Beth G. Kopin
Inches to Metric: Zionism Through Design

Inches to Metric: Buying a Home in Israel #2b-What?

Our living room. Notice soffit on ceiling, houses lighting and speakers.

What do you need in an apartment?

It’s not an obvious question, most home buyers are clueless… There are many striking differences in building standards/amenities between those living in Israel and everyone else.

Storage? New apartments NEVER come with closets. No: entry, linen, bathroom, bedroom, or food pantry closet. Consider yourself lucky if you get a storage room in the building. It’s a huge plus if you find an apartment (especially new) with some or all of the above.

Water heating system? Most of Israel relies on solar (heated from the sun) for their limited daily supply of hot water. Ask homeowners in Israel how many daily hot showers their apartment gets. If your solar is tied to the buildings system you seldom get a hot shower. Some contractors are putting in natural gas heating systems which gives a hot shower within seconds. That is what we use.

Water? Water quality is different in Israel, most is desalinized. It is harsher, tastes different, and reacts differently to things as simple as shampoo, washing machines, etc. You need a good filter for your incoming water from the main supply then another attached to your tap. Tip… in addition use a filtered water jug to fill the coffee pot and electric tea kettle.

Heated/cooled?  The winters are wet and cold in Jerusalem. Our winter lasts from mid November through April. You need a good heating system in your home. Most apartments come with radiators, never with HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning). Some people remove the radiators  and hang individual heating/cooling combo units, but the temperature is never even. Hanging individual units on walls was a necessity. Centralized HVAC was previously not an option.

The current version of central HVAC consists of using individual units with a central control. Upscale homes hide the units in closets and soffits/dropped ceilings in each room. This adds enormous expense in the way of soffits, mechanical, duct work, hoses, electric, and controls…and takes up valuable space. I was designing a large home in Jerusalem approximately 7500 sq ft. on three floors. The HVAC guy insisted on using individual units in each room. I thought he was insane… I lost that fight!

In the US we zone areas for heating and cooling. Some contractors in Israel are starting to use single or multiple zoned systems. We used a single zoned HVAC system and underfloor heating, preferring the floor heating to the forced air in the winter. It feels great underfoot and spreads even heat throughout the home.

Lighting? Typical apartments come with a central lightbulb hanging from a cord in the middle of each room. All units are built with concrete ceilings. The way to add extra lights/cans is to build soffits, which are beautiful when designed properly. Soffits can hide/house: lights, HVAC systems, and speakers which is what we did then added wall sconces, chandeliers, and track lighting. You need to be creative.

Electricity? Israeli homes come with basic electric. When looking to buy ask the realtor  “Could the electric panel handle simultaneous usage of a washing machine, dishwasher and blow dryer?” Most homeowners in Israel have to be careful when using multiple appliances. Upgrading your electric capacity is possible but you need to know to ask!

Appliances?…There is a huge trend/temptation to bring US appliances to Israel, the cost is half in the US. Only import US appliances if the kitchen in Israel is large. US brands are considerably larger than European brands. Service and parts for US appliances are tricky, there are specialists in Israel who service US brands, (an entire industry). Replacement parts from the states take time, and US companies no longer are required to make replacement parts after seven years. If/when something breaks down after year seven you may be stuck.

Tip…Most of the world including Israel uses 220 current, the US uses 110. People who ship US appliances to Israel in 110 current need to use transformers (which on occasion burn out). There are also on occasion brown/black outs you need to protect the appliances from surges with surge protectors.

We bought European brands and selected two of the largest capacity interior  60cm/24″ wide ovens we could find. Most homes come with the capacity to house only one. We selected a separate frig and freezer each 24″ placing them side by side, decided against a built-in ice maker, possible water line jamming (salt build up), we buy ice.

Stay tuned…Never assume anything!

About the Author
Beth Kopin is a trained interior architectural designer from the US. She has experience in the design/construction world that spans thirty years, and works and lives in both Chicago and Arnona, Jerusalem. She commutes regularly between the two cities. She brings her work ethic, training and US standards to Israel. Beth has surrounded herself with extremely talented trades. Her design team developed a way to CAD (computer aided design) plans in both US and metric standards. This enables both the US born clients (some of which live in Israel, some as second homes), and Israeli trades to better understand the plans, ensuring a more fluid communication. She is able to help bridge the gap of cultural differences, manage expectations, relate often confusing metric standards, as well as all the basic elements of designing a beautiful and functional home.,
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