Heat Pump Noise: How Noisy Are They?

heat pump noise

Last updated: July 12, 2022 at 13:53 pm

Heat pumps are a renewable energy source that is used across mainland Europe and the USA to heat (and cool) homes. Currently, they aren’t popular in the UK, however, this is mainly due to the cost of installation and the UK legislation surrounding the planning permission needed for them, not the technology itself or the noise that the pumps create.

But how noisy are heat pump? And is there any difference between air source and ground source?

What Are Heat Pumps?

There are two types of heat pumps

  1. Air source and
  2. Ground source

These are both ecofriendly, and they both work in very similar ways, however, they have a few key differences.

Air source heat pumps take heat from the air and absorb it into a liquid refrigerant. The fluid is then turned into gas and using electricity, the heat pump compresses the gas and warms it up. The warm gas is then transferred out into the home’s heating system and as it does so, the gas condenses back into a liquid.

Alternatively, the ground source heat pumps absorb natural heat from the earth and transfer the heat into buildings’ heating and hot water systems.

Pros and Cons of Heat Pumps

Aside from the noise concern, there are other pros and cons to installing or having a heat pump within your home.

The pros are:

  • They are hugely energy efficient
  • They generate less CO2 than many other heating systems
  • They can save you money

The cons are:

  • They require external space for the condenser unit
  • Condenser units blow cold air around them
  • Electricity is still needed

How Noisy Are Ground Source Heat Pumps?

heat pump

Ground source heat pumps’ distinct lack of a fan unit makes them significantly more subtle than air source. They have fewer moving parts than their counterparts, and subsequently are the quieter of the two styles.

Ground source heat pumps also have a lower power capacity. There is no fan to push around, and this means that the machine does not have to work as hard as the air source heat pump. The reduced capacity also helps to reduce the noisiness of the heat pump.

Typically, a ground source heat pump will create some noise, as with any heating component, but it is unlikely to be louder than 42 decibels. This is, on average, the same noisiness as a home refrigerator.

How Noisy Are Air Source Heat Pumps?

Air source heat pumps have several noisy parts to them. These are the fan, the compressor, and the condenser. These elements of the pump mean that they are often louder than the ground source heat pumps. However, the extent of the noisiness does depend on the overall quality of the installation. A poorly fitted air source heat pump is much more likely to create more noise than one which has been fitted correctly.

Typically, an air source pump can be expected to create between 40 to 60 dB of noise at any given time. Therefore, the UK Government have legislated that they must be installed equidistant from both neighbours, and they must only create 42 dB of noise when measured 1m away. Anyone looking to fit an air source pump that does not match these criteria will have to acquire planning permission from their local authority.

How to Reduce Noise of Heat Pumps

If you do install a heat pump, only to find that it is too noisy for you, do not fret. There are things that can be done to reduce the noise of the equipment. This can make installing a heat pump much more appealing to homeowners as they do not have to concern themselves with the noisiness.

To combat the noise of the fans in an air source heat pump, you can:

  • Move or install your air source heat pump in a place that is far removed from both your neighbours, but also from anywhere that you might want to relax. This is especially useful if you’re very sensitive to noise! That means not putting it by the living room or the bedroom, where you’re likely going to be wanting to rest in peace and quiet
  • Install your air source heat pump somewhere sunny. The pump takes heat from the air, so ensuring it is somewhere sunny will mean that it won’t have to work as hard to absorb the heat. This will reduce the speed and intensity of the fan and other components – reducing the noise
  • Invest in an acoustic covering for your air source heat pump. These can be custom-made, homemade, or bought, and they surround the air pump with a cage or box. This allows airflow through but provides a barrier to any noise escaping. The best materials to use for a soundproof covering are acoustic membrane, fibreglass, and dense board

What a Particularly Noisy Heat Pump Might Mean

Whilst heat pumps might generate some noise, you should pay attention and be sure to look at your heat pump if it begins to make new or louder noises, as these might be caused by a malfunctioning component. Some of the noises to look out for are:

Loud Metal Banging

If you begin to hear a loud metal banging or clanging noise coming from your heat pump, it is likely a call for help! This usually means that a component within the heat pump has come loose, and the fan is colliding with the loose component. It might also be caused by a foreign object falling into your heat pump – ice is particularly common.

If you hear this noise, you should turn off your pump and investigate. You might want to call out a technician to take a proper look at the pump, as it may need repairs.

Vibrations and Rattling

Should your air pump begin to vibrate and rattle, it is something that you should check out quickly! Often, a vibrating or rattling noise within an air or ground source heat pump will be a symptom of either a loose cover panel, overly tight coolant pipes, or an issue with the air handler.

You should ensure that you turn off your system and investigate these fully, and you might want to call out a professional to double-check that your pump is safe to use.

Grinding

A grinding noise from within your heat pump is usually an easy fix, but it can be very irritating if not dealt with quickly. The most common cause of a grinding noise is dirty motor bearings.

Buzzing

A buzzing noise from your heat pump should be acted on quickly. Usually, such a noise suggests that there are broken or malfunctioning coils or contacts within the heat pump. It is imperative to get these checked out by a professional to ensure that your pump is working correctly.

Gurgling

Gurgling from a heat pump is quite a common noise. It tends to happen when the coolant needs recharging. This is not a huge concern but should be tackled quickly to ensure that the pump works as best it can.

Clicking

The occasional clicking from your heat pump is normal, but if your machine continues to click whilst in use, it is likely an issue with the capacitor. This is the component responsible for turning the motor on, and so it should be investigated quickly.

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About the Author: AJ

AJ is a self-confessed soundproofing nut. He has written full-time on Quiet Living for the past 3 years, and has a wealth of knowledge about living a quieter life, soundproofing and fixing loud noises.

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