside and the cold out.  
  • Structure – The structures of old houses speaks a lot about keeping the inhabitants comfortable indoors. The walls were very thick which prevented warm air from seeping out and the cold air from entering inside. Some homes had double walls for extra insulation and it was not an uncommon sight to see people building wooden walls inside and concrete walls outside. The double wall served as an excellent insulator for the home.
  • Bricks – Walls that were built by bricks were thick and very large. Another interesting fact is that bricks take a long time to heat and also a long time to cool. That’s why, during winter months when the house is warmed, bricks can retain the heat without losing it too quickly. This of course functions the other way during summer when hot air is prevented from entering inside.
  • Glass – Glasses were placed in homes all around the south side during the construction process. Sunlight enters the house from the south side so the rays would penetrate through the glass and warm the indoors. This is indirect heat energy from the radiation of the sun’s rays used to keep the house warm and cozy. Temperature inside slowly increases as the warmth of the sun’s rays moves indoors to every area. Drapes and thick curtains are also used to retain heat inside without losing it too quickly.
  • Paint – The difference with painting your home with dark colors compared to that of light colors is that dark colors absorb heat more efficiently and quickly. Light colors reflect sunlight and thus cannot retain the heat from the sun’s rays. That’s why old houses are usually painted with dark colors so that the radiation from the sun is absorbed outdoors and the dark color of the paint locks the heat in.
  • Heat retention methods – To reduce heat transfer indoors, windows play an important role. Cement filling was used to seal the gaps between the window frames to keep warm air inside and prevent cold air from seeping in. This helped in heat retention and decreased air flow between the outside and inside. Ancient History says that the Romans used advanced heat retention methods to keep warm. They used hypocausts which was an under floor heating method where floors were raised above the surface of the ground by pillars with a layer of tiles, a layer of concrete and then another layer of tiles on top. Spaces were then left between them so that smoke or hot air from the furnace would pass through these enclosed areas and then out through the roof. This ensured that there was no pollution in any interior areas of the house but only efficient heating.

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