Air conditioner noise unbearable

Hello Choice community
Our neighbour installed a home air conditioning unit right beside our fence, mid way down the length of the block. The noise and heat from it now makes our kitchen/dining area unusable when it’s running. My question: can air con units be housed to ameliorate noise issue?
Regards

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Hi @Bling, welcome to the community.

Simple answer is yes.

Noise can be attenuated by shielding or cowls. It is unfortunate it appears that the air conditioner has been installed without considering who may be impacted by the install location.

State governments/local governments regulate noise which can be a nusiance. These regulations require devices, such as air conditioners to be installed such that they meet set noise limits. It is possible that the installed air conditioner doesn’t meet these noise limits and your neighbour may be required to attenuate the noise from the unit.

It is best to speak to your neighbour directly explaining in a non-confrontational way what your concerns are…and how you would like to work with then to resolve the problem. If the neighbours aren’t accommodating, then the next avenue would be to approach your local council noise/environmental health officers.

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The outdoor units do require a large area for inlet and discharge of the air flow through the heat exchanger fins. Noise will be coming come from the operation of the fan blades, fan motor, compressor and general vibration or looseness. As well as @phb feedback re talking to the neighbour and council if need be, also look at your local council website. They may have further advice and guidelines as to the location off outdoor units. These may be useful in any initial discussion with the neighbour, including the concern of hot air blowing into your property.

Depending on how the space between your two properties is constrained and materials any ventilated acoustic enclosure to be effective may be an expensive solution for your neighbour. You could suggest they look at a local business that offers a similar service to this one. Just an example:

https://quash.com.au/sound-proofing-solutions/air-conditioner-noise/

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I understand from My Efficient Electric Home Facebook group that noise from RCAC units varies considerably. Choice reviewed split systems in November but did not rate noise output. Noise from some air conditioners is already a known problem, so this seems a significant oversight, as it’s not something that can be easily checked in store. It’s possible that a Choice assessment could assist in bringing pressure on manufacturers and regulators to get noise levels down.

With research indicating noise is a health issue could Choice check for the need to assess noise levels on all products @BrendanMays? .

RCAC using heat pumps seem the best heating option available currently because they are highly efficient through taking heat from the air and can also run off sustainable energy. Unlike gas and wood they do not pollute the air with health harming particles and combustion gases, however the plastic construction may emit some VOCs.

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Unfortunately some installations are in a space where it can be very difficult to mitigate the noise because they are essentially in an echo chamber. Most outdoor units are in-obtrusive on their own but put between a brick wall and a fence only a metre or so apart and they suddenly are noise problems.

Each outdoor unit has a specification for noise. Check to see if it the unit is a loud one, or if the location of the unit is the problem, or both is a good place to start. Here is a snip from some Daikin 2.5 ,3.5, and 3.8 systems. It is unlikely but not impossible that unit is producing more noise than it should (eg faulty).

As a point of comparison the typical noise range for a modern fridge is 32 to 47 dB. 40 dB is roughly the background noise level of a library. A dB is the smallest sound differential people can generally perceive.

If the neighbour’s unit is mounted high on the wall that could make the volume worse if it is over the top of the fence as well as blowing hot air your way, so there are many possibilities to consider for ameliorating the problem, in the first instance, neighbour being cooperative. Depending on so many things as well as council being ‘disinterested’ building up the fence (higher) or making a double fence along the outdoor unit might be beneficial and not too expensive (think the noise mitigation panelling along some highways).

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Something to aim for.

Gas is typically methane or in some instances LPG. Arguably less harmful than electricity generated from brown and black coal. For heating a very quiet option.

Wood is sustainable, although not a great option if you have lots of near neighbours. The from time to time well managed wood heating fire around here is of minor impact compared to the approved burn offs for forestry, agriculture and hazard reduction. Not to mention the uncontrolled ones.

Using RC Air Conditioning with household rooftop PV solar is great.
However winter or hot summer nights demands the added cost of home batteries which soon negates a total zero carbon solution for many.

We are yet to get to the point that new RC installs need to be accompanied by a 100% zero carbon energy source or contact for electricity supply. There is the voluntary option to only purchase green power available (at a premium) from most electricity retailers. It is currently a limited supply.

We are a little off the topic here.

More focused - but a forward looking suggestion rather than likely outcome:
I’d add that a ground sourced heat pump might be an even better solution, assuming the neighbour has a suitable site and adequate funds.

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They can emit harmful gases should the unit lose compression. The impact of such gas loss is usually short duration until the gas has dissipated. In years gone by, these gases were far more harmful to the wider environment (CFCs), but such gases are no longer use. Many current refrigerants used today however are very potent green house gases with many times the eCO2 of CO2.

No heating or cooling system is free of impacts and one needs to consider what the impacts could be during the decision making process. These impacts can be nuisance (noice, smoke, odour) or potential emissions through its operational life (inc. its manufacture).

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It may be easier (if nothing else is possible without rancour occurring) to add a shield over the window on your side to block the hot air and to reflect the noise away from you, your neighbour may even be willing to help pay for the shield. The shield can be offset from the house to allow airflow and light while blocking the noise and heat.

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Mark within our climate crisis window of opportunity the wood burnt today will not regrow and recapture carbon, let alone the other emissions, including methane and black and brown carbon, quickly enough. While removing some wood from the environment may not be harmful in some circumstances, it fulfills an important environmental role alive and dead, and the significant increase in wood sales in Melbourne over the last two years is likely contributing to significant environmental degradation, including theft from National Parks.

Much better sited,shaded, insulated and sealed homes for thermal comfort should be the future, to avoid the need for additional heating and cooling and the inevitable costs: financial, environmental, and health.
Gas health issues are an increasing concern as this recent article explains:

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We’re way off topic?

Totally agree with the sentiments.

The important caveat is the balance. All fallen vegetation and wood decays to release CO2 back into the environment. Our own native vegetation mostly depends on regular fire cycles, releasing CO2 back into the environment through both natural decay and fire. Worthy of a different topic’s discussion.

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