You Can Thank Austin, Texas for Central Air to Cool Our Summers
It's an understatement to say that the summer of 2023 has been brutal. Actually, no, it is not an understatement, it has been brutal, disrespectful and oppressive. Spending time outside has still been okay to do but only in short bursts because the heat has been dangerous during the peak hours of the day. If it wasn't for our home's air conditioning units, it would be near impossible to remain comfortable inside. Thing is, it wasn't until the 1950s that those outside air conditioning units existed. Here's how central air got started in Austin, Texas.
Air Conditioning Village
Air conditioning was not a new thing in the 1950s. Rooms, not the whole house, would be cooled by a window unit. Central air wasn't even a new thing, it was only reserved for stores or the richest of the rich in their homes. It took a 1953 experiment by the National Association of Home Builders to bring a more affordable cooling option to homes. It was known as Air Conditioned Village and contained 1,100 to 1,400 square foot ranch style homes designed to test different types of shading, attic fans, insulation and more.
They were innovative in the sense of the air conditioning systems, but they were explicitly trying to cover the range of designs and styles that were being built at the time. So it really does highlight both the current trends in residential construction in Austin and in Texas, but also where that could go. - Mid Tex Mod board member Jason John Paul Haskins
22 Homes That Were Built
In total, there were 22 homes built and sold for around $12,000 give or take. These were the first homes with central air that specifically targeted the middle class home buyer. The experiment was so impressive that even a delegation from the Soviet Union (this was the 1950s, mind you, during the height of the Cold War) to check out the home designs (mysanantonio.com).
Something to Actually Thank Austin For
Today, Austin gets the brunt of the jokes about being the only non-Texan city in Texas. But, in this case, we do have to tip our hats to folks in that area at the time for trying out this summer experiment. Without it, we wouldn't have the comfort in our home that we do today.