Have you ever considered the noise levels made by household appliances in a typical home? You may associate excess noise with an industrial environment such as a factory or building site, yet excess noise caused by commonly used appliances can have a detrimental effect on your health too. You may find you’re so familiar with the sound of them buzzing away in the background that you barely even notice them anymore but even if you find them only mildly irritating, household appliances can have a negative impact on your health after continued exposure.
Experts say any noise over 85 decibels can impair your hearing but lower levels of noise exposure can also affect you over a period of time. A study by the World Health Organisation revealed 40% of people are regularly exposed to levels of 55dB – the same as a noisy office. Continued exposure to anything over 50dB can be detrimental over time.
So, what are the noisiest household appliances? You may be surprised to learn that several have noise levels of above 80dB, with the odd one rocketing to more than 100dB! The noisiest appliances are those used for DIY and gardening, with a simple hammer hitting a nail registering the same level as a chainsaw at 120dB! The second noisiest is a leaf blower at 110db.
An electric drill produces 95db of noise, together with a garbage disposal unit, power lawnmowers and even your hairdryer. A food processor or blender is usually the noisiest kitchen appliance, registering up to 90dB. The vacuum cleaner and the flush of the toilet produce up to 85dB but the latter is only a short burst of noise. Quite a lot of household appliances register up to 80dB including an alarm clock, the ring of the telephone, an electric shaver and the doorbell. Appliances with noise levels of up to 75dB include air conditioning, the washing machine and the dishwasher.
While experts say short-term exposure to these noise levels isn’t particularly harmful, they can take their toll with prolonged exposure – continual noise can raise stress levels and lead to sleeping problems.
Today, a number of home appliances (such as washing machines) have a rating on the label stating the decibel level. Some major hairdryer manufacturers follow a similar procedure, displaying their decibel level on the packaging.
Some of the leading appliance manufacturers are actively trying to reduce noise levels to improve householders’ quality of life – it appears this matters to consumers, as a survey by John Lewis revealed almost 50% of those who responded said sound was an important consideration. The retailer says sales of products with quieter noise ratings have leapt by about 33% annually in recent years, as people have become more health-conscious.
Certain brands are endorsed by the Quiet Mark, which is an international mark of approval launched by the Noise Abatement Society in the UK in 2012. However, the household appliance industry on the whole seems slow on the uptake when it comes to consumer demands for quieter products. Sound testing is part of the manufacturing process for many brands but when you’re buying online, no-one yet allows you to search appliances by their noise rating and there isn’t a standardised universal approach for comparing different products by their decibel level.
Sometimes, buying low noise products doesn’t come cheap and the general rule of thumb is that the quieter they are, the more expensive they are. For example, one of the quietest lawn mowers on the market, the Robomow Automatic Robotic lawnmower, has noise levels of 72dB compared with your average mower’s 95dB but it also has a price tag of £1,699. Yet the health benefits of quieter appliances are plentiful: the World Health Organisation cites that people with lower noise levels in the home are less likely to suffer from seven common health issues caused by excess noise including impaired hearing, problems with verbal communication, impaired performance, disturbed sleep, mental health problems, heart trouble and social behaviour issues.
In August this year, new European legislation was announced that will make noisy vacuum cleaners a thing of the past. A law banning the sale of those with a noise level above 80dB came into effect in September in all EU countries. Stores are permitted to sell models that don’t comply with the new label but only until current stock runs out.
However, it’s unclear what will happen due to Brexit after the UK leaves the EU. The UK government is to debate a bill in parliament this autumn to decide which EU laws it will keep.
As experienced acoustic consultants, Sound Planning specialises in the design, supply and installation of noise control products and sound enclosures throughout the UK. Although we can’t do anything about your noisy home appliances, we have been providing effective solutions to meet the most common industrial, architectural and commercial noise problems since 2007. If you want a quieter life, give us a call.