Hush: Sound advice for the not so quiet revolution in domestic heating

  • 25 Jan 2023

The rapid growth in the number of households heating their homes using renewable technologies is great news for cutting the UK’s CO2 emissions and resource use. But to ensure technologies such as air source heat pumps (ASHPs) and ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) can fulfil their potential on a widespread scale, we have to think carefully about the potential for a wave of neighbour noise complaints. Hush Acoustics has more…

According to a survey compiled for the UK Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in 2022, nearly 8 out of 10 homes are heated using a gas-fired central heating system. Electric storage heaters and oil-fired heating systems came a distant joint second with each method accounting for just 5% of the market. 

This huge reliance on fossil fuel to heat our homes rightly needs urgent attention and legislation is in place to phase out gas boilers, starting with a ban on their installation in new build homes from 2025. The leading contenders to replace them are already emerging, supported by government schemes, in the form of air source and ground source heat pumps.

Decarbonising

The strategy for decarbonising UK homes and buildings means a target is in place for at least 600,000 heat pumps to be installed annually from 2028. But it is not only these ultra-clean technologies that are increasing in popularity – we are also seeing more people installing log burners, partly as a response to high gas and electricity costs.

Whichever renewable technology is installed as an alternative, however, there are design and location considerations in respect of noise that we don’t necessarily have with gas boilers.

Heat pumps are designed to be very quiet with a noise level of  ’40-60dB at 1m away’ often quoted. But that is not always going be the case on the evidence of the enquiries Hush receives regularly. 

In one example brought to Hush’s attention for a potential solution, an ASHP was installed on the side wall of a detached house, under a carport, which became so noisy that it became a nuisance to the neighbour. The noise inside the neighbouring property was likened to the sound of a car engine idling outside the window!

In this situation, the installer acted quickly and decisively and concluded that their positioning of the ASHP was, in fact, wrong, so they moved it to the rear of the property and the problem was rectified.

Hush

In another enquiry, a housebuilder approached Hush to help with a noise stipulation laid down by a local authority planner. The density of the new build development meant that properties were in close proximity, so it was important to ensure any noise from the heat pumps would be minimised. 

Planners asked the developer to reduce noise by between 2-3dB for each heat pump which was achieved by acoustic fencing using Hush 10 kg/m2 Barrier Mat. This was used within a bespoke fence panel to create an external barrier/enclosure to reduce noise transmitting to the neighbouring properties.

Creating acoustic barriers

Generally speaking, with ASHPs and GSHPs the major acoustic considerations are going to centre on its location and the potential for sound transmission to affect neighbouring properties.

Dense materials that provide acoustic barriers are key to the solution which means thinking about where acoustic materials could be incorporated into walls and fencing. But natural foliage, such as hedgerows and dense shrubs, can also play a major role in reducing sound transmission between the heat pump source and neighbouring properties.

The idea of creating barriers is usually going to be preferable to buying an acoustically insulated enclosure for the heat pump for two important reasons. Firstly, acoustic enclosures can be expensive, with quotes of several thousand pounds fairly typical. Secondly, heat pump enclosures are not particularly visually appealing – they often look rather utilitarian which will not be to the taste of most homeowners.

Heat pump noise heard inside the home

Providing that the heat pump has been installed correctly, there should not be any issues with excessive noise being heard inside the property. However, given the potential for sound to transmit in so many sound paths, there is no guarantee that an ASHP or GSHP will be completely silent inside the property it serves.

If you are experiencing noise from your heat pump, however, help may be available through Hush Acoustics’ range of fully tested acoustic systems for treating internal walls and floors. Please contact the company to discuss the options for your situation.

Log burners… why smoke may not be the only potential nuisance 

Where log burners are concerned, one issue which is often raised as a possible source of nuisance for neighbouring properties is smoke. But they can also be quite noisy given the burning process, cleaning and reloading them.

Hush

The sounds which result from log burner use can be a particular nuisance in connected properties, i.e. terraced and semi-detached houses, where the original fire place will often have been placed on the party wall. Adding acoustic treatments in applications like this do, however, require very careful consideration because acoustic insulation materials are largely not resistant to the effects of flames and heat. 

Finding an acoustic solution to make green technologies a success

As every renewable energy application and installation is different, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to acoustic insulation. With the range of products and systems available from Hush Acoustics, however, specifiers, developers and home improvers have tremendous scope to tailor a solution to the property that will allow a heat pump, log burner or other device to create the clean energy we seek without testing neighbourly relationships. 

To discuss how they can help, contact Hush. You can also read about how Hush Acoustics recently improved the acoustic environment of a retirement village.

Hush Acoustics,
44 Canal Street,
South Sefton,
Liverpool,
Merseyside,
United Kingdom,
L20 8QU

Phone: 0151 933 2026
Fax: 0151 944 1146

Visit Hush Acoustics' website

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