Understanding Sound Ratings for Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners

Heat Pump services in Palm Desert, CA

When you’re purchasing a new heating and air conditioning system, the noise levels that the unit emits during operation may be important. It’s possible to compare sound levels between different systems with the decibel (dB) rating that’s attached to each unit.

Explaining Decibels

A decibel, also referred to as a dB, is a unit of measurement that represents the varying levels of sound that a person hears. The sounds that are heard on a daily basis usually range from 0-120 dB. It’s also common for sounds with a higher pitch to sound louder than sounds with a lower pitch.

When comparing the sound levels for the noises you routinely hear, keep in mind that increasing the dB by 10 means that 10x more sound energy is being produced. Some examples of sounds with lower dB levels are:

  • Breathing – 10 dB
  • Whispering – 15-20 dB
  • Ticking clock – 30 dB
  • Library – 40-50 dB
  • Rainfall – 50 dB
  • Conversation – 60 dB

Some examples of sounds with a higher dB level are:

  • Loud talking – 70 dB
  • Vacuum cleaner – 75 dB
  • Traffic – 80 dB
  • Lawnmower – 90 dB
  • Train – 100 dB
  • Car horn – 110 dB
  • Rock concert – 120 dB
  • Vehicle siren – 130 dB

Average Sound Rating for Whole-house HVAC Units

Highly efficient central heat pumps and air conditioners that come with energy-efficiency ratings of up to 28 SEER can have sound ratings that are as low as 59 dB. To understand what this sound level is like, imagine someone speaking with an indoor voice. Regardless of the type of system you purchase, more efficient units tend to have lower sound ratings.

High-efficiency systems that have ratings of up to 20 SEER typically come with sound ratings that are as low as 65 dB. The same is true of heat pumps that have an HSPF rating of around 10. A rating of 65 dB is close to the sound level you will hear when using a vacuum cleaner.

Single-stage units that are around 15-17 SEER are slightly less efficient, which means that you can expect them to have sound ratings that are around 70 dB. The sound that’s emitted from one of these units will be as loud as a busy restaurant.

Average Sound Rating for Ductless Outdoor Units

Ductless mini-split systems can have outdoor units and indoor units, which come with different noise levels. The dB ratings can differ depending on the system you use. If you select a more efficient model, you can expect dB levels that range from 47-56 dB. The sound you hear at this decibel range can be similar to what you hear when it’s raining or when your refrigerator is running.

Multi-zone systems that power numerous indoor blower units typically have dB ratings of around 60. Since ductless systems aren’t whole-home products, the outdoor noise is usually lower than what you will hear from a whole-house air conditioner and heat pump.

Average Sound Rating for Ductless Indoor Blower Units

Indoor blower units operate separately from central systems and have relatively low sound levels while running. These models usually come with six-speed fans and indoor sound ratings that can vary from 20-49 dB. The lower end of this range is similar to a quiet conversation. When the system gets closer to 50 dB, the sound level can match that of a moderately powerful thunderstorm.

Average Sound Rating for Window Air Conditioners

Since window air conditioners come with a compressor, the quietest units have sound ratings that range from 40-50 dB. However, these systems can come with sound ratings that are as high as 67 dB. Window AC units that are equipped with heating functionality may be louder.

The experts at Breeze Air Conditioning can deliver efficient installation services for any heating and air conditioning system you’d like to add to your Palm Desert, CA home. Our NATE-certified technicians also offer maintenance and repair services for all brands and types of HVAC units. Additionally, our team offers indoor air quality services that include the installation of air purifiers and humidifiers. Call us today to request a free quote!