That being said, trying to fix a noisy air vent so that it hums along quietly can be more difficult than you might first imagine. On the one hand, you want to do whatever you can to make it run more silently, but on the other hand, you don’t want to have to obstruct the airflow into a room. What’s more, for as much as you might want to fix your air vent, you hardly want to spend forever or a fortune on this issue.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at ways to reduce air vent noise.
Close the Vent
We’ll get to other options in a moment, but first, let’s get the most obvious option out of the way first. Closing the vent will close off the airflow and, with it, very possibly shut out noise.
Even if you don’t wish to keep the air vent closed, this can be a valuable step in diagnosing the nature of the problem. If you close the vent and it quiets things, you have identified the issue. If it doesn’t, chances are you’re dealing with a structural problem.
Prepare the Room and Inspect the Vent
Before you start tinkering with your air vents to try and get them to behave, you’ll first want to prepare the room in which it is situated. The last thing you want is for your attempts at silencing your air vent to disturb your room’s harmony by breaking something or getting the space filthy with dust from the vent.
As such, the first thing you’ll want to do is put down a mat, towel, or something similar on the floor and any tables and furnishings lying about so as to protect them from dust. Having done that, you’ll be ready to start inspecting the air vent itself.
Upon opening up, there are three key things you’ll want to look at:
- The shape of the vent: The airflow through these vents and the connected areas is likely what’s causing the sound. As with a musical instrument, differently shaped holes will produce different sounds when air flows through it. You’ll also want to check for dents and damage.
- The number and nature of adjacent walls: The airflow is likely producing that sound in part by bouncing off one or more walls inside the area connected by the vents. The number and nature of these walls can also help you identify the nature of the sound. Blockages can also cause noise.
- The materials used: Most modern walls and air vents are made from sound absorption materials. The metal that makes air ducts, however, is not. Air passing between these metal air vents is often one of the causes of noisy air events.
The Steps Necessary for Soundproofing HVAC-Less Vents
1. Block Off the Vent
If you don’t use the air vent, the easiest way of solving your airflow noise problem is to simply block it up. The best way of doing that is to take some sealant and to plaster over or inside the vent so as to block the airflow once and for all.
Foam sealant is particularly good for this purpose.
2. Stuff the Vent
Let’s say that you don’t want to spend all that money on sealant, or else maybe you don’t want to spend the time properly blocking off the vent. If that’s the case, you can get away with the least expensive slightly MacGyver-ed version by stuffing the vent with gypsum.
On the one hand, this method may be faster to achieve.
On the other hand, it probably won’t be as lasting as simply blocking it up with sealant.
3. Curtains and Blankets
If those options don’t work, well, it might be “curtains” for your air vent. Blocking off the air vents with curtains can help keep any whistling or errant noise out of the room in question. Covering your air vent with curtains can also be a nice aesthetic choice, bringing some color and class into the room.
If you need to accomplish this quickly or don’t want to spring for curtains, thick blankets can work on short notice.
That being said, not all curtains and blankets are created equal. For the best effect, you’ll want to opt for soundproof curtains.
4. Acoustic Foam
This is a more advanced form of that aforementioned gypsum fix. Acoustic foam can be stuffed inside a vent and used to line the area inside leading up to it. This, in turn, can provide the sound absorption your vents are sorely lacking.
You’ll want to make sure to adhere it firmly in place with 3M spray or something similar. You’ll want to make sure to size the piece to be roughly the same size as your vent, though it’s better to be on the bigger than smaller side.
5. Plug the Grate
If you hear a great deal of whistling coming from the vent, there’s a chance that it isn’t just some errant airflow, but a leak somewhere in the system that needs to be plugged. Not only will you want to fix the persistent noise problem, but a leak can also lead to an uneven distribution of air to different areas.
This can be accomplished by placing plywood or a similar material over the inside of the grate, and then screwing or gluing the piece in place. You may wish to use a less permanent means of keeping it in place the first time until you are sure that the option works for you, and then fasten it more securely.
Construct a “Sound Maze”
Let’s say that you still wish to soundproof the vent, but still want the airflow and so you don’t wish to block or cover it up. If that’s the case, you’ll want to look into constructing a “sound maze” so as to redirect the errant sounds while still being able to take advantage of the airflow.
To make this solution a reality, you’ll need a few things:
- Something that can cut through wood boards with ease
- Acoustic foam
- Plywood which is at most half-inch thick
- Scissors, an Exacto Knife, or something similar
- Measuring tape
Measure out and then cut a slab of plywood large enough to fit into the area in question. Attach the acoustic foam to it. This will be used to redirect the airflow.
Repeat until you have a few pieces you can place at appropriate areas in your ventilation system.
Now slide the foam-attached wooden pieces into the ventilation system accordingly, creating your “sound maze.”
Soundproof HVAC Vents
Having gone over the process for soundproofing vents which are not connected to an active HVAC unit, let’s touch on how to soundproof an air vent with an active HVAC system.
First, you might just want to consider upgrading the system altogether. If your HVAC is quite old, sound problems relating to airflow and your home’s ventilation system may be as simple as your HVAC beginning to break down and being in need of repair or replacement.
You might also want to consider getting duct liners. If sound is leaking out of tubes or the walled-off areas in which your airflow is contained, these liners can help provide some much-needed sound insulation.
Consider modern walls. They already tend to feature insulation lining their interiors, which helps provide some of their soundproofing powers. If it weren’t for this insulation, sound (as well as draughts of air) would slip through the cracks and make your stay a lot less comfortable.
This is basically the principle you want to emulate when looking to insulate your air vent and stop excessive noise emanating from it at the same time.
If duct lining alone doesn’t do the trick, you might want to consider adding flexible ducts. This is really a way of taking advantage of both the sound insulation option as well as the “sound maze” method of redirecting airflow and thus noise.
That said, you should not use flexible ducts excessively. While bends restrict sound, too many can also restrict airflow. In addition, cracks can appear in the flexible ducts which can lead to leaks and, thus, the very excess of sound and leaked air which you are trying to prevent.
Last, but not least, soffits can help redirect airflow in the direction of your roof. These can be useful for dealing with areas in which your ducts, vents, or other areas are exposed directly to outside sound. These, thus, act as additional noise insulation.
This can be especially useful when creating a home theatre system.
There are many ways air can escape your vents in unwanted ways, causing noise throughout your home.
Thankfully, there are just as many if not more ways to address those airflow woes head on.
Take the time to consider the nature of your airflow and noise situation carefully, inspect your vent, and then take action with one or more of these noise reduction options.