Governments solution for UK energy & Heat Pumps seems to overlook noise as an issue.
Whilst we are keen to see mass adoption of more sustainable sources of energy we also don't want noise not to present an obstacle to decarbonisation. We are already seeing complaints from the early adopters of Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP), so here are some issues to consider before diving into a switch away from boilers.
So what's the problem ?
You do not need planning permission to install a ASHP, and under permitted development rights there is an absolute noise limit for units, which is 42dB(A) LAeq,5mins at 1m from residential. The problem is that one size does not fit all. Because units are often cited close to homes and boundaries, the noise generated by the unit can be particularly intrusive when the background sound levels are low (ie. at night). The requirements are that installers do a basic check, but of course they are not acoustics specialists.
Even if you meet the noise limits imposed you may still be held accountable for causing material interference to a neighbours reasonable use of their property. This falls into the category of nuisance, which is not permitted under Section 79(1)(g) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Allowing noise emissions from the unit to affect your neighbours in a way which means that they can not enjoy their garden, or are disturbed from sleep, may trigger official action. So for many people, this will not be a welcome introduction to an alternative energy source and would be counter-productive for communities. To be truly sustainable any new technology must also work for people as well as the environment.
What should I do ?
Luckily things can be done:
1) A proper acoustics assessment should be completed by a competent acoustics professional (see Institute of Acoustics or Association of Noise Consultants) or just get in contact with us.
2) An objective assessment in line with British Standard 4142 will take into account the background sound in the area, and sound character of the unit. This may affect which unit you may be able to have and how far it needs to be from the house. For example, in tranquil soundscapes there is an expectation to protect the tranquility.
3) Where you need to reduce the impact then noise control measures, such as barriers or acoustic enclosures may be needed.
It is our strongest recommendation that if you are considering switching to an Air Source Heat Pump that you get good acoustic design advice from the beginning.
We are working with the Institute of Acoustics to raise awareness of this challenge to Government and to consumers. To help mitigate any noise conflicts we want to work with government and the industry so that new energy sources such as Air Source Heat Pumps can be sustainable for those using them and also for the wider communities.
If you would like to know more, get help, or resolve existing problems get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org