In our fast-paced world, finding solace in the comfort of our own homes has become increasingly essential. Whether you’re living in a bustling city or a noisy neighborhood, unwanted sounds can invade our personal spaces and disrupt our peace of mind.
While soundproofing walls and windows is a well-known solution, we often overlook one significant source of noise transmission—the vents.
Vents are crucial components of our heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, ensuring proper airflow and temperature regulation throughout our homes.
However, they can also serve as pathways for sound to travel, carrying noise from adjacent rooms or outside environments. Fortunately, there are effective methods to soundproof these vents and reclaim the tranquility of our living spaces.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various techniques and materials you can employ to soundproof your vents effectively.
Whether you’re a light sleeper yearning for a quiet bedroom, a home office dweller in need of a focused environment, or simply someone seeking a more peaceful living space, these strategies will empower you to regain control over the acoustics within your home.
1. Build a Sound Maze
A sound maze is a series of sound-absorbing insulating layers with open ends that enable air to flow freely.
Soundproofing an above-door air vent with a sound maze is an excellent technique to achieve your goal while enjoying air conditioning benefits.
A sound maze will not obstruct airflow, so there won’t be any problems with ventilation, and it will effectively suppress undesirable noises.
The maze makes multiple layers in the vent, so sound waves must bounce off these layers before entering your room.
Consequently, the amount of noise is substantially lowered.
Despite its effectiveness, making a sound maze is quite tedious.
How to Make a Sound Maze: What You Need
- A stepping ladder
- Measuring tape
- Acoustic foam
- Green glue
- A screwdriver
How to Make a Sound Maze in an Air Vent
- Take off the air vent covers using a screwdriver.
- Measure the interior dimensions of your air vent.
- Using a saw, cut a piece of plywood to fit the interior of your vent. After that, trim about 30% plywood on the ends to allow air to flow freely.
- Make a total of 4 equal plywood parts.
- Use the green glue to stick equal-sized acoustic foam pieces to all surfaces of the already measured plywood parts. This will ensure sound does not reverberate off the surfaces and sound energy is used up before it travels via the vent.
- Next, use glue to stick the edges of the plywood pieces on the air vent, allowing a spacing of approximately one inch between the plywood pieces. Arrange the boards on the vent in a zigzag pattern; attach the first board on the right, followed by a board on the left.
- Use glue to stick acoustic foam at the rear end of the air vent.
- The last step is to replace the cover on the air vent.
2. Soundproof Curtains / Blankets
Soundproofing curtains have several other names, including sound-absorbing, acoustic, sound deadening, and sound dampening curtains.
The name variation depends on the brand and the soundproof goal you wish to achieve.
Such curtains, irrespective of their names, are made of thick, dense fabrics including velvety, polyester, and suede and are hung over the air vent or media you’d want to prevent sound transmission.
They often have an absorptive finish that traps sound waves, making a room quieter. A soundproof curtain and soundproof blanket is an efficient short-term measure of suppressing the noise from the air vent.
The curtains have a porous material which is an excellent sound absorber resulting in a substantially quieter space. You can also remove and fix them back when needed.
You will need a rod to hang your curtain to cover the ventilation.
Soundproofing curtains are designed to absorb noise but not block it. In simple terms, they are sound-absorbing materials and not sound-blocking materials like mass-loaded vinyl.
Make sure you get a tight woven and thick curtain long enough to run from the ceiling to the floor.
I suggest getting these curtains from NiceTown blackout curtains for both privacy and sound absorption.
3. Upgrade HVAC System
If an HVAC system has exceeded 15 years of service, the only option to deal with noise is to upgrade it to a modern model. The more your system gets old, the lesser the efficiency level.
Inefficient and old HVAC systems are sometimes the cause of unwanted noises. There could be leaks and cracks in the ducting, causing unwanted noises.
If you have enough funds, consulting a professional and renovating the entire ventilation system is the best option for reducing noise and guaranteeing appropriate air circulation within the room.
Even though it may appear to be a costly investment, it effectively reduces noise.
5. Acoustic Foam Panels
Acoustic foam panel is an open-celled foam commonly used in acoustical treatments. It works by significantly reducing the amplitude of airborne sound waves and converting the resulting sound energy into heat.
Acoustic foams are available in a wide range of colors, shapes, and thicknesses allowing you to choose one that complements the aesthetics of your room.
Mainly, acoustic foam is applied to walls, roofs, doorways, and other room areas to reduce noise, vibrations, and echoing and improve sound insulation.
