Kivunei Avir: Which Way is the Wind Blowing?

When buying a new home in Israel, an important consideration  are the directions of exposure (kivunei avir) of the apartment.  As with most issues in Israel, everyone has a strong opinion about which exposures are preferable.  But before we talk about opinions, let’s look at some facts:

  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Presuming there is nothing blocking your window, you will get morning sun in the east and afternoon sun in the west.
  • Since Israel is located north of the equator, a southern exposure will get more sun throughout most of the day than other exposures. Northern exposure will not receive any direct sunlight.
  • The angle of the sun relative to the earth is such that the sun is lower in the sky in the winter and higher in the sky in the summer. That means that at any given time of day, the sun will reach further into your room in the winter months than in the summer.
  • Comfort is a function of temperature, humidity, and air exchange. You’re not going to radically change the temperature of your home unless you have a heating or cooling system. And unless you’re an absolute tree-hugger, it’s not likely that you’ll forego such a system. But if you plan your home such that these systems need not be used frequently, your energy bills will be lower.

With advances in technology, many home buyers came to ignore the importance of exposures. Why worry about exposures when I can control the situation with air conditioning, curtains, and insulated windows?  However, as we began to understand the importance of working with nature rather than controlling it, choosing correct exposures again became an important factor in home design.

Some simple tips when considering exposures:

  1. If you’re afraid of summer heat caused by a southern exposure, a simple roll-up awning can give you the best of all options — roll it up in the winter and you will find that, in Israel, even in January, if the sun is out, it is very strong and can give you plenty of heat. An outside awning is more energy-efficient than a curtain on the inside – an awning prevents the heat from entering the home and the air conditioner will work more efficiently than if the sun’s rays had already entered the inside of the home.
  2. In most areas in Israel, the prevailing winds are north-south. If you only have two exposures, as in many attached homes (town-houses), a north-south exposure can give you good natural air flow.
  3. To improve air flow where the natural orientation does not encourage it, a ceiling fan can be a good solution. However, a ceiling fan is not a magic all-purpose solution. We do NOT recommend ceiling fans in the kitchen or dining room.  A ceiling fan over your dining room table will cool the hot food before it gets eaten. And there are few things less appetizing than a ceiling fan in the kitchen caked with grease and soot which will happen on a kitchen ceiling fan in a short time. A better solution for kitchen ventilation is an exhaust system in the cooking areas.
  4. A ceiling fan in a bedroom or living room can provide air flow that can turn a space from unbearable to pleasantly comfortable. And a ceiling fan will not dry the air as will an air conditioner.
  5. Because space is so critical in Israel, many people  use converted storage rooms or porches as living space. And, as some of these spaces have lowered ceilings, and may not have windows, a ceiling fan is often considered the solution to turn these spaces into usable rooms. But many of these spaces have ceilings lower than standard. A ceiling fan here may be dangerous.
  6. If waking up with sunshine is what will help you have a great day, you may want to think about bedrooms facing east.
  7. A living room patio, which is often used in the afternoon, may not be ideal in the west as the afternoon sun can be very harsh. On the other hand, it may be a mistake to forego the pleasant sea breeze from the west that many locations in Israel enjoy.
  8. As warm air rises and cooler air falls, tall, operable windows (especially in stairways) can help warm air escape and create a pleasant air flow.
  9. One rule of thumb that is helpful in determining the size of windows needed is that any space should have 10 to 15 per cent of its area as glass. A room of ten square meters should have at least one to one and a half square meters of window. And as mentioned earlier, a taller window will give better ventilation (and will be a better source of light, too).

Exposures are not the only matter you need to consider in choosing or planning a home in Israel, but correct choice of exposures can reduce energy bills and create a more natural, pleasant home environment.

Zev Shalev ז”ל contributed to this article.

The contents of this article are designed to provide the reader with general information and not to serve as legal or other professional advice for a particular transaction. Readers are advised to obtain advice from qualified professionals before entering into any transaction.

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