If you’ve been looking into getting a new heating and air conditioning system, you may have been surprised to see noise ratings included in the specifications for different HVAC units. But that information is more important than you might think. Excessive noise in your home isn’t just annoying—it can be harmful to your health.
As you probably remember from high school science class, sound is measured in units called decibels or dB. According to the Industrial Noise Control website, a normal conversation at home is usually around 50 dB, while a vacuum cleaner produces about 70 dB. Long-term exposure to noise over 90 dB (as loud as a motorcycle from 25 feet away) can cause hearing loss.
Now, a properly functioning residential HVAC unit shouldn’t be as loud as 90 decibels, so hearing loss isn’t the danger. The problem is that not-as-loud sounds, in the 70 dB range and above, can still have negative effects on health and comfort when you’re exposed to them for long periods of time.
For instance, according to The Atlantic’s article “The Future Will Be Quiet,” noise in the upper 70 dB range can “heighten stress, disrupt your sleep, and even lead to heart disease.” In fact, an article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says that increased noise leads to both high blood pressure and heart disease, and decreasing noise in your environment by as little as 5 dB can decrease your risk for both of those conditions. Another study published in the British Medical Bulletin found that too much noise at home hurts children’s reading comprehension, memory, and ability to concentrate.
So, what does this mean when you’re shopping for a new air conditioner or heater? Well, you definitely want to take into account that noise rating information. The quietest air conditioners available today, like the Carrier Infinity Series, run in the 60 dB range, but other units can be much louder. If your HVAC unit will be installed near sleeping areas, it’s particularly important to pay attention to how much noise the unit will make.
The purpose of HVAC is to make your home a healthier and more comfortable place to live. Too much noise can do just the opposite. A quiet heating and air conditioning system is the key!