Power vent water heaters can be noisy, thankfully there are many different ways you can reduce the noise they make:
- Reduce the amount of vibration from the water heater
- Extend the exhaust pipe towards the ground to muffle the sound
- Extend the exhaust pipe up towards the roof to reduce the noise
- Create a sound barrier
- Buy a muffler
Methods for Reducing Noise from a Power Vent Water Heater
Now let’s talk about some of the actionable steps you can take to reduce the noise of your power vent water heater. If it’s a nuisance to you and your neighbors, some of these methods may help.
1. Limit Vibrations
The first thing you want to do is see what kind of noise you’re hearing. I’ve seen situations where someone thinks they hear the exhaust fan or blower, but what they’re actually hearing is a vibrating water heater due to poor installation.
You want to make sure that your water heater is properly secured to the wall in a way that limits the amount of movement you get when the blower is in operation.
When the blower starts running, it’s going to take a lot of power to expel the CO2, and in that process, the water heater may vibrate or try to move around.
If you don’t have it properly secured to the floor or the wall, it will create a rattling noise, and if you’re on a concrete floor that will create vibrations and noises throughout the house when it’s quiet.
It might seem like a small issue and something that most people would never notice, but depending on the location of your water heater, it can become a nuisance.
2. Extending the Exhaust Pipe Down
At this point, you’ve likely determined that the noise is not vibrations from the water heater, but the blower itself. Join the crowd!
If your neighbors are complaining about the blower, there’s one quick and simple solution.
It’s not the “best” remedy in the world because you’re simply rigging it up to make less noise rather than addressing the problem, but it will work.
Many homeowners will add additional piping and point it down towards the ground to muffle the blower’s sound. When the electric blower fan is blowing directly horizontal, nothing stops or reduces the noise, so it spreads.
When you point the vent down towards the ground, the noise goes in that direction, which will help reduce the level of active noise you hear as you walk by or do things in your yard.
One extremely important factor to remember is that you don’t want to have the vent too close to the ground. If you’re creating too much barrier, it can result in the backflow of CO2 into your house, which can be disastrous. Don’t sacrifice safety in this situation, and if you’re unsure, call a professional.
3. Extending the Exhaust Pipe Up
You can always choose to do the opposite and extend the pipe up. In newer construction where power vent water heaters are present, this is the typical process. When the pipe is on the roof of the home, the noise is the same, but you don’t hear it nearly as much.
The project is quite involved, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, it will quickly become an eyesore and can lead to leaks, precipitation getting in, or backflow of CO2.
If you’re planning on extending the pipe up, I would suggest hiring a professional or someone who knows their way around to help you with the job.
4. Creating a Sound Barrier
If you want to leave things the way they are and “sort-of band-aid” the issue, then you can do this.
Put a fence in front of the vent, or even a hedge or tree would help. As with the lower pipe method, be very careful that you don’t put anything too close to the vent because of the concern for backflow.
If you put a fence a foot from the vent, you will cause CO2 to bounce off and come back in. When the blower stops running, you’ll have that CO2 working its way back into the home.
5. Buying a Muffler
A favorite method that I see is to buy a muffler.
You can install these inside the home, so you don’t need a giant piece of metal hanging off your house’s side, and they’ll reduce the amount of noise that the blower makes on the outside the house.
If your issue is inside, this strategy might not help you too much.
Keep in mind; it doesn’t get rid of the sound; it only muffles it.
There will still be noise coming from the vent, but it shouldn’t be nearly as bad as before, and it should please the neighborhood.
What Is A Power Vent Water Heater?
If you’ve ever purchased a hot water heater before, you’ve likely heard of the term power vent. The power vent describes the method at which the water heater expels exhaust gases from the home through vent pipe using the fan or blower [Source].
Depending on the location of your water heater and the design of your home, your only option might be to have a power vent water heater.
