Tag Archive: summer sound series

  1. Summer Sound Series: Acoustic Solutions for Loud Machinery

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    The Situation

    I manage an office building, and we have some mechanical equipment on the ground floor next to the building that has caused some noise complaints. Is there a somewhat easy and affordable solution to this?

    Machine Noise - Before

    Machine Noise – Before Acoustical Treatment

    The Solution

    Exterior acoustics and sound reduction can be a bit of a slippery slope due to the amount of variables involved and the fact that the products must be used outdoors, but there are absolutely ways to fix or address problems such as these.

    When a machine is running on the outside of a building, a few things happen. The machine, obviously, creates a sound/noise that travels from the machine toward a potential listener in a relatively straight line. At the same time, the sound coming out of the back (or the building side) of the machine is quickly reflected off of the hard surface that makes up the outer wall of the building. Reducing this reflection can sometimes reduce the problem to an acceptable level, but more often than not, some kind of wall or enclosure will be needed.

    Machine Noise - After

    Machine Noise – After Acoustical Treatment

    As I mentioned above, exterior acoustics can be more involved than sound treatment inside of a building because of the vast number of variables involved. In this instance, the machine is bothering people in the adjacent neighborhood. The machine already has a chain-link fence installed around it to keep the machine secure, which is good, as we’re going to need a structure around the machine to support the product.

    Exterior Grade Sound Blankets The most successful product that I have used over the years is the Exterior Grade Sound Blankets which are a lot like a U.V.-stable fiberglass absorber stitched onto a piece of 1lb-per-square-foot mass-loaded vinyl. Imagine a moving blanket sewn onto a piece of lead and you’ll get the idea. These are custom-made panels that will have rows of grommets used for installing the panels onto the fence, and usually vertical, exterior-grade Velcro® seams to attach one panel to the one next to it. They are custom-made on a per-job basis to fit the fence or structure in question. They are very acoustically effective and will last a number of years — even when they are used in the most extreme types of environments. One thing to consider is that these blankets will essentially act like sails and they may not be the right choice in extremely windy or unsupported types of installations.

    Exterior Quilted Curtain AbsorberAs I mentioned earlier, another option is to reduce the sound pressure from the echo off of the building, which can sometimes offer enough performance to get you to where you need to be. This is typically done with the EFT-QFA panels. The sizes and locations for these panels should be considered on a per-job basis so feel free to contact me with the details below and we can discuss it specifically. These panels are simply the absorptive part of the curtain panels mentioned above. Since the building is already a better barrier than the 1lb vinyl, the barrier-part isn’t needed.

    Echo Barrier Temporary Noise BarrierA newer product to come to market is the Echo Barrier panel. This is an in-stock, exterior-rated sound panel that has been pre-fabricated to ~6.5′ × 4.5′. They are overlapped when installed panel-to-panel rather than attached to one another with Velcro®. One very nice option with these panels is that they can be rented or leased. This allows the customer or end user to lease them for a period of time, rather than purchasing them permanently. If the acoustical reduction is satisfactory, the lease can be bought out, or the lease can expire and the panels can be returned.

    If you are experiencing a situation like this, please feel free to send me an email to begin the discussion. A few photos of the situation are always helpful to assist me in understanding your situation. Many times, the address of the location/building can also be helpful as Google Maps or Google Earth allow me to get a bird’s eye view of the area. If you have any frequency-specific sound data, that is a wealth of information, but even your description of the type of noise can be helpful.

  2. Summer Sound Series: Screaming Toddlers, Noisy Gym


    Noisy Daycare Gym

    The Situation

    I run a daycare facility that includes a small gym for games, running around, etc. The problem is the echo–it’s almost unbearable! The room has a vinyl tile floor, drywall walls and a metal roof deck for the ceiling. The room is 1500 sq/ft and has a 20′ ceiling. Is there anything I can do?

    The Solution:

    Being a father of two young and active boys, I am all too familiar with the fact that kids can be loud. Get a bunch of them together in a room having fun and it can give you a headache pretty quickly.  Especially if the room is made of hard surfaces, which is true for most gyms. The good news is that there are things that can be done.

