Air conditioners and heat pumps can cause noise pollution

The world’s climate is changing. Summers will be hotter and the future might hold more extreme weather. This means regulation of the temperature in our houses and workplaces is of increasing importance. Air conditioners and heat pumps are solutions for this, since they can cool in summers and heat in winters, and thus more sustainable than natural-gas-based central heating.

Unfortunately, air conditioners and heat pumps are less pleasant for the ear as they contain moving parts which cause vibrations. This means that the devices typically produce noise. If everybody would install air conditioning and heat pumps, the collective noise from all these installations would cause considerable noise pollution.

Noise pollution is not only annoying, but also dangerous. Research by the World Health Organizations shows that noise pollution is actually number two on the list of hazardous environmental factors in Europe, second only to air pollution. Exposure to noise pollution causes sleep problems and increased stress levels. Eventually, this can lead to serious conditions such as tinnitus (‘ringing in the ears’) or heart diseases. This means that noise pollution is actually a silent killer.

Air conditioners and heat pumps can cause noise pollution -

Where does the sound come from

To prevent noise pollution from air conditioners and heat pumps, it is important to understand which parts of the installation are the source of the noise and via which paths the noise travels outside. Making this insightful is easier than you might think. The Sorama CAM iV64 visualizes the sound, so you can see the exact source and how the sound travels.

Air conditioners and heat pumps can cause noise pollution -
Two sound images (using beamforming) for an installation consisting of two heat pumps. In each image, only one of the two heat pumps (which have different specifications) is turned on at maximum power. For the left heat pump, noise from the compressor is dominant, while for the right heat pump, the noise from the fan is dominant. Overall, the left heat pump is slightly quieter.

Besides locating the sound source on the installations itself, the CAM iV64 can be used to locate loud air conditioners and heat pumps, for example on roof tops or within neighborhoods.

What can manufacturers do?

Awareness of sound design during the development cycle is vital. This ranges from selection of the components and anti-vibration design of the enclosure to post-production validation of acoustic performance. However, once the noise behavior of a product has been identified, for example using the CAM iV64, it is often easy and cost effective to achieve the first improvements. In turn, this allows for the opportunity to make quiet operation of air conditioners and heat pumps a unique selling point, in addition to the benefits for the living environment of the customers.


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