Is your air conditioner’s sound disrupting your comfort? Do you fee irritated by it at night when all you need is silence for a good night’s sleep? Don’t worry. You are not alone!
Many people find loud AC sounds annoying and would do anything to give their ears some relief.
And it’s not just psychological. Believe it or not, being exposed to loud sounds day in and day out can damage your hearing.
In this article, you will find tried and tested ways to quiet down that persistent buzz that keeps you bothered all the time.
Why Are Loud AC Sounds Bad for You?
While some may say worrying about air conditioner sound is pointless, there is increasing evidence that loud, persistent noises can permanently damage your hearing.
Loud noise can damage the cells in the inner ear. The worst part is that damage to the inner ear cell is usually permanent.
Eighty-five decibels for eight hours is generally considered the safe limit for humans. As the sound level increases, the acceptable listening time decreases.
For example, you can only listen to 100 decibels (the sound of a subway train) for 15 minutes a day.
Air conditioner decibel ratings vary a lot. A new, very quiet AC may only produce a sound of 25 decibels. A typical low-end air conditioner can create a noise level anywhere between 78 to 82 decibels. While not very high, hearing this sound level for longer periods can damage the ear. For this reason, you must take steps to minimize unwanted air conditioner sounds.
Routine Air Conditioner Sounds vs. Performance Issues
Your air conditioner can produce a variety of sounds. Some noises may indicate a deeper performance issue. On the other hand, some air conditioner sounds (like airflow), while annoying, are perfectly harmless.
As a general rule, a steady blowing sound or a hum should not concern you much. However, if you hear any banging, whistling, or bubbling noises, it is time to call your HVAC technician.
Read more about disturbing air conditioner noises and how to fix them here.
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Ideal Air Conditioner Sound Level
An average conversation produces a sound level anywhere between 40-60 decibels. This should feel same as quiet library sounds or like the sound of an electric toothbrush. Most people do not want their air conditioners to be louder than an average conversation. Thus, you should aim for your air conditioner sound level to be anywhere between 40-60 decibels at the most. A quiet air conditioner has a sound level below 40 decibels. As impossible as that sounds, there are air conditioners that only have a sound level of 19 decibels (equal to someone whispering from five feet away).
How to Decrease Air Conditioner Sound Level?
If your unit isn’t the quietest and you are looking to reduce its sound level, look no further.
Here are nine practical tips to reduce air conditioner sounds:
1. Choose the Optimal Location for Installation
If you are installing a new HVAC unit, consult a professional to pick the optimal location. For maximum sound reduction, have the contractor install it away from rooms and bedrooms you use frequently. Moreover, have it installed away from air ducts or narrow hallways. The sound will bounce off the walls and ducts, leading to sound amplification and echoing. Similarly, if you’re installing a mini-split, try to keep the condenser away from the windows.
2. Level Your Outdoor Condenser Pad
If your outdoor condenser pad is uneven or unsteady, it can cause a vibration whenever you turn on your air conditioner. This vibration can increase the sound level your air conditioner produces. Make sure your outdoor condenser pad is level and stable.
3. Use an AC Sound Blanket
A sound blanket is an easy and inexpensive way to reduce air conditioner sound immediately. Most brands provide information about which sound blanket fits over their condenser unit snugly. However, if you cannot find a corresponding AC sound blanket, you can go for a universal sound blanket.
There is a common misconception that using a sound blanket will somehow reduce the air conditioner’s efficiency or cause it to overheat. In reality, it is the opposite. Sound blankets encourage air circulation and insulate the condenser unit, helping it maintain a more consistent temperature.
4. Install Sound Barriers
You can create a sound barrier by installing a fence around the outdoor condenser unit. Installing any barrier around the condenser unit can muffle the sound coming from it. However, there are a few things you must consider.
Firstly, make sure the fence is of a material that is not prone to reverberation, preferably wood. Secondly, leave at least 2 feet of space around the condenser to guarantee adequate airflow. Lastly, wrap all sides of the fence with a suitable soundproofing material such as PVC or plastic vinyl film.
It won’t only help to reduce AC sound but also hide your outdoor unit outside.
5. Insulate Ducts
In addition to carrying the conditioned air, ducts also carry sound, spreading it from one room to the other. When you soundproof your ducts, unwanted noise is absorbed before it reaches you. Insulating your ducts can be invaluable for soundproofing and can also prevent energy losses through ducts. You can insulate your ducts with foil-faced fiberglass insulation for the best soundproofing.
6. Go Green!
To many people’s surprise, vegetation acts as a natural sound barrier. To reduce sound from your outdoor condenser unit, plant a few shrubs around it. Make sure that they are at a reasonable distance as leaves and twigs can block the condenser and negatively impact your air conditioner’s performance.
You can also place a few plants around the indoor unit as well. They should be far enough from the indoor unit to not block airflow. Some houseplants act as natural air purifiers, which make them a no-brainer for homeowners.
7. Schedule Regular Maintenance
Overly loud HVAC sounds can be caused by poor maintenance as well.
For example, if your fan blades are dirty and dull, they have poor aerodynamics, leading to higher sound levels. Similarly, if you have dirty air filters, your AC must work harder to cycle air, increasing noise.
Scheduling regular maintenance will go a long way in helping your AC perform at its quietest. This AC maintenance checklist will ensure your AC remains in top condition all year long.
8. Seal Gaps Around the Air Conditioner
Window air conditioners are often the loudest type of air conditioner. Most of the sounds coming from a window AC are due to gaps around the unit. These gaps allow sounds from the outside (such as those from the condenser) to enter the room.
Firstly, push on the AC unit to check if it is still tightly fitted into the frame. If it feels loose, look for any loosened screws and tighten them with a screwdriver. Then, cut one-inch thick strips of rigid foam insulation and fill them between the air conditioner and window edges.
9. Invest in a Modern Unit
All air conditioners will produce some sound; however, the older the unit, the louder it will be. Newer air conditioners are engineered to be as quiet as possible. When looking for a new unit, ductless air conditioners are worth considering. Ductless air conditioners are significantly less loud compared to other types of air conditioners. They also have higher EER and SEER ratings, so you will save a hefty amount on energy bills as well.
If you implement even half of these tips, there is no doubt that your air conditioner will be much quieter than before. Once your air conditioner sound is at a minimum, you will surely be able to enjoy a restful night’s sleep!
One of my new units causes a loud buzzing sound in my wall. The company says the decibels in my family room is within their acceptable level. The sound is much like standing beneath a high tension electric wire. My puzzlement is why did the first unit not create this sound. Any thoughts? I have two identical Rheem units replacing 2 that were coming to their end of life needing freon. No sound what so ever fromthe two old units. Intolerable cognitive dissonance from the second unit.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and expertise.
Properly maintaining your air conditioning unit will be of great benefit in terms of saving money, saving energy, and keeping you comfortable during the hottest days of the summer.