    We have quite a few different types of acoustical panels and each has it’s own respective advantages and disadvantages. However, for a situation like this, I can pretty quickly narrow down the options to just one: the Echo Eliminator panels.

    Echo Eliminator Cotton Acoustical Panels

    These panels are about as cost-effective as it gets, they are in-stock, reasonable to ship, are class-A fire rated, available in nine different colors, easy to install and most importantly, extremely effective. They are, however, not as finished and aesthetically pleasing as some of our other options. But, 99.425% of the time gym or similar use rooms don’t need to be as aesthetically pleasing as an office or waiting area. The kids sure don’t care what the panels look like!

    Many of my other blog articles have included a very simple equation that I have used for quite a few different spaces like this with an extremely high success rate:

    Cubic Volume x 3% = square footage of panels to use

    Also, as I have said before, these panels can be installed essentially anywhere in the space and have, generally, the same overall reduction in the sound pressure in the room. I would suggest putting them high on the walls or mounting them directly onto the ceiling so they see less contact and abuse, but this is only for the longevity of the panels. They are most often applied to the walls or ceiling with two types of adhesives, but I have had people use everything from double-sided tape, to Velcro® or even 3M Command™ Strips.  One of the classrooms that I did decided to pound grommets (with a grommet installation kit from the hardware store) and hang the panels from small hooks.  The hooks were held up by one small finish nail, making for an easy patch job if the panels needed to be removed.

    Noisy Daycare GymIt’s interesting, but I’ve noticed that when a room has been treated with acoustical panels and is quieter, the children playing in the room don’t tend to get as loud as they do in an un-treated space.  When the background noise doesn’t exponentially increase with more voices, people don’t have to raise their voice to be heard by those around them. Further, when everyone in the room is speaking quieter, there is less energy to bounce off of the remaining hard surfaces. Instead of this ever-increasing upward spiral, the reverse is true.

    If you have any questions about this type of situation or if you are experiencing a problem like this, please feel free to contact me, I would be happy to help you determine how to approach the situation. If you can include the dimensions of the space a photo or two and your contact information (name, address, etc), it will be extremely helpful and make it easier to help you.

  3. Summer Sound Series: More Noise Than Joy…Church Acoustics


    The Situation

    We have a large multi-purpose room in our church that we love to use for events, but when it’s full of people, the noise is terrible. The room has a vinyl floor, sheetrock walls and a sheetrock ceiling. Are there any church acoustical treatments that we can put in place to make this a better experience for everyone?

    Multi-Purpose Room in Church

    The Solution

    I have two pieces of good news for you:

    1. You’re not the first one with this problem.
    2. I’ve got a very straightforward approach that has worked in every instance where it was used, so there is a solution.

    As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, I’ve been asked “How many panels do I need?” enough times that I figured that there had to be a relationship between the size/volume of a room and the number of panels that made people comfortable in that room.

    The Equation

    Cubic Volume × 3% = square footage of panels

    The Products

    I would probably start by installing some kind of acoustical panel directly onto the ceiling of the room, for two main reasons:

    1. In a room like this, there aren’t likely to be objects hitting the ceiling.
    2. The panels might tend to be a little bit less distracting on the ceiling than they would on the walls.

    Another thing that I run into all the time for projects like this is that the budget to fix the problem is quite lean, and understandably so. Building is expensive. I usually send out three product samples for churches in situations like this to consider:

    Echo Eliminator

    Echo Eliminator Cotton Acoustical Panels In just about every installation, people end up purchasing the Echo Eliminator panels, mostly because of the price. These are some of the most cost effective, Class A-rated acoustical panels on the market. They are also some of the most absorbent. They are not the most aesthetically pleasing panels in the world, nor are they the most abuse resistant, but if they are put on the ceiling or high up on the walls, you are so far away from them when you’re standing on the ground, that you are not likely to notice anyway.

    Sound Silencer

    Sound Silencer acoustical panels The Sound Silencer panels are much more impact resistant, but are twice the cost and half as acoustical.

    Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass Panels

    Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass Panels – Edge Options The Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass panels are MUCH more decorative looking and just as absorbent, but they are probably three or four times the cost as the Echo Eliminator panels. Most people who are sitting in a church board meeting looking at samples REALLY want to go with the Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass option, but when they compare the quotes, it’s usually not in the budget.

    Good luck, and we hope that your church is now full of the joyful noise that was meant to be!

  4. Summer Sound Series: When The Kids Are Away… Fixing School Acoustics

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    Gymnasium – School Acoustics

    The Situation

    School is out for summer, and we want to take advantage of the time to work on the acoustics in our gymnasium, classrooms, and cafeteria. What would you recommend?

    The Solution

    You’re in good company! Teachers and administrators researching acoustical treatment for classrooms, cafeterias, common areas, etc. often contact us for help, and summer and winter breaks are usually the best times to make improvements. Large common areas like cafeterias and gyms have different acoustical needs than most classrooms due to their size, and they must be approached differently. However, there are some common factors and things to consider that can be applied across the board.

    In order to find the right acoustical solution for your particular situation, a bit of planning and preparation is required to learn the advantages and disadvantages of different acoustical products and methods of installation. Some of these products are custom made and will require a 1-4 week lead-time, so you’ll want to make sure to allocate enough time for that. It’s always good to request product samples so that you can see and feel the differences between products to make the best choice for your situation.

    Taking the Edge Off

    In the interest of simplicity, I’m going to discuss the basics of “taking the edge” off of a large space, such as a gym or cafeteria. The goal here is to reduce the reverberation time (echo) in the room so that it is simply easier and more comfortable to occupy.

    I developed the following equation about seven years ago and have been using it ever since, with positive feedback from hundreds of customers. The idea here is not to try to achieve perfection, but rather to give you an idea of how to approach a room that needs acoustical treatment without having to hire an acoustical consultant.

    Assuming your room has hard (usually tile) floors, drywall or cinderblock walls and either a sheetrock or metal deck ceiling:

    .04 × (cubic volume of space) = approximate number of square feet of panels to put into your room.

    This is probably a lot simpler than you thought it was going to be. Awesome.

    The next two questions are always: “Well, where do I need to put the panels?”, and “What type of panels are you talking about?”

    Where Do I Put The Panels?

    The first question is easy to answer. The nice thing about acoustics is that in most elevations, sound travels in the ballpark of 1,116.43701 feet per second, which means that the sound in a room travels too quickly for the exact location of the panels to make any audible difference on the overall echo reduction. In almost all instances where one is just looking to reduce the echo, there is not going to be any overall performance differences between a wall or a ceiling mounted panel. Most of the time, in a gymnasium, it is best to put the panels directly onto the ceiling or high on the walls so that they are not hit as often with volleyballs, basketballs, etc.

    What Type of Panels?

    Now, when it comes to what type of panels, there are three panel types that are probably the most common for schools to install:

    1. Echo Eliminator recycled cotton panels
    2. Fabric-wrapped-fiberglass panels
    3. PVC or Sailcloth hanging baffle

    Echo Eliminator

    Echo Eliminator Cotton Acoustical PanelsThe Echo Eliminator panels are going to be the most cost-effective option; they are generally in stock in 2′ × 4′ panels and are available in ten different colors. They are easy to ship and install, but are also generally found to be less aesthetically pleasing than the other two options.

    Fabric Wrapped Panels

    Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass Panels – Edge OptionsThe fabric wrapped fiberglass panels are very decorative and finished looking, can be made in any panel size needed up to a 4′ × 10′ board and come in hundreds of different colors and fabrics. We can also print custom graphics on the fabric before wrapping for a premium price. They are, however, heavier, and can be more difficult to install.

    PVC and Sailcloth Baffle

    PVC Acoustical BaffleThe PVC and Sailcloth baffles are hung from the ceiling like a flag. They are also custom made with plenty of choices for both baffle size and color – so school colors (or something similar) can be chosen. The downside to baffles is that they cannot usually be used in rooms that have fire-suppression sprinklers. When they are installed in the ceiling, they will commonly inhibit the throw and coverage of the sprinklers, which can violate the fire code for the building. Check with your local fire marshal before getting too far down the design path for a baffle installation.

