Tips for Reducing Household Noise

Household noise, whether it's appliances, heavy traffic outside, loud entertainment systems or voices that bounce off the walls and floors, clearly leads to a more stressful environment.

Owens Corning, which manufactures household noise control systems, sponsored a survey that says more noise in your home means more stress and less sleep. Nearly 30 percent of respondents said they would invest in products to make their home quieter. Some 62 percent would spend up to $500 and 38 percent said they would spend more. Owens Corning offers a series of products - called QuietZone - that manage sound and reduce noise from laundry rooms, entertainment rooms, family rooms, and other noisy areas of the house. They can also be used for home offices, bedrooms, or other parts of the house where you prefer it be quiet when you work or sleep.

A company called Icynene offers an insulation, spray-in-place soft foam system that it says serves as a barrier to airborne sounds. And Maxxon has a product called Acousti-Mat made especially for floors.

And when it comes to appliances, many newer dishwashers offer improved sound insulation and quieter motors than older versions. For example, Whirlpool offers a line of Quiet Partner dishwashers, which the company says are quieter than the sound of popcorn popping in the microwave, bacon frying, and an electric razor. Jenn-Air offers a Quiet Series dishwasher line.

Washing machines send a lot of water rushing through the pipes in your home. Owens Corning says you can minimize noise from plumbing pipes and washing machines by isolating noise sources from areas requiring privacy. Reducing noise also requires the proper selection and installation of piping and other laundry room fixtures.

Some other ways you can reduce noise through installation include:

The Carpet and Rug Institute says that carpet is the perfect answer for today's homes, which are typically filled with noisy computers, speaker phones, big screen TVs, video games, and home entertainment centers. Carpet provides sound insulation. With an increasing number of new homes being built with open floor plans for primary living spaces, the use of carpet allows the family noise to be absorbed rather than bounced off the floor and back onto the walls and furniture. And installing carpet cushion will quiet the room even more, the institute says. "Research shows that properly specified carpet and cushion combinations produce better noise-reduction than carpet alone," the institute says on its web site.

Another way to cut down on household noise, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is to make sure your "home envelope" is efficient. Your home envelope includes walls, floors, ceilings, roof, windows, and doors. By making sure your insulation is up to par, your air sealing is thorough, and your windows are appropriate for your climate (look for the Energy Star label), you can reduce noise transmission in your house - not to mention reduce drafts, save on energy bills, and control moisture. You can get details from EPA's home sealing web page.

And if you're in the market for a new home and peace and quiet are high priorities, you may want to consider a concrete house. With land becoming scarce, more homes are being built near highways, railways, and airports - and closer to one another. The mass of concrete walls can reduce sound penetrating through a wall by more than 80 percent over a wood-framed construction, according to the Portland Cement Association. Sound will penetrate the windows, but overall, a concrete home is about two-thirds quieter than its wood-framed counterpart.

-Michele Dawson, Realty Times, December 30, 2002

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Spring 2003

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