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Q: At How Many Decibals are Air Conditioners Allowed To Operate? ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: At How Many Decibals are Air Conditioners Allowed To Operate?
Category: Reference, Education and News > Consumer Information
Asked by: freebeer-ga
List Price: $3.00
Posted: 14 Jul 2006 17:29 PDT
Expires: 13 Aug 2006 17:29 PDT
Question ID: 746462
There is an air conditioning unit right outside my window at my
apartment complex that is really noisy.  Sometimes I think it's past
the legal allowance for accpetable noise level coming from an AC unit.
 What is the law concerning the level of noise?  More specifically,
how many decibals are ok, and how many decibals would be considered
too much?  I live in Southern California..
Subject: Re: At How Many Decibals are Air Conditioners Allowed To Operate?
Answered By: hedgie-ga on 14 Jul 2006 18:02 PDT

 Sound levels (SL) are measured in decibels (deci-bel = .1 of a bel) 

SL      example
90	Loud factory, heavy truck at 1 m (3.3 ft)	
80	Vacuum cleaner at 1 m (3.3 ft), curbside of busy street	
70	Busy traffic at 5 m (16.5 ft)	
60	Office or restaurant inside	
50	Quiet restaurant inside	
40	Residential area at night

 There may be some ordonances for inside noice sources (e.g. for
office machines) in some countries (e.g. Germany) however the
enviromental noise (comming from outside) is in US regulated mostly be
local ordinances:

"Noise laws and ordinances vary widely among municipalities and indeed
do not even exist in some cities. An ordinance may contain a general
prohibition against making noise that is a nuisance, or it may set out
specific guidelines for the level of noise allowable at certain times
of the day and for certain activities. Exceptions are generally made
for activities considered essential public services such as refuse
collection and emergency vehicles...
Most city ordinances prohibit sound above a threshold intensity from
trespassing over property line at night, typically between 10 p.m. and
6 a.m., and during the day restricts it to a higher decibel level;
however, enforcement is uneven. Many municipalities do not follow up
on complaints. Even where a municipality has an enforcement office, it
may be unwilling to do more than issue warnings, since taking
offenders to court is expensive .."

Most cities will specify levels acceptable at night, some may be
specific about sources (car alarms) most are not. Here is a detailed
example of NYC situation.

As a practical solution,
 contact the owners of the AC unit and ask them to have the machine serviced.

Your only 'stick' , most likely, is threat of the civil suit, so try
do it by concensus, as one good neighbor talking to another.

You can measure it or have it measured (RadioShack sells Sound Level
Meters for some $30) and enquire about local ordonances at the city
hall as a second step.


Request for Answer Clarification by freebeer-ga on 16 Jul 2006 15:53 PDT
I live in Santa Clarita, California.  What are the regulations and
ordinances pertaining to noise control here?  Ideally I would like to
know the decibal level of what is considered to be unacceptable. 
Since everyone here at the complex only leases, would the threat of
civil suit still be there?  Also, would I be able to take my the
property management to small claims court if I do find that the AC
units are out of compliance?  Thanks.


Clarification of Answer by hedgie-ga on 16 Jul 2006 16:57 PDT
SEARCH TERM: Noise Ordinance,  Santa Clara

Santa Clara county has unincorporated areas, and your county website
is being redesigned:

-------------------------------------------'s search is temporarily unavailable.

We are working to improve the County of Santa Clara's Portal search capabilities.

Please visit the A-Z Services Listing, Agencies and Department Listing
or our Site Map.

Our apologies for the inconvenience.

If you live in the city, ask this department

City of Santa Clara 
Building Inspection Division
1500 Warburton Avenue 
Santa Clara, CA 95050 
Phone: (408) 615-2440 
Fax: (408) 241-3823

Re: small claim court 
 In  Small Claim Court you usually ask for a specific monetary damage -
 and that may be hard to document in this case.  
 However, we cannot answer legal questions here. 
 Please see disclaimer at the bottom of the page.

I recommend stronlgly you talk to the owner of the offending unit first,
If s/he is not responsive, you may call this department:

Dispute Resolution Program Services (PRG)

You can also ask state EPA and contact civil associations

 but do talk to the owner of unit and building manager first.

Kindly, also consider this guideline:

Sample Questions at Various Price Points 
$2 - $5 	 	Can be answered with a single link or a single piece of information.	
 	 	Not appropriate for multipart questions.	
 	 	Only 60% of the questions asked in this price range are answered.


Request for Answer Clarification by freebeer-ga on 19 Jul 2006 16:39 PDT
I think you may have misread my original request for clarification.  I
live in Santa Clarita, not Santa Clara.  Could you please clarify the
ordinances of the city of Santa Clarita?  Thanks.

Clarification of Answer by hedgie-ga on 20 Jul 2006 00:31 PDT
Sorry about that.  Here are the limits for your city:

Table 4.14-2
Major Laws, Regulatory Requirements, and Plans for Noise 
Key Elements and Thresholds; Applicable Permits 
Santa Clarita Municipal 
Code, Title 11 
- City of Santa Clarita 
Chapter 11.44, ?Noise Limits,? Section 11.44.040, indicates time and dBA 
level restrictions in designated sound zones: Residential Zone ? Day 65 
dBA, Night 55 dBA; Commercial and Manufacturing Zone ? Day 80 dBA, 
Night 70 dBA

search terms:Santa Clarita, California, noise ordinance  

However, please do read/re-read the article in wikipedia. What is on
the books is not always enforced,
particularly when only one voice is complaining.

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