    As always, I’m happy to do what I can to help you make the best choices for both the type of panel as well as quantity. Feel free to contact me with the dimensions of your room and a few digital pictures, which are great aids for me to help you. Also, please feel free to include your personal or school address so that I am able to send you a few different product samples for your review. Finally, some schools have rooms that need to meet specific ANSI standards, and for these you can contact me directly and we can discuss your particular room further.

  5. Summer Sound Series: When You Only Want to Hear the Splish-Splash


    Noisy Community Swimming Pool

    The Situation

    I run a community pool, and the noise from the screaming kids is disturbing our neighbors. How can we keep this noise contained?

    The Solution

    Exterior acoustics and sound problems can be a bit tricky to deal with, since there are a lot of variables and environmental factors that need to be considered. Luckily, we’re up to the challenge. The advantage in this case is there is already a fence around the pool for safety reasons. You’ll see how we’re going to use this in a second.

    Depending on your location, your pool may or may not be open year-round. Here in Minnesota, we only have about a sixteen-day window where it’s nice enough outside to use a pool, so it wouldn’t make much sense to have panels in place year-round. In other areas, that may or may not be the case.

    Echo Barrier Temporary Noise BarrierLet’s assume, for this case, the pool is open for three months of the year. The Echo Barrier exterior panels are one of our new products that can be either purchased or rented. This type of approach would be perfect for a three month per year application. The pool or community organization would be able to rent the blankets on an as-needed basis, rather than purchase them for the full cost. If the approach met the needs of the space, the panels could be purchased, but if it was discovered that the panels were not the right approach, the endeavor is a much lower-cost solution than purchasing the product outright initially.

    The Echo Barrier panels can be installed directly onto a standard chain-link or privacy-style fence through the grommets provided. It is important to note that these can act like a “sail” when they catch the wind. You’ll want to verify ahead of time that your fence/structure will be able to support the wind load as well. These panels will block sound from being transmitted directly through the fence, in addition to absorbing some echo on the noise-source side – rather than bouncing the sound in the opposite direction. They are aesthetically pleasing and can be made with the company/city/etc logo, to make it seem more personalized. Happy swimming!

  6. Summer Sound Series: Loud A/C Units


    The Situation

    My neighbor’s A/C unit is situated close to our house, and the noise is starting to drive me crazy. I know that I can’t ask him to move it, but is there anything that I can do to keep some of the sound out or at least make it quieter?

    The Solution

    While it’s difficult to reduce the vibration energy that is being transmitted into the house from the air conditioning unit, there are a few things that we can do to attempt to reduce the airborne sounds. The “right” product depends on a few things – namely the type of structure and the exposure to U.V. (sunlight).

    Recommended Products

    Sound Silencer

    Sound Silencer acoustical panelsFirst, our Sound Silencer panels can be installed onto some kind of structure or enclosure around the noisy equipment. The walls should be far enough away from the machine that they do not inhibit its performance and airflow requirement. The height of the machine should eliminate the line-of-sight from a listener’s location to the machine to achieve results. A rule of thumb is that the height of the wall should be one-and-a-half the height of the noise source.

    The Sound Silencer panels will both block and absorb some sound, but should only be used in areas that are not exposed to prolonged hours of U.V. exposure as the polypropylene will start to break down over time. The panels are typically installed with construction adhesive and/or mechanical fasteners. These panels are usually installed onto a wooden fence rather than onto chain link.

    Exterior Grade Quilted Curtain

    Exterior Outdoor Quilted CurtainSecond, our exterior grade quilted curtains are going to offer a greater reduction of both blocking and absorbing sound. They are also custom made based on the measurements of the enclosure and because they are made with parts that are all U.V. stable, they are going to far outlast the Sound Silencer panels. These are made with grommets to be used as points of attachment to the structure and the vertical edges of each panel has a 2″ wide strip of Velcro attached so one panel can be attached to the one next to it.

