Geothermal heat pumps can make your home more comfortable, using highly efficient renewable energy. However, despite its wide acceptance, many are still hesitant to have one because of stories about the noise these heat pumps make.
Geothermal heat pumps aren’t noisy, and there are even some that you’d have to touch just to know that it’s working. However, some models may require you to do more to reduce their noise. If you only noticed the noise recently, it could mean that there’s something wrong with your heat pump.
There are various reasons why geothermal heat pumps are noisy, and we’ll talk about all of them in great detail. Stick around because you’ll also learn how you can address some of these issues. By the end of this article, you can be sure that you’ll stay comfortable without the dreaded noise that plagues some homeowners.
Common Myth About Geothermal Heat Pumps
One of the most common concerns for people who are looking at geothermal heat pumps is the noise that they produce. There’s been so much discussion about the noise it makes and all the variables that can make it quieter or noisier.
All of these add up to the reasons why homeowners are having second thoughts on getting one. But the truth is that these heat pumps are very quiet. You can even find some that you’d have to touch just to know that they are working. However, it’s not always the case because many other things can affect the sound these pumps produce—with build quality being the most significant factor that affects its noise.
As a rule of thumb, the better your heat pump is, the less work is needed to make it quiet. Entry-level pumps may be a bit noisier, and you’ll have to do a couple of things to keep it at a minimum, but it’s still nowhere near those than run on fossil fuel. In many cases, you won’t even have to do so much to minimize the sounds because they’re usually quieter than what we’re all used to in our homes.
Another factor contributing to the noise that geothermal heat pumps produce is the equipment it uses to run. Its counterparts usually have equipment outside your house that can disturb your neighbors. A geothermal heat pump utilizes the constant underground temperature to regulate your house’s temperature. You can expect a warmer winter and cooler summer without the noisy operations.
However, it doesn’t mean that your geothermal heat pump won’t produce sounds while you’re using them. There are other reasons for its noisy operation, but it usually means there’s something wrong with it. So, if you already have one in your house and hear sounds from it, it would be best to investigate and deal with the issue as soon as possible.
Common Causes of Noises That Geothermal Heat Pumps Make
As mentioned, other factors can make a geothermal heat pump noisier than they should. If you’re planning to have one in your home, or you feel like your heat pump produces more sounds than it should, then these are the simple fixes that you can work on:
Swooshing Sound During Winter
Usually, geothermal heat pumps are noisier during winter. So, if you’re only experiencing it during winter, then you can assume that it’s a part of its normal operation. Heat pumps can develop frost during winter, making them less efficient. However, valve shifting will allow your pump to work as usual in exchange for a slightly noisier operation.
This simple change isn’t a cause for alarm, and most geothermal heat pumps have this feature in place. When it goes into defrost mode, valves will shift, creating the swooshing sound that you hear. However, if you hear a continuous loud operational noise, it could be because of the compressor. Both of these aren’t concerning because they are functionalities that allow you to remain comfortable during winter.
Loud Noises When You Turn On or Turn Off
It’s normal for geothermal heat pumps to make noises when you turn them on or off. Whether you have it installed for a day or years, it’ll create sounds that often resemble clicking or tapping sounds. Sometimes, even sounds that make it seem like the whole unit is moving back and forth.
These sounds are normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern if you’ve only had your geothermal heat pump for a few days. Sometimes, it’s because of the gears that turn on and off with the machine—it’s how the manufacturer built the pump. However, if you’ve been using your heat pump for quite some time, and it’s the first time you hear these sounds, then it would be best to call a professional to conduct maintenance checks on your machine.
Although these sounds don’t usually mean that there’s something wrong with your geothermal heat pump, you may still want to ensure that something’s not amiss. It could be because of a loose gear or a brace that no longer holds the machine properly. Both may not seem like something you’d have to worry about, but it’d still be better to have someone investigate it thoroughly.
