Fan and Blower Sound Solutions

Posted on Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Pacific HVAC Engineering partner with Chicago Blower Corp. (U.S.) to offer a full range of high performance centrifugal and axial fans / blowers throughout Australasia.

With access to over 50 years of Chicago Blower’s extensive engineering experience and AMCA certified designs, we are equipped to offer world class fans and blowers to satisfy any requirement. All drafting and fabrication is handled in-house, in Australia, by a team of engineers and production specialists with decades of experience on projects throughout our region. Here is the latest installment from our partners at Chicago Blowers, on fan sound solutions.

As we all know, air-movement devices can be noisy. To conquer excessive noise levels, an understanding of how sound is measured and how to compensate for equipment surroundings is required. When a fan or blower exceeds maximum permissible sound levels, it may be time to introduce attenuation devices and methods.

One of the most frustrating times sound can cause problems is when new process cooling equipment is put into service and the sound levels are higher than expected. Often, the problem is not the equipment or fan, but that all design characteristics were not taken into account. Prior to specifying sound requirements, it must be understood how sound is measured, fan manufacturers present technical data, and equipment surroundings are considered. In addition, the difference between measured and perceived sound and types of attenuation must be appreciated.

How Sound Is Measured
Sound is the result of small rhythmic variations in atmospheric pressure spreading outward like ripples in a pond. These variations travel in air at approximately 343m/s. When they reach the human ear, rhythmic variations are interpreted as sound. Sound is measured in sound pressure and sound power. Sound pressure is a measure of the variations in atmospheric pressure; sound power is the energy emitted by a source independent of the surroundings. The difference between sound pressure and sound power can be illustrated by comparing a sound source to a light source such as a 75 W light bulb. Sound pressure changes as the surroundings change, just as a light bulb is brighter the closer one is to the source and dimmer the farther away one is. By contrast, sound power remains constant independent of the surroundings; the bulb’s power remains 75 W.

Permissible noise exposures associates exposure time in hours to sound levels in decibels. The higher the sound level, the shorter the time a person should be exposed to that sound level. Fan manufacturers commonly use an eight-octave band scale with centre frequencies doubling from 63 to 8,000 Hz to convey sound expectancy. Energy is separated electronically into the eight octave bands with the values shown as sound power levels (Lwi) in decibels. These values are converted to a weighted sound pressure level (dBA) at various distances to account for how the human ear responds at various frequencies. Sound power level ratings indicate the amount of sound generated by a fan when operating at various points within the normal operating range. Ratings typically are derived from tests conducted using methods described by the Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA) Standard 300 Test Code for sound ratings.

Account for Surroundings
Sound pressure levels presented by fan manufacturers reflect a theoretical free-field environment. Free field allows the acoustical energy to radiate in all directions – imagine a fan floating in mid-air, if that were possible. Theoretical free-field conditions are approximated in laboratories with sound-absorbing walls, floors and ceilings. A reverberate-field environment accounts for noise reflection. Laboratories with hard walls, floors and ceilings are used to simulate reverberate-field conditions.

Installations fall somewhere between free- and reverberate-field conditions. Using fan manufacturers’ published sound expectancies without accounting for variations from a free-field environment can lead to unacceptable sound levels. Installation factors that will influence sound level include distance from the sound source; distance from reflective surfaces; whether the fan inlet is open or connected to duct work; thickness of duct walls and presence of additional sound-generating sources.

Measured vs. Perceived Sound
For critical sound level environments, acoustical consultants should be employed to determine the appropriate fan sound level requirements. Acoustical consultants will identify requirements for the measured sound, perceived sound and attenuation.

Measured sound requirements refer to the free-field level required to meet industry standards for a specific installation. Perceived sound is what the worker or neighbour actually hears. A sound source can be within the standards and still be perceived as objectionable.

Attenuation is the reduction of sound levels from the source to the listener, measured as the reduction of sound energy via insertion of an object between the source and listener. Often, a fan is not capable of meeting the required sound levels. In this situation, some type of sound attenuation is used to meet the required levels.

Types of Attenuation
Attenuation for a fan can be accomplished by changing the fan location, adding personal devices or employing acoustic materials. Altering fan location by moving the fan farther away from the listener or changing the direction of the sound path can decrease perceived sound. Personal devices are used for intermittent noise and include protective ear devices, ear-plugs and headphones. Acoustic materials and devices include vibration isolation, fan silencers, duct silencers, sound blankets, acoustical barriers and acoustical enclosures.

Sound levels and how the sound will be affected by the surroundings are important considerations when selecting any process cooling equipment. The fan manufacturer, acoustical consultant and process cooling equipment manufacturer can work together to ensure the proper equipment is supplied to meet any measured or perceived sound requirements.

For more information on sound solutions for noisy fans, please contact us via the form below.