“The electrical grid in British Columbia is over 92% renewable energy, so switching to a heat pump from fossil-fuel systems can significantly reduce a home’s carbon emissions”

The City of Vancouver Green Buildings Team is proposing a Climate Emergency: Home Heating and Cooling program.  Staff are developing regulations for detached homes to encourage more energy-efficient heating/cooling equipment. They ask for public feedback by Sunday, March 6.

While we applaud the COV initiatives, residents have expressed concerns about noise from heat pumps.  Even the quietest units exceed the City of Vancouver Noise Bylaw  nighttime limit in residential areas. Noise is hazardous to health and well-being. Heat pumps have the potential of running 24 hours a day depending on the weather, and even an intermittent operation could be disturbing enough to create a health hazard.

The City’s guide to deal with heat pump noise issues shows the 45 dB nighttime limit, but it also states that most models emit 60 dB.  Right To Quiet research indicates the quietest emit 50 to 55 dB. The City advises: “Locate as far away from the property line as possible. Avoid the side yard in favour of the front or rear yard.”

At a February 26 workshop, a Green Buildings Team member reported owning a 49 dB Mitsubishi model, saying American brands tend to be noisier than those of Asian manufacturers. (European brands claim to have quieter models; see Quiet Mark). The city engineer also noted that decibel ratings refer to “point of reception,” and sound should drop to 45 dB after traveling 10 feet to the property line, especially with strategically placed bushes and landscaping.

This may not always be possible: Increased density means less space for landscaping and sound traveling farther with air currents. One attendee noted that houses in the oldest areas of Kitsilano, Strathcona and Grandview have roof lines often less than 2 feet apart: “There are numerous houses that I’ve seen where the eaves are touching or just 1-2 inches apart.  …….. There are a lot of properties with about 6 feet between the buildings.” Vancouver needs “bylaws about placement of heat pumps and their noise levels next to neighbours and particularly next to bedrooms and living areas, particularly with basement rental suites,” she said. It has been also suggested that the rebate program should be extended to homeowners who would like to replace older, noisier models.

Do you have noise concerns about heat pumps?  Please take the survey prior to March 6.

The current Heat Pump Exhibits offer a look at units in operation.

If you have experienced heat pump noise, please email info@quiet.org.