How Noisy Are Heat Pumps?

Deciding between heat pumps, such as an air-source heat pump or a ground-source heat pump, can raise the question of how noisy each one is. This is vital to consider before you have one installed as it could potentially impact your quality of life, as well as that of your neighbours.

You will be happy to know that both of these heat pump types are within the UK’s legal noise limit of 42 decibels, and are equivalent to the sound of air conditioning units.

Let’s take a look at these two types of heat pumps, so you are better equipped to make a more informed decision.

Overview

Are Heat Pumps Noisy?

The amount of noise your heat pump omits depends on the type you opt to install.

Air source heat pumps are the noisier of the two, producing a constant hum. However, these are generally quieter than your average gas boiler. On the other hand, ground pumps are practically silent.

The noise levels also depend on the make and model of each pump type. Most heat pumps, which are typically ground pumps, operate quietly and are rarely an issue for homeowners.

Higher quality and/or newer pump models tend to be quieter than older types. Additionally, proper heat pump installation can reduce vibrations and noise volume. Homeowners describe the noise of heat pumps as ‘buzzing sounds’ or ‘constant humming’. However, the sound often fades into the background and often goes unnoticed.

Noise levels are regulated by the UK government, which we’ll touch on in a moment.

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Air Source Heat Pumps

An air source heat pump (ASHP) extracts heat from outside air, even in colder weather. The heat pump technology uses this air to generate heat for a home and hot water. Airflow noise is produced when air passes through the heat exchanger, with the intensity varying based on the model and air velocity.

ASHPs consist of outdoor and indoor units. The outdoor unit looks very much like an air conditioning unit. Air source heat pumps have four main elements, or internal components, namely a compressor, a condenser, an evaporator, and an expansion valve. The compressor and fan are mainly responsible for the noise.

air source heat pump

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground source heat pumps, on the other hand, are virtually silent. They don’t extract outside air and do not contain a fan. A ground source heat pump can be installed indoors without much fuss and is far less noisy than traditional fossil fuel boilers.

The heat from the ground is more consistent; therefore, this type of heat pump unit doesn’t have to operate at full tilt. This means the power capacity of the compressor isn’t too high, resulting in less sound or noise.

heat pump

How Much Noise Do Heat Pumps Produce?

Air source heat pumps

Typically, air source heat pumps produce noise ranging from 40 to 60 decibels (dB) at a distance of 1 metre. In saying that, for it to reach 60 decibels is very rare.

To put that into perspective:

  • Breathing = around 10 decibels
  • Background noise levels in rural areas = between 30 and 40 decibels
  • Typical domestic refrigerator = about 42 decibels
  • Normal conversation at home = about 55 decibels
  • Dishwasher = roughly 65 decibels
  • Vacuum cleaner = about 85 decibels
  • Hairdryer = 90 decibels
  • Fireworks = between 130 and 140 decibels

Ground source heat pump

Ground source heat pumps don’t make much noise and are practically silent, as they do not have a fan or compressor.

While some of its components do make minor sounds, they are much quieter than ASHPs. The typical noise level of ground pumps is roughly 42 decibels, similar to the hum of a refrigerator. The consistent “white noise” often goes unnoticed and blends into the background.

Where does the noise come from?

As mentioned, the noise of an air source heat pump comes from the fan and compressor, when the heat exchanger produces varying levels of heat for the home.

Top tip: If your heat pump seems noisier than usual, it’s advised to contract a professional to evaluate the cause. This can be a common concern, especially for older models.

Government Heat Pump Noise Regulations

The UK government has strict noise pollution regulations in place. The legal noise level limit for heat pumps is 42 decibels, measured from the nearest neighbouring property. The Microgeneration Installer Standard requires that all ASHP internal and external fans are fitted correctly, to reduce the most amount of noise possible.

Generally, if you want an air source heat pump installed at your home, it needs to be planned carefully. As mentioned, the maximum noise limit must be in the range of 40 – 60 decibels, at a 1-meter distance. Usually, when heat pumps are installed correctly, sound levels are within range and the buzzing sounds often blend into the background.

heat pump

FAQs

Air source heat pumps are noisy when compared to ground source pumps, which practically produce no noise at all. Both of these heat pumps do the same thing – provide heat to our homes. They are both within the legal UK noise level limits.

No. Heat pumps and air conditioners produce the same amount of noise, ranging between 40 and 60 decibels.

Conclusion

Understanding the noise levels that your heat pump produces is vital when making a decision. Essentially, ASHP and GSHPs do the same thing by providing heat to our homes, but their noise levels differ significantly.

Air source heat pumps consist of four main components; the fan and compressor produce the most noise. They are noisier when compared to the ground source type, which is virtually silent! Both of these pumps are within the legal UK noise pollution limit and the final decision essentially comes down to your preference.

Envirohomes Renewables has extensive knowledge in the sector and can help  eligible  customers secure and install various home improvement upgrades through the ECO4 scheme.