"A little night music" may be welcome when it comes from Mozart, but when it comes from house parts, it can be downright annoying. That seems to be the case for a reader in Baltimore, who writes, "A room in our house is directly over the heating unit, and the noises of the blower and the air moving through the duct are disturbing. Can you suggest a way to reduce or eliminate the noises?"
Getting rid of mechanical and other such noises is not an easy task -- especially after someone has become sensitive to them. Who hasn't been driven batty by the relatively tiny sound of a faucet dripping on a quiet night?
Still, there are some things that might help.
Sometimes furnaces make more noise than they should because a filter is dirty, or because the cold-air return has become clogged with dirt or pet fur. Start by cleaning all the registers and making sure that furniture and rugs are not blocking registers. Change the filter, or clean it if it's reusable. If you have central air-conditioning, be sure to clean and change the filter throughout the summer.
The ductwork itself may also cause air noise. Sometimes ducts are installed with square turns, which trap the air moving through and cause turbulence. Radius turns, where the duct forms a curve, can help quiet the noise. It's also possible that the blower doesn't need to be as noisy as it is. Sometimes the installer of the system turns the blower up to a higher speed to ensure strong air movement. You can have the blower setting checked out by a qualified heating sub-contractor; it may be possible to turn it down and reduce some noise that way.
Once the mechanical problems have been tackled, it may be time for some soundproofing. Most of these techniques are most easily accomplished in new construction or renovation. If you're doing a rehab, it's a good idea to think about where sound reduction might be beneficial -- like helping those early-to-bed folks who sleep above a room with a night owl and a TV.
When you're installing insulation in stud-wall cavities, even before the drywall goes up you can hear the room getting quieter, and noises from outside are sharply reduced. Insulating a wall or floor with with fiberglass insulation will greatly reduce sound transmission.
It may also be possible to insulate ductwork, both under the floor and in the walls. There are insulation products that simply wrap around the metal, and are sealed with -- what else -- duct tape.
In new construction or rehabs, sound transmission can be dramatically reduced if you build surfaces that do not touch. A double stud wall with a layer of insulation woven between the studs is a real sound reducer.
Floors can be made more soundproof with wall-to-wall carpet laid over high-quality padding. People who live in old houses often love the look of gleaming wood floors, but such floors are inherently noisy. Any hard surface will bounce noise off the wall or floor, or transmit vibrations. Extensive use of fabric, such as curtains, wall hangings, carpets and rugs can help quiet a noisy room.
And, finally, there is the concept of fighting fire with fire -- that is, fighting noise with noise, using an electric fan or a machine designed to create "white" noise. Because the white noise is steady, it blocks out random and stop-and-start noises such as furnace blowers and vibrating ducts. It's especially effective in a bedroom. Over time, your ears adjust to the white noise and you don't really hear it any more.
If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about workin on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N.
Calvert St. Baltimore, 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.