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Are heat pumps noisy and what can we do about it?

Are heat pumps noisy?

One of the biggest concerns that people have when it comes to heat pumps is noise. After all, nobody wants to be distracted by a noisy heat pump, or to risk disturbing their neighbours. But are heat pumps actually noisy?

Here, we break down the myth and look at what you can do to minimise heat pump noise.

Are heat pumps noisy?

Heat pumps have traditionally struggled with noise levels, which has given them a reputation for being noisy and disruptive. This is especially the case with air source heat pumps, which work by drawing ambient air through a heat exchanger – it can be a noisy process and is often what causes issues in residential areas at night. This is in addition to the noise from the compressor which is the main working component of the heat pump.

However, the good news is that heat pump technology has come on in leaps and bounds. The result is that, nowadays, heat pumps don’t have to be noisy.

At Clade, not only do we offer specially designed low-noise heat pumps, but we also have many technologies and solutions for reducing heat pump noise. So, you can put your worries about noise aside and enjoy greener heating to the sound of (almost!) silence.

How noisy are heat pumps?

Heat pumps come in lots of different shapes and sizes. So, the noise a heat pump makes will depend on lots of different factors, including:

  • Its size
  • Its make and model
  • Whether it’s a domestic or commercial heat pump
  • Its age
  • Whether it’s working properly
  • How much work the heat pump is doing
  • Any noise reduction measures (such as acoustic fencing)

Most modern residential heat pumps won’t make more than a low whirring sound if they’re working properly. In fact, they’re normally quieter than fossil fuel boilers. Even air source heat pumps, which tend to be louder than ground source heat pumps, will be quieter than the sound of light traffic if you live near a road, and may be around the same level as an air conditioning unit.

At Clade, our heat pumps are generally lower noise than our competitors’. Plus we have a whole range of low-noise heat pumps and other noise reduction solutions to make your heat pump even quieter.

To get an idea of how quiet a commercial heat pump can be, take a look at this video of our colleagues talking beside our Acer heat pump running at full power outside Wiveliscombe Pool in Somerset.

How can we minimise heat pump noise?

Here are some of the main ways that we work to minimise heat pump noise at Clade.

1. Low-noise heat pumps

Choosing a heat pump that’s designed to run more quietly and efficiently is arguably the best way to avoid problems with noisy heat pumps altogether.

Our Acer air source heat pump series comes in two models – low noise and ultra low noise – and is about as quiet as a commercial heat pump can get without an acoustic enclosure. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also super easy to install and is the lowest-cost option for minimising heat pump noise.

2. Increased number of fans

Another solution is to increase the number of fans used by a heat pump. This way, the fans can run at a lower speed for the same total duty, resulting in a quieter system.

It’s a great option that will have a low impact on energy consumption and maintenance. However, your heat pump will take up more space thanks to the longer evaporator unit. The additional evaporators make this one of the pricier solutions too.

Heat pump with multiple fans

3. External silencers above fans

Mounting external silencers above fans is usually the most compact and low-cost noise-reduction solution for large heat pumps of over 100kW. Not only does it have the lowest visual impact, but the silencers have been designed to provide very little air resistance. In this way, the power consumption and efficiency of your system will barely be affected.

This was the solution we employed for Normanton School, which needed an efficient heating method for its swimming pool. The school faced multiple challenges, including noise restrictions from nearby residential areas. Read our case study to learn more.

Heat pump with silencers

4. Acoustic fence

An acoustic fence is a barrier that surrounds your heat pump and works to dampen the sound it makes. It will also act as a security barrier to boot.

Just bear in mind that this option won’t reduce your heat pump’s noise levels as extensively as the other solutions we’ve listed, especially above the height of the fence. It will also have the highest visual impact – however, whether this is a pro or a con will depend on your project specifics, as it will also hide and protect your heat pump.

5. Acoustic enclosure

An acoustic enclosure will fully surround your heat pump and provide the ultimate performance when it comes to reducing the noise it makes.

This is the highest-cost option and will also increase the amount of space your heat pump takes up. However, it’s a highly effective solution that can look slick and modern too.

Heat pump with acoustic enclosure

6. Timed heat generation

Finally, if there are worries over noise at particular times of the day or night, an easy solution is to time your heat generation accordingly. By only generating heat at non-sensitive times of the day, you’ll be able to avoid known problem times and keep your neighbours happy.

Luckily, this is a cheap solution that’s easy to implement. You’ll just need to make sure you have a thermal store that is properly sized.

Why is it important to find solutions for noisy heat pumps?

If you’re considering installing a commercial heat pump, there are a number of reasons why it pays to consider the noise levels.

  1. Flexibility. Reducing the noise your heat pump makes will give you more flexibility in terms of where you can install it.
  2. Comfort. Less noise will translate to a more calm and comfortable environment for your staff and visitors.
  3. Community. Considering your noise levels will help to keep your neighbours onside and make for a community-friendly business.
  4. Sustainability. Contributing to reducing noise pollution will have a positive impact on your surroundings and environment.

What are the rules to do with neighbours and noisy air source heat pumps?

There are standards and regulations that restrict noise levels near residential areas. These and local planning authorities will give a noise level at the nearest window or similar.

Determining what the acceptable sound power of the heat pump needs to be in order to meet the planning requirement is the job of an acoustic Engineer. The final noise levels will depend on lots of different environmental factors, such as the number of hard surfaces that can reflect or amplify noise.

Small heat pumps are relatively easy to deal with as they can be treated as a point source of noise. However, larger heat pumps are more challenging as they will have different noise levels at different points, which emit in different directions.

Testing large heat pumps is also challenging because the facilities required are rare and very expensive. So, these generally use calculated values backed up by site evidence where available.

If your heat pump installation requires planning permission, your neighbours will also be asked for their input and opinion.

Find out how we can help with heat pump noise

At Clade, we have a range of solutions to help you lower your heat pump noise, from low-noise systems to pumps with external silencers or acoustic enclosures. Just get in touch to learn how we can create a bespoke solution for your business and requirements.