Persian Wind Catchers

For our first exploration let’s visit ancient Persia and the unique wind catchers.  Ancient Persia was full of hot days, cool nights, and low humidity.  They needed ways to tame the weather for their own comfort as well as for the storage of water and food.   There were a few simple methods such as: building their homes out of thick mud to increase the insulation and building everything tall to create shade during the day.  A more complex solution was to use nature’s benefits to moderate temperatures with something called wind catchers. There were different types of wind catchers in different locations due to their varying climates.  Let’s take a look at some of these concepts.

Air Intake Designs

The first design we are looking at creates the effect that an electric fan has in your home during the summer: it doesn’t actually cool the air, but it does cause airflow, which makes a cooling effect.  This type of wind catcher consists of a tall tower with one opening facing the direction the wind most often blows toward.  The wind enters the opening and is forced downward and into the main area of the building.  This starts a cycle of moving air throughout the building.

Wind Initiated Outflow designs

There are types of wind catchers that transfer heat and rush cold air through the building.  One type is wind powered and works with an underground water canal called a qanat.  The tower has an opening facing away from the source of the wind.  Due to the moving air outside, the inside air is drawn up and out.  With the air leaving there is a decrease in pressure near the exit and air is pulled in from the other end where there is an opening to the qanat.  This new air is cool from the water, and it cools the rest of the building as it travels through.

Hot Air Escape Designs

When there is no wind blowing there is still a type of wind catcher that is applicable.  This type uses the difference in pressure from hot air and cold air to cool the building.  Since hot air is less dense it rises and will want to escape out a vent in a tall tower.  While this design sounds simple it can cool lower levels to almost a frigid state.


Now that you understand wind catchers you might want to see them for yourself.  A common place to look would be Egypt or Iran.  I would suggest visiting Yazn, Iran, because that is where some of the tallest and most impressive wind catchers can be found.  However, you may not need to travel far because similar towers can be found across the globe today due to their green design.  The visitor center at Zion National Park has added a wind tower with many similarities to one of the ancient Persian air intake designs.

I hadn’t know anything about Persian wind catchers previously, and I learned a lot from the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies.  It’s amazing how technology from so long ago can be relevant in new developments today.

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4 Responses to Persian Wind Catchers

  1. sangmin402 says:

    It was interesting to read about how Persia deal with the hot weather. I never paid attention to the fact that ancient civilizations had great technologies to deal with the weather. I clicked the link of the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies and saw that the they created ice and stored it. I wandered if other civilizations also had this kind of technology because ice in hot weather empires is crucial. In the present, we use the refrigerator to keep our food. But back in those days, civilizations had no such thing. So I just got curious how did they keep their food.

    • jaclynckrogh says:

      It is funny to think of all the conveniences we have with food today due to modern technology. The lifestyle of past peoples was heavily centered on getting food for the next meal. I know salting and drying meat were popular preservation systems in some other warmer climates where freezing was difficult.

  2. joekuhn93 says:

    Jaclyn K,

    I enjoyed your post and how you employed something from the past that applies to mechanical engineering to today. Your blog topics deal with traveling, which is particularly unique when compared to other posts in the class.

    I have a question that might not be able to be answered, but I’ll ask anyways. When the Persians created these air intake designs in their homes, they allowed an opening so that the air outside could enter in from the top of the structure to the lower levels. This is interesting to me because I could not help but wonder if more than just air would flow through these openings (in possible forms such as sand, debris, rain). Do they have any evidence of the sort?

    Even though I am not one who is interested in traveling overseas to another country (other than Europe possibly), you make it convincing to visit areas such as Iran in order to see ancient marvels of engineering and how they were adapted to fit the needs of the people in the present. I am looking forward in seeing how mechanical engineering developed and progressed throughout different parts of the world over time!


    • jaclynckrogh says:

      Thank you, I’m interested in it and I hope the uniqueness makes it interesting for others.

      While I don’t have all the details, I do have a short answer for you. Some of the openings had slats on them to prevent large debris from entering. The slats would not protect against sand, but the height of the tower could affect the amount of sand getting into the system.

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