Urban noise pollution caused by air-source heat pumps in Vinex neighbourhoods

  • P.J. Brandsma

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Noise pollution can harm human health. Air-source heat pumps (ASHP) emit noise into the outdoor environment. It is unknown whether noise emissions from ASHP can harm human health in the Netherlands. Vinex neighbourhoods are characterized by repetitive housing blocks that are often built relatively close together. This thesis study was set up to evaluate the potential for ASHP to cause harm to human health if all homes in a Vinex block are fitted with ASHP. The main question for this thesis study is: What is the noise level in Vinex neighbourhoods when heating is supplied by ASHPs?
The study uses simulation software, IMMI 2021 and VABI elements to estimate noise propagation in a Vinex neighbourhood. To calculate the heat loss of Vinex homes, VABI elements was used. With the use of the data from VABI elements and temperature data from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) from which four different temperature scenarios were derived, Lnight of a single ASHP can be calculated. The results of the calculations were then input for IMMI 2021 to calculate the noise pollution in a Vinex neighbourhood.
The results show that noise emissions from ASHP in a Vinex block can reach the World Health Organisation’s lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) for night noise. In the worst-case scenario, the LOAEL was met regardless of ASHP positioning. The no observed effect level was exceeded in every scenario except for one scenario with an ASHP placed at one meter from ground level. Noise pollution at the façade of the building varies between 30 and 50 dB(A).
The conclusions of this study should be treated with some caution because the input data, which underlie the emission calculations, have limitations. A lack of sufficient empirical data primarily causes these limitations. The most critical missing data are residents’ influences and noise emission measurements. User influences are the temperature setting, e.g. the discipline to close all doors and windows, and cooking techniques. User influences will most likely increase the demand for heat from the ASHP. For the noise emission of ASHP, this thesis study used one manufacturer who shares its data extensively. Other manufacturers provide little data, which were also of moderate to poor quality. To make simulations, such as in this thesis study, as truthful as possible, more noise emission data on different ASHP should be available. As the user influences, the likelihood is high that with sufficient data, the noise emission of ASHP will be higher than the values used in this thesis study.
Despite the limitations of this thesis study, it has become clear that noise emissions from several ASHP have the potential to harm human health. The Lwa of a single ASHP in smaller Vinex neighbourhoods should not exceed 49 dB(A) to make the risks of health damage nil. Current legislation can be enough to protect the inhabitants, but it is yet unclear how the legislation will be enforced.
Date of Award1 Jul 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorWilfried Ivens (Examiner), N.M. Barthel (Supervisor), J. Blaul (Supervisor) & Lily Fredrix (Assessor)

Master's Degree

  • Master Environmental Sciences

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