If you want to install air conditioning to cool your rooms, there are a few things to consider. Besides practical matters, there are also general rules to follow, such as your local noise ordinance.

The various types of air conditioning systems differ in the noise level they produce.

Portable air conditioners mostly consist of one single unit that is set up directly in the room. This type of AC is also known as a monoblock air conditioning system. All components, including the noisy ones, stay right inside the room you want to cool.

Split air conditioners, in contrast, consist of two parts, an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The noisy components are housed in the outdoor unit and thus, you guessed it, are placed outdoors. On the one hand, this means relatively quiet operation of the AC for the owner of the air conditioning system, but on the other hand, the environment suffers most of the noise. That is exactly why there are regulations. A quiet air conditioning system should also be a top priority out of consideration for your surroundings.

For this reason you can find a selection of quiet air conditioning units here:

Comparison chart:
Quiet air conditioners

Quiet portable air conditioners
ModelNoise
level
Type
DELLA 14000 BTUcheck on Amazon51 dBportable air conditioner / monoblock
MIDEA 10000 BTUcheck on Amazon52 – 53.4 dBportable air conditioner
SereneLife SLPAC8 8000 BTUcheck on Amazon55 – 57 dBportable air conditioner

 

Quiet split air conditioners
ModelIndoor unitOutdoor unitNoise
level indoor and outdoor unit
TypeEER / SEERRefrigerant
Daikin FTXR09TVJUW/S + RX09RMVJU9White: check on Amazon
Silver: check on Amazon
FTXR09TVJUW/SRX09RMVJU9Indoor unit:
19 – 38 dB (A)


Outdoor unit:
46 dB (A)

Split air conditionerEER: 11
SEER: 18
R410A
Daikin FTXR12TVJUW/S + RX12RMVJU9White: check on Amazon
Silver: check on Amazon
FTXR12TVJUW/SRX12RMVJU9Indoor unit:
20 – 45 dB (A)


Outdoor unit:
49 dB (A)

Split air conditioner EER: 11
SEER: 17
R410A
Mitsubishi MSY-GL12NA + MY-GL12NAcheck on AmazonMSY-GL12NAMY-GL12NAIndoor unit:
19 dB (A) min.


Outdoor unit:
49 dB (A) min.

Split air conditioner SEER: 23.1
Mitsubishi MSZ-HM12NA + MUZ-HM12NAcheck on AmazonMSZ-HM12NAMUZ-HM12NAIndoor unit:
22 dB (A) min.


Outdoor unit:
49 dB (A) min.

Split air conditionerSEER: 18

 

It is not only in your own interest for your air conditioning unit to be quiet. That way, it doesn’t get on your nerves and lets you sleep peacefully. But in most places it is also mandatory that an air conditioning system must not cause too much noise.

Depending on your place of residence, there may be a noise ordinance by your city or state, that defines how loud an AC may be at maximum.

These might differentiate between residential areas and industrial areas. But in the countryside or without direct neighbors you should have little problem.

There are also a few other points to consider: If you rent, the landlord must give you permission before you can install air conditioning. The cost of the air conditioning is usually borne by the tenant. In condominiums, in most cases, the other condo owners or the board must first agree to the installation of an air conditioning system.

Quiet air conditioning is a blessing on hot summer days – with an emphasis on the word quiet – not just because of all the possible rules and regulations. Quiet operation is a precondition to let you fully enjoy the air conditioning. By the time a loud air conditioning unit has annoyed you for long enough, you will know this for sure.

If all of this is too complicated for you, you might prefer a quiet fan instead? Here you can find a selection of quiet models.

If the noise level of your previous air conditioning system is the only thing that you don’t like about it, you can also try Noise-masking Sleepbuds or Noise Canceling Headphones. These noise-filtering or noise-canceling headphones can help you concentrate or sleep undisturbed.

