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Ancient Air Conditioning: 3 Things You Didn’t Know

Ancient brass cooling fan

Did you know that the first modern air conditioner was invented in 1902 by Willis Carrier for a publishing company? Thirty years later, the window-unit air conditioner was created, although it’d be decades before it was affordable enough for most folks. However, by 1953, more than 1 million residential HVAC units were sold.

Nowadays, we simply accept it as part of our lives. We go to the best air conditioning companies we can find in our area for installation, and go to air quality specialists to make sure our units run smoothly. It’s pretty hard to imagine life without our trustworthy air conditioning services.

Yet, that’s exactly how people lived for centuries… or was it? Just because the modern concept of air conditioning hadn’t been invented yet doesn’t mean ancient people didn’t have ways to cool down.

The Romans

In the 3rd Century, Roman Emperor Elagabalus dispatched 1,000 slaves to the mountains to get snow for his gardens during one particularly hot summer. Eventually, they invented aqueducts that channeled faraway waters into the homes of citizens to cool down brickwork and lower temperatures.


Ding Huan, an artisan and inventor of the Han Dynasty, invented a manual-powered rotary fan with seven wheels in the 2nd Century. Then, 500 years later, Tang Dynasty Emperor Xuanzong had the appropriately titled cool Hall built in his palace, where water-powered rotary fan wheels chilled everything out.

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt had wind catchers that — as the name implies — caught prevailing winds with internal vanes, which then funneled the cool air down to the lower levels, while simultaneously extracting the warm air to effectively cool everything off.

Fortunately, we have residential HVAC units nowadays to help keep us cool. If you know of any other ancient air conditioning units, feel free to share what you know in the comments.


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