The noisy heat pump in our new home is keeping us awake at night. What can we do?

Property Clinic: The pump should be covered under warranty to guard against any faults

Heat pumps are a very energy-efficient way to heat a home.

Heat pumps are a very energy-efficient way to heat a home.

 

About a month ago we bought a new-build four-bed house in Dublin. While we are happy and settling down slowly but steadily, we have realised there is something odd about the noise being created by the cylinder which is packed in a small room between two of the bedrooms on the first floor. It makes a strange sound when the heat pump (placed outside the house) is on. It is so annoying that we have practically stopped using those two bedrooms.

Initially we thought we could use one bedroom for a study and the other one as a work space for my wife. But with this sound we simply can’t get any work done. Worse still, is that at night time the noise is so disturbing that I can’t sleep properly.

While we have brought this to the attention of the builder, we haven’t had much by way of a response. Do you think the noise we are enduring is in violation of the regulations on noise pollution? If so, what can we do to address this problem? Should we approach a sound engineer who might investigate the situation? And, what might our legal recourse be against the builder?

Heat pumps are a very energy-efficient way to heat a home. Similar to a standard gas or oil burner they will produce some form of noise transmission when operating. From listening to your recordings, it is difficult to gauge if the noise transmission is excessive, nevertheless, if the noise level is disturbing your sleep this cannot be considered normal.

In terms of approaching a sound engineer to complete an assessment this will provide confirmation on the level of noise transmission; however, this is not going to resolve the issue. The ultimate goal is to solve the problem and ensure quiet enjoyment of your home. It is not clear from your question whether the house is located within an estate. Perhaps a discussion with a neighbour is possible to see if their unit is creating the same level of noise.

The requirement for noise protection is recognised by all local authorities. The building regulations which relate to the built environment stipulate the standards to which new buildings and extensions should be designed and constructed in Ireland. The regulations are broken into a number of documents with a specific document relating to noise, technical guidance document ‘E’ - Sound. It specifies that “each wall and floor separating a dwelling from- (a) another dwelling or dwellings, (b) other parts of the same building, (c) adjoining buildings, shall be designed and constructed in such a way so as to provide reasonable resistance to sound”.

The requirement for compliance with regulations came into effect in the early 1990s with two subsequent revisions to the guidance document (2005 and 2014). Your building falls within the requirements for compliance. In terms of enforcing the regulations, contact your local building control authority. You would need to inform them and demonstrate a deviation from regulations.

From experience I believe the contractor will be able to demonstrate compliance in term of the wall/floor construction in line with building regulations and that no enforcement would follow. I would recommend a building surveyor inspection and report before proceeding further.

Elements to check as part of any inspection include that the indoor unit is fitted with a sound/insulation bracket to prevent noise transmission. A check of the cover plates is necessary to ensure they are fitted correctly. A review of the equipment settings should also be completed to determine if the temperature setting is incorrect which could cause the internal compressor to operate harder than needed.

My recommendation is to confirm the name of the original supplier of the heat pump. This information should have been provided to you within a home buyer’s pack or safety file relating to the building. If not, it should be available on the product tag for the heat pump. The pump should be covered under a product warrantee for faults, and this might be the best option to explore first as opposed to legal/building control action.

If you can arrange for the manufacturer to inspect the product they will confirm if any issue is present or if the noise level is outside their standard installation parameters. - Andrew Ramsey

Andrew Ramsey is a chartered building and project management surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

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