But now back to quiet air conditioning – with more details on the models presented in the table above:

 


Quiet portable AC with 51 dB


Della 14000 BTU

The Della 14000 BTU is a relatively quiet portable air conditioner. Portable means that it is made up from one single unit that can be moved around – in contrast to a split air conditioner, which is fixed to one spot. This quiet monoblock air conditioner has 3 fan speeds. The noise level is given at 51 dB. The cooling capacity is 14000 BTU.

check price on Amazon

Back to comparison chart


Quiet air conditioning at 52 dB minimum


MIDEA 10000 BTU

The MIDEA 10000 BTU is another relatively quiet portable air conditioner. At its lowest, the noise level is 52 dB. The maximum is 53.4 dB. This mobile AC features 3 fan speeds and 5 operational modes. Furthermore it can help you save energy if you use its ECO or SLEEP function. It is a 3-in-1 device, as in air conditioner, dehumidifier and fan.

check price on Amazon

Back to comparison chart


Portable air conditioner – relatively quiet


SereneLife SLPAC8

The SereneLife SLPAC8 is yet another relatively quiet portable AC with a minimum noise level of 55 dB. This is a bit louder than the other two options. At its loudest, it is 57 dB. Moreover, the SereneLife SLPAC8 is a 3-in-1 unit as it is not only a portable AC, but also a dehumidifier and an fan.

check price on Amazon

Back to comparison chart


Split Air Conditioner – 19 dB (A) and 46 dB (A)


Daikin FTXR09TVJUW/S + RX09RMVJU9

The Daikin Emura with the indoor unit FTXR09TVJUW/S and the outdoor unit RX09RMVJU9 is a very quiet split air conditioner. The noise level of the indoor unit is 19 – 38 dB (A) and that of the outdoor unit is 46 dB (A), which makes this Daikin one of the quietest ACs available. For the indoor unit you can choose between white and silver, that is what the W and S at the end of the model’s name stands for. With its EER of 11 and SEER of 18, this quiet split AC is very efficient.

White:

check price on Amazon


Silver:

check price on Amazon

Back to comparison chart


Low-noise split air conditioner – only 20 dB (A) and 49 dB (A)


Daikin FTXR12TVJUW/S + RX12RMVJU9

The quiet split AC Daikin FTXR12TVJUW/S + RX12RMVJU9 has an indoor unit with a noise level ranging from 20 – 45 dB (A) and an outdoor unit with a noise level of 49 dB (A). The indoor unit is available in white or in silver, so that you can fit it seamlessly into your interior design. The EER of 11 and the SEER of 17 show that this is another very efficient AC.

White:

check price on Amazon


Silver:

check price on Amazon

Back to comparison chart


Quiet split AC


Mitsubishi MSY-GL12NA + MY-GL12NA

Another quiet split air conditioner is the Mitsubishi MSY-GL12NA + MY-GL12NA. The minimal noise level of its indoor and outdoor unit is 19 and 49 dB (A), respectively. With its SEER of 23.1 it is very efficient.

check price on Amazon

Back to comparison chart


Quiet inverter air conditioner


Mitsubishi MSZ-HM12NA + MUZ-HM12NA

The Mitsubishi MSZ-HM12NA + MUZ-HM12NA is a quiet inverter-driven air conditioner. The lowest noise level of its indoor unit is 22 dB (A), and that of its outdoor unit is 49 dB (A) at its minimum. The SEER is 18.

check price on Amazon

Back to comparison chart


How does an air conditioner work?


For an air conditioning system to work, a cooling circuit with a refrigerant is required. The refrigerant is a medium that can be either liquid or gaseous and change between the two. In its liquid form, the refrigerant flows into an evaporator, where it, as the name already implies, evaporates. The evaporation of the refrigerant means that it absorbs heat and cools the room temperature down. The next step for the evaporated refrigerant in its travel through the air conditioning system is a compressor which increases the pressure of the refrigerant, i.e. compresses it. By increasing the pressure, the gaseous coolant becomes even hotter. Now this gas flows into the condenser. There, ambient air cools the refrigerant down and it condenses, i.e. liquefies again. In this process, the air around the refrigerant gets warmer. This means that the refrigerant dispenses of the heat it collected inside your room. Now, the job of the air conditioning unit is to transport and release this warm air outside. The cooling effect of an air conditioning system is based on this particular fact – warm air gets exhausted into the environment air outside the room.

This is achieved mainly in one of two ways:

With a split air conditioning system, part of the cooling circuit is moved outside – that’s why you need two units: one outdoor unit and one indoor unit.

In a portable air conditioning system, a hose is directed outside to bring the warm exhaust air out of your room.