Acoustic is meant to enhance overall sound quality in an enclosed environment by absorbing echo, for example, in theaters, cinema halls, and studios. I’m sure you’ve seen most gamers or YouTubers hang these wedged-like materials on the walls.
Since the surfaces of ventilation ducts are often composed of metal, lining the ventilation ducts with acoustic foam will significantly help reduce the noise problem.
Acoustic foam costs approximately $1.5 per square foot and is available in various types at any hardware shop and online store.
Acoustic Foam Panels Installation Process:
- Take off the ventilation covers and measure them.
- Trim the acoustic material to the exact dimensions of the ventilation covers.
- Apply glue to the inner side of the coverings’ edges.
- Stick the acoustic to the coverings, ensuring no gaps are left uncovered.
- Put the cover back on the ventilation.
- You have to line the acoustic panels on the air vent duct to reduce noise and echo. The acoustic foam panels will minimize noise without limiting air circulation.
6. Soundproofing Sealant
Soundproofing sealants such as green glue are specially designed to absorb noise and may be applied to various construction materials, including wooden, metallic, and even gypsum materials.
Most acoustic sealants are water-based, flammable-free, non-toxic, have a low odor, and are freeze-thaw-resistant.
The rubbery substance in the sealant can handle all seasonal variations in materials. The caulk maintains its flexibility and guarantees a lasting sealing over sound wave transmission.
A standard sealant will dry out and harden over time, shrink, and separate from its surroundings which does not happen to acoustic sealants. Acoustic sealants won’t entirely dry off or shrink, making them perfect for sound insulation.
In addition to being painted, acoustic sealant can be spackled and taped.
Foam-based sealants are mostly recommended because they are long-lasting, stick well on air vents, and are simple to clean. Additionally, they are water-resistant and airtight when they dry up.
When using this method, you only need to apply an adequate amount of the sealant to the air vent; it will expand to fill the accessible space.
You need to take off the vent cover, apply the sealant on the vent, then put back the cover. The entire procedure takes only a few minutes.
Acoustic sealants will help block sound and airflow from getting into your house. This will not only help with noise reduction but also heat insulation.
The good thing is that you can easily remove your foam-based sealants if you wish to have your air vent back.
7. Block the Vent with Drywall
Drywall is a board mainly built of gypsum used for construction purposes as a cheaper alternative to wood and concrete. Drywall is an ideal option if you want to block your air vent.
With this method, you have two options for permanent blockage. You can either build drywall around the air vent or seal the duct.
Fill the vent duct with sound absorbents such as foam or wood to accomplish this.
After sealing the vent duct, install a properly measured drywall with an adhesive to completely block the vent. No air or sound will get through after this is done.
You can use soundproofing or regular drywall to achieve the desired sound absorption.
Using soundproofing drywall provides better sound insulation without taking up too much space compared to standard soundproofing methods.
You can reach an STC (Sound Transmission Class) score of 68 with two layers of standard drywall on every side.
8. Remove the Vent Completely
Completely removing an air vent is often the best solution if you wish to get rid of the noise. The method is quite laborious and may require a professional.
Before removing the air vent, make sure you have the right tools for the operation.
Tools Required to Remove an Air Vent
- Safety goggles
- Dust cloth
How to Remove Air Vent: Step-by-Step Guide
- Protect your floors from dust by placing a dust cloth under the vent.
- Position your ladder on top of your dust cloth and cautiously climb up with a screwdriver in your hand.
- Using your screwdriver, take off the screws while keeping one hand on the vent to prevent it from falling.
- Remove the vent slowly and cautiously to avoid possible injuries.
After the vent is removed, you need to fix the hole with gap fillers. Gap fillers are used to fill spaces between or within construction materials.
Fillers can be applied with various construction materials and repainted to match the wall color.
Fillers are applied to various construction materials such as gypsum, wood, cement plaster, bricks, or blocks, and other types of materials such as aluminum and so on.
9. Filling the Air Vent Gap: What You Need
- Concrete blocks
- Masonry spoon
- Cement and sand
How to Fill the Vent Gap: Step-by-Step Guide
- Mix cement and sand to make a mortar. The amount of mortar to make depends on the size of the gap.
- Ensure your blocks are measured and cut accordingly to fit the gap.
- Using the masonry spoon, lay an adequate amount of mortar on the gap and put the concrete block on top. The mortar acts as glue.
- Keep laying the blocks with mortar until the whole gap is covered.
- Plaster the interior and exterior of the vent with mortar and lay it evenly to match the rest of the wall.
- Use a filler such as the easy fill (available in hardware and online stores) to even out the plastering and make it smooth.
- Wait for it to dry and paint the surface to match the rest of the wall. You can use soundproofing paint for even much better sound reduction.
