Sunday, February 26, 2012

The joys of inner city high rise living

The air con unit on the building next door was upgraded mid winter a couple of years ago. It wasn't until summer that we knew why. It seems a supplementary cooling system was added to it. It roared into life the first hot day we had the following summer but it took us time to work out what the noise was. The noise was very loud, but as it only came on when it was hot it wasn't a bother as we had everything shut up then anyway. It always shut down around six pm until eight am and never ran at weekends.

That was until New Year's Day this year when it started going on and off even in mild weather. Worse, it was doing it at night time, whether it was hot or not. It was impossible to have a window open at night and even during the day the noise was very annoying when a window was open. At night it would usually switch on and off three times within ten minutes and then be silent for an hour or two.

A couple of days into the new year, R and I went to find the building's manager. We couldn't find him but we did find his office that had his phone number and email address. I sent an email, without a response. I rang him and it went to his message service. I left him a message, without a response.

Then I found out the building's property management company and rang the property manager. he was quite uninterested and spoke as if he was in the middle of doing something important on a computer, you know, when there are pauses while someone's brain is processing what they are seeing on the screen and what you are saying, all at the same time. He told me the unit was faulty and there was a wait for parts to repair it.

I let it go for another few weeks, then I again emailed the building manager, and no response.

Last week, I wrote a letter to the property manager, without a response.

As I understand the laws, which I can't find the details of at the moment, the operation of commercial air conditioning is restricted to civilised hours. This is aside from the level of noise clearly breaching any other regulation.

I also understand that local councils are the first port of call for noise breach enforcement, even though the regulations are proscribed by the Environment Protection Authority.

This week I composed an email to the City of Port Phillip, intending to cc it to the EPA.

I took a couple of sound recordings, the first of what it sounded like when it stopping running but then I got lucky and caught it starting up, which is better. The sound files were going to be attached to the email. I took the recordings while lying on my bed with the window open.

I had not yet sent the email, but lo and behold, maybe the slightly annoyed and slightly threatening letter did the trick as some poor lad was out in the 38 degree heat yesterday presumably fixing it. Fingers crossed. We have putting up with this for what, eight weeks.

The 19 second video I just made is a still of the lad working. The unit starts up just at the end so don't turn your speakers up too much because you can't hear much.


  1. This reminds me of when I lived in Canberra. The bare brick wall of my townhouse bedroom aligned with the bedroom wall of the adjacent townhouse.

    One year the residents went on three weeks leave and left their bedroom radio on as a deterrent to robbery whilst they were away. The radio must have been left on a very loud setting - I didn't usually hear it - and for those three weeks I could hear it, albeit muffled, through the walls day and night.

    I had no way of contacting the absent neighbours and was nearly driven mad by the murmurings of talk radio all night long.

  2. Getting hold of property managers and getting them to action any complaints seems to be a universal problem.

  3. I have always wondered why otherwise civilised people go postal. Now, after reading of your experiences, I think you have behaved with great restraint :)

  4. It's not just commercial aircons, residential have the same rules. I found them recently when looking into something else. I hate noise pollution, especially at night, it makes for a lot of frustration.

  5. I'll bet the repairman's been called because the unit really IS faulty & residents have complained! I'd hang on to the recordings for future reference.

    An aircon repairman once wrote that wherever he went it was boiling hot, then when he fixed the problem and it started to cool down he had to leave for the next hot place!! Tough job, huh?!

  6. Jeez, it sounds like someone flushing the toilet.

    I'm surprised no one has complained about my unit. All our units are noisy but mine makes a big loud, very loud, thump when it shuts down, and when it is really cold it makes the thump about every 30 minutes. I keep a fan running so that it doesn't wake me up. Of course, the manager here doesn't seem to care.

  7. Victor, that must have been very annoying. You would have been relieved when they returned.

    I suspect so Ad Rad. Things like that move at a glacial pace.

    Hels, not to that point......yet.

    They do Fen, although unless it is really noisy, a domestic one shouldn't bother people.

    Red, I have nothing but admiration for people who work in such conditions.

    Rubye, I suppose if it bothered anyone, they would say something. Putting things in writing (not email) often seems get results.

  8. That is really annoying and sounds like a chaff cutter or worse :-).

  9. 'The sounds of loud music from a party in the middle of the night can be a great source of irritation for neighbours... another good way to annoy them is to set fire to their dustbins...'
    [M Feldman]

    I hope the EPA threat shook them out of their complacency, and next time you won't have to wait 8 weeks.
    At times like this I don't mind the idea of a nanny state.

  10. Oh my god! How do you stand it. Even ear plugs wouldn't stop that. Keep nagging until you get something done about it. Do you know what the council regulations are for how many decibels are allowed? Check it out and then measure the decibels and then get the council onto it.

  11. As an ex-EPA employee, make sure you keep all the dates and details and ask them to come over and take a noise measurement too. They are very strict about what constitutes reasonable background noise and during what hours. Keep at it, Andrew and let your council know too.

  12. Windsmoke, I have heard a chaff cutter but I have forgotten the sound now.

    FruitCake, neighbours can be difficult but truly we had more issues in the past in free standing houses than we do here.

    Diane, I know the path to go down, but as I replied earlier to Ad Rad, things move slowly in large buildings. Some twenty four hours later, I think it is ok. I will observe properly on the next cool evening when I can have my window open. With the window shut, it just background noise, like the rumble of the trams, the odd noisy car etc.

    I'd forgotten you worked there Kath. There may well be a time to get really serious, but maybe the matter has been solved. We live on a busy road. I never expected silence.