Window air conditioning systems work somewhat differently.

Thus, the specific way the air conditioning system brings the warm air outside is one of the main differences between the various types of air conditioning systems. More on the different types of air conditioners comes next.


Types of air conditioners


Air conditioners come in different types, the most common of which are:

  • monoblock, packaged or portable air conditioners
  • split air conditioners
  • window air conditioners
  • compact air conditioners

All of these various types are decentralized air conditioning systems and, in contrast to central air conditioning systems, can be installed in a building without much construction work. Some of these air conditioning systems you can use right out of the box, without any previous installation or mounting.

In terms of noise level, there are big differences between the different types of air conditioners.

Portable air conditioner, monoblock or packaged air conditioner

The term portable air conditioning is generally used for monoblock or smaller size packaged air conditioning systems. As the name monoblock implies, it is an air conditioner that consists of one single unit – unlike a split air conditioner. This type of air conditioner is very flexible as to where you set it up and it can be moved between rooms.

A very rare form of portable air conditioner is actually made of two parts, an indoor and an outdoor unit. Thus there are also portable split air conditioners, although they may be hard to find. More on this type can be found in the section on split air conditioners.

Portable air conditioners are generally louder than split air conditioners due to the fact that all components, including the noise-producing ones, stay inside the room.

Most portable air conditioners require the exhaust air to be routed outside with a hose, but there are also portable air conditioners without an exhaust hose. If these work or not is another question.

Portable air conditioner with hose

A portable air conditioner with an exhaust hose is an ordinary monoblock air conditioner. All components of the air conditioning system are combined into one unit, instead of being distributed between an indoor and an outdoor unit.

The exhaust hose is used to transport the warm air outside. This is the only way to effectively cool the room with a portable unit. In contrast, portable air conditioning units without an exhaust hose are not able to cool down the room. The hose must lead the exhaust air outside through a gap in the window or another opening. Otherwise there is no effect. In case of using the window, the rest of it must be sealed as well as possible. Since a window can rarely be sealed off completely and satisfactorily, warm air from the outside will penetrate through the cavity.

Therefore, portable air conditioners in general are less efficient than split air conditioners. Since the cooling machine stays inside, they are also louder.

The advantage of a portable air conditioning system is that you do not have to ask permission from your landlord or the board (in case you own a condo) to set it up. If the landlord or the board do not approve of a split air conditioning system, you may use a portable air conditioning system instead.

Another advantage of a portable air conditioner is that it actually cools the air, in contrast to a fan. If you had to use a fan, the next best alternative, the best you can hope for is a feeling of coolness, but there is no actual cooling of the room temperature.

Nevertheless, due to the efficiency losses, a portable split air conditioning system may be the better choice.

Portable air conditioner without hose

An air conditioner without a hose is too good to be true – unfortunately the concept doesn’t work. What is usually sold when using the term air conditioning without an exhaust hose is one of two things: a genuine monoblock air conditioning system without an exhaust hose or an air cooler.

The monoblock air conditioning system without a hose cannot realistically cool the room. This is because the waste heat of the compressor, according to physical laws, corresponds at least to the cooling capacity. The energy that the compressor uses for cooling the room, in turn heats up the compressor and this heat has to go somewhere – without an exhaust air hose, it gets right back into the room that it is to cool. As a result, the temperature in the room might at best remain constant, but only in a very theoretical case. In reality, the room is effectively heated due to the low efficiency of the unit.

The second possibility for what might be sold under the name air conditioner without exhaust hose is an air cooler that works with water or ice and is supposed to act as a kind of air conditioner by means of evaporative cooling. Firstly, this is not particularly effective and, in addition, an air cooler based on this principle has the side effect that it humidifies the room air. That is not really desirable. On the one hand, this can contribute to mold developing, on the other hand, high air humidity in combination with high temperature creates unpleasant, muggy air, as you may know.

Split air conditioner

A split air conditioner is an air conditioner that is divided into an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Thus, one unit is inside the house, more specifically inside the room you want to cool, and one unit is outside the house. The two components are connected by cables, which make it necessary to drill a hole through the outer wall of the house.