These tend to be more expensive than a direct vent water heater simply because the installation process is more involved and requires more work and materials. When you compare the two side by side, you can start to understand why this is a more expensive way to go.
People opt for a power vent water heater over the other style because they have complete freedom as to where they put the water heater. If you’re designing a basement or a boiler room in your house with a specific layout in mind, you might not have a lot of control over the water heater.
That is the primary reason people choose a power vent water heater. When you go with this style, you can place the heater anywhere because it doesn’t need to be located near anything specific.
Direct Vent Vs Power Vent Water Heaters
Now let’s take a look at the two types of water heaters side by side so you can understand the reasons why a power vent water heater creates noise.
With a gravity vented water heater, exhaust fumes are expelled out of the home vertically through a chimney.
This doesn’t require any additional ductwork, pipes, or vents because it’s built into the existing system. This type of water heater is common in older homes when the exhaust gases can be vented vertically.
It’s more affordable to install because it doesn’t require as much setup and the overall hot water heating costs are lower.
A gas water heater is not hooked up to any existing vents or chimneys, and it vents horizontally using a pipe that extends out of the home.
In addition to the vent, there is also a blower that helps push the exhaust out of the vent, which is what causes most of the noise.
Pros of Power Vent Water Heaters
Let’s talk about some of the pros associated with this type of water heater.
If you’re doing some research to decide if the noise is going to be too much, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of both options before making a decision.
The main pro is that you can put these water heaters wherever you want.
Since you’re running a horizontal vent, you don’t need to put it in a location where there is access to a vertical vent or chimney.
You can put the water heater wherever and then install the vent system from there.
Less Backdraft Risk
Around 430 people die in the United States per year from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Some of these deaths are the result of back-drafting CO2 entering the house from their water heater.
This issue is not something you want to worry about, and having a power vent water heater decreases the chances of this ever happening.
Since these water heaters come with built-in fan and blowers, it’s much more effective at expelling the CO2 from the house without having any work it’s way back inside and leak out.
Power vent water heaters are much more energy-efficient, using less fuel than other similar venting systems.
Cons of Power Vent Water Heaters
Here are some of the apparent downsides of owning a power vent water heater:
Noise is the most obvious issue here, and depending on the type, design, and location of your water heater, it might be a severe problem. We’ll discuss how to reduce the noise shortly though, if you have this issue.
Hot Water Heating Costs
These water heaters are more expensive to install, and they cost more to operate. Because you have a blower, it must use electricity, which is another added utility cost. It can cost 75% more to install one.
You’ve also got additional pipes and installation necessary to set it up, so while you get more flexibility of location, there are costs associated with that.
Why You Might Want to Reduce the Noise
The next question is, what brings you here today. Why are you trying to reduce the noise of your power vent water heater?
Many people complain that their neighbors have issues with the noise of the vent and that they can hear it from across the street.
It’s important to understand that you don’t always have to do something about this.
In many cases, neighborhoods have a noise ordinance that has a specific decibel level that they can tolerate.
If you’re consistently creating noise louder than the rating, then you will have to do something about it.
If the power vent is installed correctly, then it should never reach a noise level loud enough to trigger an ordinance.
On the other hand, I do understand not wanting to upset your neighbors and doing your best to be “neighborly.”
If the power vent is annoying you and your family inside the home, then that’s a different story.
The first thing I would do is contact the professional who did the job. See if there is anything they can do if they have any tips or ideas for reducing the noise.
In most cases, the sound should never reach that high of a level, so if it’s becoming a serious problem, chances are something wasn’t installed correctly.
No one ever said owning a home was easy, and there are always things popping up left and right. If you’re deciding which water heater to purchase, don’t let the noise issue turn you away from a power vent water heater.
In most cases, the noise is such a minimal concern that most people don’t even notice it.
If you’re already dealing with noise complaints and the neighbors are about to plug your vent with an old t-shirt, then you’ll want to give some of these methods a try!
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