Buzzing or Gurgling Sounds
If you hear buzzing or gurgling sounds, it’s most likely that you need a professional to help you solve the problem. There are three common reasons for these sounds to occur: contractors, coils, or refrigerant. If you’ve been using your unit for quite some time, then it’s a good indicator that you need to replace some of its parts. It’s uncommon for geothermal heat pumps to create buzzing sounds, but it could mean that you need to replace the motor when it does.
If you’re using a relatively new unit, and you already hear these sounds, it’s not something that you should get used to. It would be best to contact your installer to help you deal with the issue. As mentioned, these noises aren’t usual, regardless of the model that you’re using. In most cases, it comes from a faulty part of the unit that needs repair or replacement; both aren’t something that even experienced homeowners should fix themselves.
Loud Metal-to-Metal Noises
The most common cause for this noise is a fan hitting another metal part inside the unit. Sometimes, it’s because of a chunk of ice or another metal part hitting the fan. As soon as you hear this sound, turn your unit off and inspect the fan. Remove any solid object inside the unit before you turn it back on.
Although it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with your geothermal heat pump, you still need to fix it as soon as possible. You can still use it as-is, but doing so could ruin the fan, and eventually, the motor. If a loose component is hitting the fan, it would be best to get it fixed as soon as possible. These noises aren’t part of its regular operation and could cause more problems if left unchecked.
Loud Rattling or Vibrating Sounds
There are several reasons for geothermal heat pumps to create vibration-like or rattling sounds, with various fixes. The first thing you can do is place rubber pads under your unit to help absorb the vibrations. Although operational vibrations don’t create sounds, it may cause disturbing sounds as it hits a solid surface. Using rubber pads under the unit should help reduce the sounds that your pump makes.
Other problems that may cause this issue are cover panels that aren’t screwed tightly or the refrigerant is strapped too tightly. Sometimes, these sounds are caused by loose parts in the rattling ductwork or air handler. All of these won’t affect your machine’s efficiency, and you can quickly fix these issues without seeking professional help.
Another reason why these sounds occur is because of their functional design. As mentioned, geothermal heat pumps are usually quiet, but entry-level models may create more sounds than high-end ones. If this is the case, you only have two options: get used to the sounds it makes or upgrade that unit you have installed.
When Should You Be Concerned?
As soon as you hear a loud rattling sound during operation, you need to seek help from a licensed technician. Although there are many reasons for it to happen, there are some tell-tale signs that you need to fix something as soon as possible. Here are three other things that you need to keep an eye on that will help you determine whether there’s an issue with your unit:
- Higher energy cost: if you suddenly notice an increase in your energy consumption, it’s a sign that something’s wrong with your heat pump. Although you won’t notice the difference in its performance, you’ll see its effect on the energy cost. You may still feel comfortable inside your house, but your geothermal heat pump works harder than it should, increasing the energy that it uses.
- More time or less power: geothermal heat pumps allow you to stay comfortable, and you won’t notice something’s wrong with them. However, if it suddenly loses power or it takes longer before you can get the ideal temperature, then you need to call an HVAC professional as soon as possible. Loss of power is never a good sign, and the more you delay the repairs, the more it’ll cost you.
- Corrosion: it’s something that you can’t avoid, and your heat exchange coils will always need a replacement after some time. The unit uses it to dissipate heat, and as it degrades, your geothermal heat pump works harder. Although it happens with age, it’s still something that you need a professional to do to ensure that the coils are replaced correctly and that there won’t be a problem with its operation.
When you hear loud rattling sounds during operation, and it comes with any of these three signs, you need to have someone look at your heat pump as soon as possible. In many cases, you won’t see the problem visually, and you need to investigate thoroughly to pinpoint the problem, something that not even experienced homeowners should be doing.
