As winter turns to spring people start talking to their architect or landscape designer about a new hot tub or pool, or perhaps it’s a new air conditioner or even an emergency generator. Soon we will start to get phone calls from homeowners at their wits end because they’ve lost many hours of sleep due to a neighbor’s noisy air conditioner, condenser, pool pump or even the freezer chiller at the new grocery store recently built around the corner. Noise can not only be a nuisance, it can also be unhealthy by disrupting sleep and causing stress.
These types of noise problems are becoming more frequent as people live more closely together. To combat this, many cities and towns across the nation have adopted noise ordinances. Sometimes, however, noise can make enemies out of neighbors and in order to be a good neighbor it is necessary to do more than just meet the local noise ordinance. It may be necessary to take additional measures to restore the peace and friendly neighborhood relations. Thankfully, there are many possible ways to fix the various causes of noisy mechanical equipment.
Another important consideration is the location of the offending equipment relative to the property line. If your noisy air conditioner is located just inches away from your neighbor’s property line, and their bedroom window, the best option may be to find a better place to locate it. That may mean moving the equipment to the back of the house where the closest neighbors are 30-feet away instead of 30-inches away.
When all else fails, it is usually time to consider some form of acoustical barrier. Noise barriers take many forms: from a natural berm or fence; to a custom mechanical enclosure; to a wall made of a material that matches the surrounding buildings that has both mass to function as a barrier and absorption to reduce the sound that bounces around inside the new enclosure. Landscaping can also be added around any kind of barrier to get rid of the “eye sore” and make it look more pleasant, but this will not reduce the noise. While barriers can be a very effective solution, depending on the noise levels, topography and distances involved, they might not be appropriate for all sites – relocation may be the only viable option.
As indicated here, there are many possible solutions for noisy mechanical equipment that is making neighbors unhappy or violating local noise ordinances. The feasibility, effectiveness and cost of each option must be weighed in order to find the best solution for all involved.