THE NEW YORK TIMES: APPLIANCE MANUFACTURERS NEED TO BE AWARE OF MACHINERY NOISE
By: Joyce Cohen
An appliance may be hidden from the eyes, but that
doesn’t mean it escapes notice entirely. Manufacturers of household machinery are also taking heed of the demand for quiet.
“People are complaining more, particularly as appliances move into the living space,” said Gladys Unger of Acentech, an acoustical consulting firm in Boston. “Manufacturers are aware that these appliances, like washers and dryers, are no longer tucked in people’s basements.” In a small apartment, in fact, a washer-dryer might be chugging away in a living-room closet. And what about that fashionable open kitchen? Noise from a dishwasher or convection oven can drown out the TV and make it tough to converse.
But just as refrigerators flaunt their Energy Star labels and vehicles tout their gas mileage, your kitchen exhaust fan may at some point boast of its ability to stay mum. The Institute of Noise Control Engineering is working to develop a similar system rating the noise produced by consumer products, said Eric J. W. Wood, president of the group and a founder of Acentech.
The call for quiet is further along in Britain, where Quiet Mark was introduced in January. The program tests a range of appliances, including hair dryers and paper shredders, and singles out those with the softest, or least grating, sounds. Kettles and bathroom ventilation fans receive the most complaints about noise, said Poppy Elliott, Quiet Mark’s marketing director.
“Noise reduction is the new eco-megatrend,” she said. Even so, she added, judging sound quality “is unknown territory because sound is such a complicated thing to measure.” A sound can be low in volume but annoying nonetheless, and people have their own subjective perceptions. Advertised noise levels can be misleading, too: a room’s acoustics, an appliance’s location and the quality of installation can lead to varying results in the real world.
But typically, for household products, Ms. Unger noted, “as the noise goes down, the price goes up.” And many consider the extra cost well worth it. The 800 Plus dishwashers made by Bosch, the company’s most expensive line, for example, measure a mere 39 decibels. One feature is a filtration system rather than a disposal, so there is no internal grinder to pulverize food particles. “Our dishwashers are so quiet you don’t even know they’re on, so a red light is the only indication that they’re running,” said Marni Hale, the company’s senior marketing relations manager.
As for any appliance with an annoying beep, there is often a way to turn the sound off, said Jill Notini, spokeswoman for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. If you can’t figure it out, check the use and care manual, usually available online.