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Dealing with Noisy Heat Pumps: Solutions for Ottawa Residents Facing Neighbour Complaints

Ottawa heat pumps are a popular heating solution in 2024. However, it’s not uncommon to face complaints from neighbors about noise. First off, heat pump can be noisier than air conditioners and are definitely noisier than traditional gas furnaces. It is very common for Ottawa homeowners to assume their heat pump is not working correctly due to noise when it fact is doing exactly what it is designed to do. But this is not always the case. Whether it’s due to the age of the unit, improper installation, or lack of maintenance, a noisy heat pump can disrupt the tranquility of your neighborhood. Unfortunately, there is no completely silent heat pump, all units make some sort of noise. As this technology becomes more and more popular, the sound of heat pumps humming throughout the city of Ottawa is becoming more common. This article explores heat pump sound levels and offers solutions to reduce the noise to make your neighbours happy.

Understanding the Causes of Heat Pump Noise

Heat pump noise can be attributed to several factors:

  1. Common Operation: Heat pump noise is often just the regular sound level heat pumps make. See regular heat pump noise below.
  2. Aging Equipment: Older units tend to be noisier due to wear and tear.
  3. Improper Installation: Incorrect installation can lead to vibration and excess noise.
  4. Lack of Maintenance: Regular maintenance is crucial to keep the unit running quietly and efficiently.
  5. Defective Components: Faulty parts like fan blades or compressors can increase noise levels.

Practical Solutions for Ottawa Residents

  1. Regular Maintenance: Schedule regular maintenance checks with a certified HVAC technician to ensure your heat pump operates optimally and quietly.
  2. Soundproofing Measures: Consider installing sound-absorbing materials around the unit or investing in a noise-reducing cover.
  3. Upgrade to a Newer Model: Modern heat pumps are designed to be much quieter. Upgrading your unit could be a long-term solution to noise problems.
  4. Proper Installation and Repairs: Ensure your heat pump is installed correctly and any repairs are conducted by professionals.

Regular Heat Pump Noise

It is important to understand what noises are normal and what constitutes a noise problem. All heat pumps will have an operating hum. Generally on start up the compressor will ramp up louder than when maintaining temperature. Also all heat pumps will defrost in cold or humid temperatures. During the defrost cycle the noise may be louder than expected. Finally, there can be vibration noises from operation that can generally be dampened. At the end of the day, a unit that is running under 70 decibels when measured within three feet of the compressor is generally considered an acceptable noise level. Although we all wish these units could run silently, the fact remains that they are a mechanical machine pulling heat from freezing cold air and this process does create sound.

Ottawa Specific Bylaws

In Ottawa the bylaw states that a heat pump or air conditioner must be below 50 decibels at the point of reception. This is an important factor and the point of reception is not directly beside the unit but rather from the neighbouring property where someone may be complaining. It is very interesting that most air conditioners in the city run at 70-78 decibels, but because everyone is used to air conditioner noise in the summer, there are very few complaints on AC units. As heat pumps are not as common, there are more complaints about heat pump noise, although they generally are running quieter than air conditioners (though the noise may be more jarring). In our experience with By Law, it is very rare for a heat pump to be above the 50 decibel rating in the neighbouring home, even on louder, more entry level models.

Testing

Using a professional decibel reader, we can test to make sure the unit is running within the manufacturer specifications. We will take a reading within three feet of the unit during regular operation, start up and defrost. As a homeowner, there are many good decibel reading apps. You can take a reading of your unit from about three feet away and cross reference the advertised decibel readings to ensure your unit is within specifications. Please note that many manufacturers will advertise the lowest decibel rating and it may take some digging to find the high end range of noise.

Communicating with Neighbours

Open communication with your neighbours is key. Inform them about the steps you’re taking to address the noise issue. Understanding and cooperation can go a long way in maintaining good relations.

Conclusion A noisy heat pump in Ottawa doesn’t have to strain neighborly relations. By understanding the causes and implementing effective solutions, you can reduce noise and ensure a peaceful neighborhood. Regular maintenance and open communication are vital in resolving these issues amicably. Furthermore, as this technology becomes more popular, some mechanical operational noise will become more normal for neighbourhoods as people get used to the technology. Even the most high end heat pumps make some noise and in order to reduce our carbon footprints while reducing our energy usage, we will all have to get used to the technological changes.

Heat pump installed with protective cover in Alta Vista area of Ottawa by advanced hvac technicians at AirZone HVAC Services.

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