How to Reduce Sounds From Geothermal Heat Pumps
Geothermal heat pumps aren’t noisy, and many of the units you can get these days won’t even produce sounds loud enough for you to hear them. There are still some that may be noisy, but it doesn’t mean that you have to get used to its noise. There are a few things that you can do to reduce the noise that your geothermal heat pumps produce, including the following:
Install a Compressor Sound Blanket Wrap
Whether your geothermal heat pump is new or old, it may produce sounds that make you feel uncomfortable. If this is your case, the first thing that you should consider is to install a compressor sound blanket wrap. It’s made of noise-reduction materials and is fitted around the compressor to reduce the sounds it creates.
It’s the most cost-effective solution you can try because you don’t have to replace anything within your unit. It also doesn’t cost a lot, making it easier for you to solve the issue. Whether you have a new or old geothermal heat pump, it’s something that will come in handy if you want to reduce the noise your unit produces.
Use Sound Curtain Door Covers and Acoustic Door Seal
If you have a floor-mounted unit inside a mechanical closet, an excellent way to reduce the noise that your heat pump creates is to install sound curtain door covers and acoustic door seals. You can use this as an addition to the sound blanket wrap, effectively minimizing the sound that any part of your unit creates.
The sound curtain door cover will provide an additional barrier for your closet and will help you absorb the sound it creates. You can also seal the gaps with an acoustic door seal around the door to make your closet an effective silencer for the pump. Both of these will work together in reducing the noise, which you might need if you’ve only had your geothermal heat pump for a few days.
Use Vibration Pads or Vibration Dampener
Geothermal heat pumps vibrate while working, and the sound it creates depends on the unit you have. If you’re dealing with loud noises while it’s operating, and you’re certain that it’s not because of a problem with your unit, then you can use vibration pads or vibration isolation dampers to reduce the noise it creates. These pads will help you absorb the vibration that your unit makes, reducing its noise without replacing its parts.
However, this solution may not work for all units because it only solves its vibration. It doesn’t reduce the overall noise that it creates, making it less ideal for homeowners dealing with intolerable noises. Nonetheless, it’s a cheap solution that you can try, and you won’t have to get a professional to do it for you.
Use a Ventilation Hood
This technique is another solution to try if you have your unit inside a mechanical closet—install a ventilation hood on top of the grill that’ll serve as a silencer. This method works well if you have the sound curtains and door seals because it eliminates the excess sounds that the curtains and seals can’t absorb.
Although there will be more things that you need to consider if you’re going to install a ventilation hood, it’s highly effective in reducing noise. Given that you’ve insulated it properly, you can be sure that the noise your unit produces will be minimal.
Consider Replacing Your Unit
Geothermal heat pumps, like any equipment, will have several problems as they age. If you’ve already had your pump for 10 to 15 years, it’s probably best to consider replacing the unit itself. Sure, there are many other things that you can do to get rid of the noise that your pumps create, but if you’ve tried most of them and the noise is still intolerable, changing the unit could be the best option for you.
After all, repairing or replacing parts of an old unit can be costly, with very little payoff. Plus, if you consider the perks of newer units with less operational noise, it’s not that hard to replace an old geothermal heat pump. The only thing that you need to consider is the quality of the one you’re getting, and ensure that you won’t deal with its noisy operation as soon as you have it installed.
Geothermal heat pumps aren’t noisy, and even entry-level ones that produce more sounds are still quieter than those that run on fossil fuel. However, it doesn’t mean that you should expect a quiet operation when switching to geothermal heat pumps. There are still some noises that you can hear, and some of them are related to their operation.
Remember, if you’ve already had your geothermal heat pump for years, and it’s the first time you hear these sounds, it would be best to contact an HVAC professional as soon as possible to help you deal with the issue.
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- Ims Heat Pumps: Are Ground and Air Source Heat Pumps Noisy?
- Asn: Noise Associated with the Ground Water Systems Serving Residential Geothermal Heat Pumps
- Houzz: Noisy Compressor in Geothermal Heat Pump
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- Geomaster: How Noisy Is the Geothermal Heat Pump Unit?
- Bass Air: 4 Signs of Geothermal System Problems
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