The government hopes that the widespread adoption of heat pumps as part of their ‘Net Zero’ energy decarbonisation plan have suffered another setback after an investigation was launched into whether they may be too loud.
A £6 million noise mapping probe has been ordered by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on pumps, which are placed outside houses and tend to emit a constant hum. Reports say the government had revealed plans to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028, but Defra has raised concerns about the impact of noise on communities.
Heat pumps tend to emit a constant hum of between 40 and 60 decibels, about the same as a fridge or dishwasher, and it is feared that the cumulative impact of a large number of heat pumps in a residential area may prove too strong. . Defra is now reportedly working on the noise mapping project which involves collecting information on every road, railway and urban area in the country.
READ MORE: Implementation of heat pumps rejected by 95 percent in new survey
cardigan powminister of environmental quality and resilience, said in a gentlemen’s house science and technology committee hearing last week that Defra had raised the issue of noisy heat pumps with the Department of Business and Commerce.
“While Defra is responsible for protecting the environment, a lot of the levers are in other departments,” he told his colleagues.
“We have highlighted the noise problem, so now they have commissioned a paper and research on noise impacts.”
Heat pumps work by pumping compressed air from outdoors into homes, but sound experts say a combination of fan hum, motor hum and air conditioning condenser unit hum can cause discomfort. This becomes stronger in icy conditions, while the drives can also cause noisy vibrations.
Mike Foster, executive director of the Energy and Utilities Alliance, which represents the utility industry, requested tests to find out the impact of multiple heat pumps. He said The Telegraph: “We are aware of the concerns around the noise emitted by heat pumps.
“If the government really cared about consumers, they would order a full-scale test, with every home with a heat pump installed, to test the accumulated noise levels from massive heat pump installations.
“Instead, they appear to be prioritizing a Whitehall target to decommission boilers for heat pumps. Consumer interest is second best.”
The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero told The Telegraph it was aware of the noise issues and expects the review to be completed by the summer.
This will consider whether a better design can reduce volume and whether they should be placed in a way that minimizes sound impact. A department spokesperson said: “Heat pumps are a proven and scalable option for decarbonizing heat. These are located outside the house and generally have similar sound levels to a refrigerator.
“We have seen incredible innovation over the past decade, particularly in noise reduction, and we are reviewing this to ensure planning rules keep pace with technological advances.”
Grants of up to £5,000 are available for homeowners to install a heat pump, although uptake has been slow. They typically cost between £7,000 and £13,000 to buy and install.