The science of the quieter home appliance

The Quiet Mark scheme recognises manufacturers who reduce the noise produced by their white goods

Whirring extractor fans, buzzing washing machines, vibrating fridge freezers — is your home full of electrical appliances that make distracting or loud noises? Our homes, which should be calm retreats from the frenetic world outside, are not as quiet as they used to be because they are full of noisy appliances. These harsh sounds often compete with each other — people turn up the volume on the television, for example, if someone is vacuuming near by — and collectively they produce excessive noise. Yet most of us put up with the din, unaware that we can do something about it.

We have more home appliances than ever but certain factors have exacerbated the problem. With space at a premium, people are living in smaller homes and in shared households, which make it harder to escape from noise. Conjoined spaces, such as an open-plan kitchen and sitting room, are more common nowadays; these can be very noisy if there isn’t a separate utility room.

Most of us would struggle without household appliances such as vacuum cleaners — said to be one of the noisiest — but must we live with a cacophony of daily noise? The good news is that retailers are beginning to stock “quiet technology” — appliances designed to be less harmful to our ears. The initiative comes from Quiet Mark, a not-for-profit scheme run by the UK’s Noise Abatement Society, which recognises manufacturers of quiet appliances.

If products pass the acoustic and performance tests, carried out by a team from the Association of Noise Consultants, they are awarded a purple Quiet Mark symbol. Poppy Szkiler, the founder and managing director of Quiet Mark, says: “The logo is an aid for buyers who want high-performing products that produce softer sounds. We look at every aspect of sound to make sure the products are not producing painful or intrusive sounds.”

Szkiler, who is the granddaughter of John Connell, the founder of the Noise Abatement Society, set up the scheme three years ago. “Sound is central to our lives, even though we’re not always aware of it and often have little power to change the sounds that surround us,” she says. “Unfortunately, we too easily accept that noise is the price we pay for evolution and our ever-developing society. If we don’t do something about this soon, our ability to hear the subtle sounds around us will disappear.”

So far, 80 products have been awarded the logo and the categories are continuing to grow. John Lewis, a retailer that stocks Quiet Mark products, has seen a huge increase in sales of small appliances that have been recognised for reducing their noise emissions, such as the Dyson hot/cool fans (up 122 per cent year on year) and GHD Air hairdryers (up 268 per cent).

Recent research carried out by John Lewis shows that people are becoming more aware of how noise from appliances affects their lives. Nearly half of the 2,004 people asked said that they consider sound an important factor when they choose such goods.

Szkiler adds: “Manufacturers are putting investment into changing the sound at the design stage. The next era of design will consider sounds and acoustics.”

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