Last updated: September 16, 2022 at 15:34 pm
As the UK doesn’t typically experience scorching temperatures, air conditioning has previously been used in shops and offices. However, the UK has reached record-breaking temperatures lately. It was also so hot at night that many people got no more than a few hours of broken sleep per night for a week or more.
Meteorology experts suggest this weather will become the norm, so many are considering investing in air conditioners for their homes. Air conditioning can be a godsend when the mercury rises, but the fact is, it’s noisy. It’s not a big problem in business as the buildings are further apart, already loud, and not generally used at night. In other words, the noise is not an issue.
In a residential setting, however, it can be. Noise-sensitive residents have been driven to distraction by their neighbour’s AC unit. If AC usage begins to spread, it could represent a significant problem. So, if you’re one of the ones affected, what can you do?
IN THIS ARTICLE
Option 1: Talk to Your Neighbour
This should be your first step in any dispute with your neighbour for three reasons:
- It’s the decent, neighbourly thing to do. Your neighbour may not be aware of the problem, so tell them
- If you choose to take it further, by going to the environmental health department of your local council. For example, they will want to know what steps you’ve taken to resolve the problem
- If you move home, you legally must declare any disputes with your neighbours. It makes sense to try and resolve the issue before it becomes a dispute
Unless you’re afraid of your neighbour or have an awful relationship, hopefully, the two of you will be able to work out a solution that works for both of you.
It’s a good idea to invite them into your home when the air conditioning is running so they can hear how loud it is.
Option 2: Research Nuisance Laws
You need to find out the law regarding nuisance noise in your area. Most councils have similar rules, but they’re not identical, so be sure you know where you stand. You need to find out how loud a sound must be to be considered a nuisance.
There are probably different volumes for day and nighttime, so make a note of both. You should also check which hours are classed as nighttime or quiet hours.
Option 3: Keep a Log
If the air conditioning is a recurring problem and you think you’ll need to have the council involved, you’ll need to keep a log of dates and times of the noise and, ideally, how loud it is. You can download a free decibel meter to your smartphone to measure how loud the noise is at various points in your home.
Log when the unit switches on when it switches off and how loud it is. If you talk to the neighbours, send them a letter, or call the police, log that too. The more evidence you have, the easier it will be to make your case. If the noise is very loud, you could also make a video to demonstrate the problem.
If you’ve been unable to resolve the problem with your neighbour and are waiting for the council to become involved, you may need to take some interim steps. These are not designed to be a solution, merely to keep you sane until it’s resolved.
Option 4: Earplugs
You could wear them at night to allow you to get some sleep or during the day if you’re trying to work, study, or even read a book.
There is a wide range of sizes, shapes, and materials available, so you should be able to find one that works for you.
Option 5: Get a White Noise Machine
A white noise machine plays a constant stream of background noise. It is designed to help people sleep better because it drowns out distracting sounds. Having a constant noise, you can control may be easier to deal with than one that stops and starts without warning.
Most white noise machines come with a range of sounds, so you should be able to find one that works for you.
Option 6: Move Rooms
If the noise bothers you most at night, could you move your bedroom temporarily to the other side of the property? Hopefully, the noise will be quieter and less intrusive there so that you can get a good night’s sleep.
Option 7: Soundproofing
Hopefully, the options above will have helped you stop the noise entirely or reduce it to times or levels you can live with. What if the noise is still a problem, though? There are reports of long-term disputes between neighbours over air-conditioning noise. The council determined the noise wasn’t loud enough to act, but the complainants were still driven to distraction.
If you’re stuck in this situation and you can’t or don’t want to move, soundproofing could be your best option. Soundproofing can be expensive, but you shouldn’t need to soundproof your entire home. If the air conditioning is loud enough to be heard throughout your house, it should constitute enough of a nuisance for the council to act.
You might need to soundproof your bedroom and possibly the living room too. You can think about soundproofing your children’s rooms (if you have any), but most children tend not to be as bothered by noise as adults are.
To learn how to soundproof a room, check out our step-by-step guide.
As air conditioning spreads, you may find your neighbour’s unit is noisy and disturbs your peace. Your first step is to talk to your neighbour so you can try to find a peaceful solution. If this fails, contact your council for advice and start to keep a log of the noise.
In the meantime, earplugs, white noise machines and soundproofing can help make the situation bearable until it is resolved.