Only use this method if you’re sure you won’t use the vent again.
- Soundproofing Paint: Does Acousti Coat Paint Actually Work?
- What is Acoustic Sealant/Caulk and How Does It Work?
- What Materials Can Block Sound?
- How to Reduce Noise from Return Air in Easy Steps?
10. Install Duct Liners
Duct liners are materials used to line the interior of air ducts in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. They serve several purposes, including thermal insulation, noise reduction, and condensation control.
Here are some key points about duct liners:
- Insulation: Duct liners are primarily used to provide thermal insulation to HVAC ductwork. They help to reduce heat loss or gain during the transfer of conditioned air, improving energy efficiency and reducing operating costs.
- Noise reduction: Duct liners also act as acoustic insulation, dampening sound transmission through the ductwork. By absorbing sound waves, they help reduce noise generated by the HVAC system, resulting in a quieter indoor environment.
- Condensation control: Duct liners with vapor barrier properties can help control condensation within the ductwork. By preventing moisture buildup, they reduce the risk of mold growth and improve indoor air quality.
To achieve the best possible acoustic performance, use an insulating material with a high noise reduction coefficient (NRC) that can absorb various sound frequencies.
The greater the acoustic properties and sound insulation, the greater the NRC score. One of such products is the Acoustic Duct Liner sold by Sound Acoustic Solutions. It has an NRC rating of 0.7 and 0.8 for 1inch and 2 inches sizes, respectively.
11. Install Soffit Mufflers
Soffit mufflers, also known as soffit vent mufflers or quiet vent mufflers, are devices used to reduce noise transmission through soffit vents. Soffit vents are typically installed in the eaves or overhangs of a building to provide ventilation for the attic or roof space.
While soffit vents are important for airflow and moisture control, they can also allow noise to enter or escape from the building. This can be a concern in areas with high noise levels, such as near busy roads, airports, or industrial sites.
Soffit mufflers are designed to mitigate this issue by attenuating the sound passing through the vent. They typically consist of a series of sound-absorbing materials, such as foam or fiberglass, housed in a specially designed enclosure. The materials inside the muffler help to dampen the sound waves as they pass through, reducing the overall noise level.
These mufflers are usually installed over the soffit vent opening or integrated directly into the vent itself. They can be effective in reducing noise transmission without significantly impeding the airflow or compromising the vent’s functionality.
12. Get a Duct Silencer
A duct silencer, also known as a duct muffler or sound attenuator, is a device used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and other ducted air systems to reduce noise.
They are frequently used in industrial, commercial, and even residential environments where noise reduction is required to ensure comfort, safety, and regulatory compliance.
Duct silencers work by utilizing various noise reduction techniques. Most commonly, they are designed to absorb sound energy and convert it into a small amount of heat.
They do this by using materials such as foam or mineral wool that absorb the sound waves passing through the ductwork.
A duct silencer is typically cylindrical or rectangular in shape, matching the form of the ducting, and is installed as part of the duct system. Inside the silencer, there can be either straight or convoluted passageways that direct the airflow. These pathways are lined or filled with the sound-absorbing material.
The effectiveness of a duct silencer depends on several factors, including the type and intensity of the noise being produced, the specific design of the silencer, the materials used, and the overall layout and design of the HVAC system.
When installing a duct silencer, it’s important to consider the airflow rate, as adding a silencer can cause increased resistance to the air flowing through the ducts. This could potentially affect the efficiency of the system if not properly accounted for in the design process.
Furthermore, the silencer must be properly maintained to ensure its long-term effectiveness and to prevent the buildup of dust or other contaminants that could impair both its sound dampening abilities and the overall air quality.
If you only want to reduce soundproof vent, I propose assessing all the available solutions and deciding which one is best for you.
The ideal soundproofing solution is to remove the air vent entirely or seal up the vents with insulation foam.
The negative aspect is that there will be no free airflow, and it is also not ideal for rented apartments.
If you wish to maintain airflow while reducing noise, creating a sound maze or fixing soundproofing curtains or blankets is the best option. Such options are ideal if you live in a rented apartment.
Nonetheless, you need to do a need assessment and consider your budget when choosing the best soundproofing method from the ten listed options.
Meet Mike O’Connor, (a DIY enthusiast), living in Cincinnati, a city ranked as the noisiest in the USA.
As a work from home dad, I have a first hand experience of how noise can truly affect your well being.
Soundproofing isn’t something that should be taken as a hobby, it should be a skill that every homeowner should be equipped with.
Most of the work documented on this blog comes from purely first hand experience, and the products recommended work as indicated.