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Finding a Quiet HVAC System for You

The location and condition of the system, as well as its size and age, can affect the level of sound coming from the unit, and in turn, will impact quality of life in your home or workplace. We want our homes and offices to be comfortable in terms of temperature, but not at the expense of quiet and tranquility. The right HVAC unit shouldn’t drown out your everyday activities, interrupt your train of thought, or wake you up when it’s running. Learn how to select the HVAC system that offers the perfect combination of comfort and quiet.

Decibel Ratings

All HVAC units have a decibel (dB) rating that indicates the intensity of sound it will put out while operating. The lower the decibel rating, the quieter the system will be.  It’s important to factor in the dB rating while you’re conducting your research. This guide from Purdue University provides a frame of reference:

  • 50 dB = quiet conversation at home.
  • 60 dB = volume of conversation at a restaurant.
  • 70 dB = “annoyingly loud,” like the sound of a vacuum cleaner.
  • 80 dB = running a garbage disposal.

The quietest of systems fall somewhere between 50-60 decibels.

Seek Out Sound-Reducing Features

A heating and cooling system is complex, with many moving parts that rattle from vibrations that occur when it is in operation. The unit will typically make the most noise with the starting and stopping of the fan.  Additionally, your system will be at its highest decibel when the weather is extreme since it is working extra hard to keep a stable, pre-set temperature determined by your thermostat.  Other sounds may be generated if debris falls into your unit.

Looking for a system with low decibels is a good start but you should also look for these features:

  • Variable speed
  • Compressor insulation mounts
  • Noise-reducing fan blades
  • An insulated base pan

Maintenance is Key

Maintenance is important to maintain efficiency and lengthen your system’s lifespan. It is recommended to get your unit checked by a professional HVAC contractor at least once a year to prevent potential problems like leaks, worn/damaged parts, loose bolts/screws, and other outdoor factors that can cause damage like debris and extreme weather.Bottom of Form

Size Matters

The size (or tonnage) is an important factor when it comes to noise. If the system isn’t large enough for the size of your home or office building, the decibel rating won’t matter much as the fan will be running constantly to cool the area, thus creating additional noise. It is recommended that you consult an HVAC professional to help best address your needs with a complete heating and cooling load calculation. Beyond the square footage and climate in your area, they will also calculate factors like ceiling height, insulation, and more.

It is important to conduct thorough research about HVAC systems to find the best option for your home or office, including sound. Understanding what makes units noisy—and the features that can minimize that sound— will help you make the right choice.