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Antony Antoniou – Luxury Property Expert

Government to overhaul heat pump regulations over noise pollution

Government to overhaul heat pump regulations over noise pollution

Changes to encourage manufacturers to prioritise noise reduction over aesthetics

Government plans to revamp heat pump regulations stem from concerns about noise pollution. The objective is to steer manufacturers towards prioritizing noise reduction over aesthetic features in these systems.

The proposed changes in heat pump installation rules aim to curb noise pollution, aligning with the government’s target of installing 600,000 heat pumps annually starting from 2028. To incentivize households, grants of up to £7,500 are offered.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero report highlighted that current planning requirements might overwhelm local authorities with an influx of planning applications and noise grievances as the rollout extends to densely populated areas. Approximately one in four individuals living near a heat pump expressed intrusion due to noise, often affecting sleep quality.

Recent revelations pointed out that a majority of available heat pump models breached noise guidelines, potentially rendering millions of British homes ineligible for installation without violating noise regulations.

The report suggested removing limitations on heat pump unit sizes to encourage manufacturers to prioritize noise reduction over aesthetics. It also called for clear guidelines on what constitutes a suitable noise barrier between heat pumps and neighboring properties, emphasizing that mere hedges or partially gapped fences might not suffice.

Acknowledging the impact of surrounding surfaces on noise reflection, the report urged installers to consider acoustic reflections from nearby structures, potentially amplifying noise levels for adjacent properties.

However, the report highlighted that existing sound emission limits constrain the heat pump rollout, especially in areas with higher property density, such as flats and terraced houses. It recommended lifting the rule demanding a one-meter distance between a heat pump and a property boundary, a restriction impeding the installation of devices in terrace homes with limited space.

Jeremy Hunt committed to abolishing this rule in the recent Autumn Statement. The government’s broader aim is to phase out new gas boilers by 2035, with a ban in new homes from 2025. However, only about 3,000 heat pumps are installed monthly, falling significantly short of the 2028 target, partly due to a shortage of qualified engineers in green technology.

While the report highlighted manufacturers’ progress in developing more efficient and quieter heat pumps, it noted that implementing immediate or substantial regulatory changes posed challenges due to the lengthy development cycles lasting three to five years.

The government encourages homeowners by offering grants of up to £7,500 under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, recently increased from £5,000 due to low voucher redemption. Still, installations must comply with Microgeneration Certification Scheme standards, including noise disturbance limitations, to qualify for government funding.

To avoid noise disturbances, heat pump installations must not exceed 42 decibels within one meter of a neighbor’s door or window. These installations also require adherence to MCS standards to bypass the need for planning permission.

Furthermore, the report urged regulators to consider ambient noise levels when multiple properties in close proximity install heat pumps. It highlighted the potential cumulative effect, where each side of a property could have a 42dB heat pump, resulting in a higher noise level for the middle property. However, the report recognized that its findings were predominantly from detached and semi-detached homes, limiting their relevance to flats and terraced houses’ heat pump sound emissions.

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