    Exterior Grade Quilted Fiberglass Absorber

    Exterior Quilted Fiberglass AbsorbersThird, we have our exterior grade quilted fiberglass absorbers, which are used to absorb the reflections from a concrete enclosure or from off of a building. By adding an absorptive surface to the wall behind the enclosure, the amount of sound hitting the building and then being reflected toward a potential listener is greatly reduced. These panels are not used to block sound, they are only used to reduce reflections.

    Echo Barrier Panels

    Installing Temporary Echo Barrier PanelsFourth, our Echo Barrier panels are available for rent or for purchase. They are similar to the exterior grade sound blanket in that they are reinforced in their performance – they will both block and absorb sound. If you are unsure as to how you are going to proceed, the rental option would allow you to test the performance of the panels yet allow you to return the panels if the situation is not reduced to your expectation

    Climate Seal Acoustic Window Insert

    Climate Seal Acoustic Window InsertFinally, if the unit is mounted outside of a window and the sound is coming in to the window, it is common to purchase one or multiple Climate Seal acoustic inserts to snap into place over the existing window. This will reduce sound while not reducing your view.

    A Few Final Thoughts

    I strongly suggest contacting a local HVAC company before putting an enclosure around your compressor. They will be able to direct you as to the distance that is required from the machine to the walls of your fence.

    Feel free to send us digital pictures of your situation as well as the address of the potential installation. The digital pictures give us a more complete view of the situation and the address allows us to find a bird’s eye (or street’s eye) view of the building.

  7. Introducing Ted, Our Acoustics Expert & Host of the Summer Sound Series


    My name is Ted and I have been in the soundproofing and acoustics business for over 10 years. Throughout that time I’m proud to say that I have helped over 6,000 people purchase products to help or fix hundreds of different kinds of problems. If you can think of it, and it’s some kind of acoustical/soundproofing/noise problem, I’ve heard it.

    My Background

    I have a background and a degree in education but events of my life have since put me into the acoustics/soundproofing industry. I have also been an HVAC contractor/installer, bartender, substitute teacher, pizza delivery driver, plumber, irrigation installer/service technician, mechanic, racecar driver and co-driver, bag boy at a grocery store, file clerk at a law firm and a landscaper. Although I have a pretty well rounded employment background, I have spent more time in my current industry than all of the others combined.

    So, Why Me?

    Throughout the years, I have greatly benefited from combining my understanding of the physics and mechanics of how sound works with my educational background and experience. I have developed a relatively lengthy set of every-day-life analogies that do a “close-enough” job of explaining how and why certain ideas of soundproofing and acoustics work so that people without degrees in physics can understand the “why” and the “how” of acoustical treatment. Do I have a degree in acoustics and/or physics? No. Can I take a relatively complex physics-based idea and explain it to you in a way that you will probably be able to understand? Not always, but probably, if I have enough time to think about it.

    My Approach

    I really enjoy talking to people, listening and learning about acoustical/soundproofing challenges that they are facing and figuring out the best way to treat and/or fix the problem. I pride myself on my honesty and forthcoming nature. If I don’t have the right or best product to use to fix the problem I will quickly suggest product from a different source. I commonly suggest not only approaches that have proven successful in the past, but have talked to enough people and dealt with enough situations that I almost always suggest taking the easy and low-cost steps first and then stepping back to assess the situation. Further, more intrusive and more expensive steps can always be taken down the road if they are needed. I have found that photos of problematic situations and/or Google Maps or street-views of different situations can also be extremely beneficial.

    The Summer Sound Series

    So now that I’ve given you the complete rundown on my acoustical know-how and how I enjoy sharing it, you might be wondering, “So, what does this have to do with me?” Great question! One of the things that I really like about working for Acoustical Surfaces is that we have literally thousands of products to help solve almost every noise/sound/acoustics problem under the sun. However, if you don’t spend every day selling them, like I do, the sheer number can be a little bit overwhelming. So to make it much easier, I’ve come up with a list of some of the most common acoustical scenarios that customers ask about every summer, and I’m going to do a blog post around each one, which will be called the Summer Sound Series!

    This is all about making it easier for YOU, so feel free to share, comment, or send me suggestions at [email protected]

    Keep an eye out for the first post later this week!