The outdoor unit houses the compressor. A compressor can be quite loud, so that it is good news to have it outside the house. The compressor compresses the refrigerant. Then, it is then fed into the indoor unit in liquid form, where it absorbs heat from the room and evaporates in the process. The room temperature drops. The refrigerant returns outdoors, into the outdoor unit, in the form of vapor. There the compressor compresses, i.e. increases its pressure which creates even more heat, and releases the heat to the environment. The refrigerant becomes fluid again. The cycle starts over. As the overall result, warm air is transported outside.

Modern split air conditioners are generally very quiet. The indoor units are hardly noticeable and don’t interfere with your peaceful, quiet daily life. Besides, you can find outdoor units that are also surprisingly quiet.

Split air conditioners can be further divided into:

Inverter split air conditioner

Some split air conditioning systems are inverter split air conditioners. The term inverter does not mean that the AC works in a completely different way, but simply says that temperature control is continuous instead of using an on/off principle.

This makes the air conditioning system more efficient and quieter.

Multi-split air conditioning

The meaning behind multi-split is actually really simple: In a multi-split air conditioner, one outdoor unit is connected to multiple indoor units.

Portable split air conditioner

Portable air conditioners do not only come as monoblocks, i.e. a single unit, but can be split air conditioners also. A portable split air conditioner in most cases has a slightly different inner distribution of components than a regular split air conditioner. In the majority of cases, the compressor, the loudest component, stays inside. Only the condenser and a fan are relocated to the outdoor unit.

The portable split air conditioning system does not have to be installed permanently, i.e. you do not have to mount it. Instead, the comparatively small outdoor unit can simply be placed on the balcony, terrace or wherever possible outside.

Compared to a split air conditioner, a portable split air conditioner is louder because the compressor stays in the inside unit and thus inside the room.

Window air conditioner

A window air conditioner, like most portable air conditioning systems, also consists of just one unit, but directs the exhaust air directly outside. It requires either a window opening or a wall opening.

With a window air conditioner, the loudest component of the air conditioning system again remains inside the room. Moreover, the air conditioning system is not portable and construction is required. The window air conditioner thus combines the disadvantages of split air conditioners and portable air conditioners.

The window air conditioner is also louder than a split air conditioner.

Inverter air conditioner

Inverter air conditioner does not actually refer to a special type of air conditioner, but to the technology that regulates the temperature and the performance.

In air conditioning systems without inverter technology, the unit works at its maximum power until the target temperature is reached. The air conditioner then switches off and only starts again when the temperature rises again above target temperature – then the unit starts cooling again loudly.

In order to achieve seamless output control, an inverter-driven compressor is used. A compressor which just works in on/off mode always rotates at a constant speed, when turned on. With inverter technology, the speed at which the compressor rotates varies depending on the cooling requirements.

The advantage of inverter-controlled air conditioning is that the temperature is controlled in a continuous manner. There are no big temperature fluctuations, which the air conditioner has to counter with loud cooling. This makes inverter air conditioning systems significantly quieter. Inverter technology also saves a lot of electricity. Inverter air conditioning systems are clearly superior, especially in terms of efficiency.

Noise level in air conditioning systems – Conclusion

In conclusion, people who are particularly sensitive to noise, who are looking for a quiet air conditioner for the bedroom or who simply want a quiet air conditioner are advised to use a split air conditioner.

If a split air conditioning system is not feasible, you can take a look at portable air conditioning systems, especially portable split air conditioning systems. General statements as to the noisiness are not possible, as the noise level basically depends on the specific model of air conditioner. It is advisable to compare different air conditioning units and to see if noise ratings are available.

Quiet air conditioner for sleeping at night

If you are looking for a quiet air conditioning system for the bedroom – so that you can sleep peacefully at night and at the same time do not break into a sweat – a split air conditioning system is recommendable.

Some air conditioners have a special whisper mode or silent mode, with which the volume can be reduced by a few decibels.

Otherwise, depending on your sensitivity to noise, one can say that noises below 35 dB (A) are no longer perceived as annoying and should therefore be acceptable for sleeping.

The quietest indoor units of split air conditioning systems are about 20 dB (A), which should be very quiet to barely audible.

If you like the idea of sleeping with headphones, you can stick with your old air conditioner and use Noise-masking Sleepbuds or noise canceling headphones. These special headphones suppress or filter disturbing noises.

That way, you should be on a good way to have a quiet night!