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I live in an apartment and it's pretty noisy outside, so I usually keep my windows closed. It does get pretty stuffy inside though, so I'm wondering if there's a way to get air through the window without letting a lot of noise in.

I've seen some portable air conditioners have a vent sticking out the window -- would something like that allow air to come in, but not noise? (presumably with the fan blowing air inside instead of outside)

I live in a moderate temperature area, so there's no central heating / cooling and it's fine to leave the window open at any time.

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Your best bet is to get a portable air conditioner. You can do a bit of research to figure out how many BTU you'd need for the square footage of your apartment.

How Air Conditioners Work (edit): AC Units suck air from within the environment that it's in (for example your living room). And blows "Fresh" or "Cold" Air back into the same environment and at the same time, it blows the heat that is generated from producing the cold air out of the environment (outdoors)

Further Explanation:

If I have a bottle that is sealed with a pump at the top. Meaning no air can get out, but air can go in. And I start pumping (the same way AC units pump air into a room) Then the bottle will eventually explode because that air needs to go somewhere, the same way a balloon pops when you put too much air into it. A structure can only hold so much air before it can't anymore. This is why an AC unit takes the air from the room you are in and converts it cold air. And why it doesn't draw "fresh air" from the outside. And simply keeps recycling that air, until the room gets cool.

Typically AC units will have a thermostat which will monitor the temperature in the room and shut off when the room has reached a certain temperature. And will turn back on when the temperature eventually rises back up. Because the room you are in, isn't air tight, cold air is going to leak out of the doors, or windows or cracks in the walls.

Depending on your setup, if you set it up at a window, the window will be open, but the cover and vent hole will cover the window like this

enter image description here

I'm not going to assume this window block will eliminate outdoor noise from coming into the house, But I doubt you'll hear it over the portable air conditioner itself. Because it WILL be loud at high speeds. But not as noticeable at low speeds.

So you're either going to have noise pollution from the street by opening a window, or noise pollution from the AC.

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  • Thanks, that makes sense to me. I don't really mind the noise pollution from ACs. Is it still going to be bringing fresh air if the AC is venting to the outside, instead of venting to the inside? (is the replacement air just going to come from other parts of the house?) – user1825464 Jan 28 '19 at 0:36
  • @user1825464 i've edited my answer to address your last question. – Sickest Jan 28 '19 at 0:48
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    Air conditioners do not bring fresh air in, which Sickest states in the answer. They cool the air that is already in and drop the heat off outside. If the problem is you stewing in your musty funk, an air conditioner will not help much with that. – Willk Jan 28 '19 at 2:07
  • Portable AC doesn't let air in, it pumps air out. It can only make OP's problem worse by reversing flow of gravity ventilation and sucking in neighbor's stale air. -1. – Agent_L Oct 12 '19 at 15:31
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Short of replacing your window with a duct with several turns, lined with sound baffles, you aren't going to get quiet.

Human ear is amazingly sensitive. 30 db is a very quiet country side. Flies buzzing, birds chirping. Office is about 70 db 40 db difference doesn't sound like much, but it's a log scale. That office is a thousand times noisier.

3 db is a factor of 2 in noise. That is detectable as being quieter. Just.

To make a meaningful difference you have to take at least 10 db (factor of 10) to 12 db (factor of 16) This is difficult.

Windows that are designed to reduce sound are made of heavy glass, are double pane, and one pane is thicker than the other, they are mounted in a way that isolates them from each other and from the frame.

Ducts that reduce noise transmission are lined with irregular chunks of foam, and have several corners with T's so that the air has to corner while the sound goes straight. Hard to do well.

More information: Research sound stage building design.


What you can do is mask it. Get a set of external speakers you can plug into your phone, and get a recording of surf, or babbling brook, or wind in the pines.

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Aquarium air pump.

I invented a solution to the reverse of your problem. It might not be robust enough for your needs though.

Cat litterboxes get smelly. The one we have is a semienclosed igloo type. I put an aquarium air bubbler inside the litterbox. The plastic tube (which would usually be weighted and down inside the aquarium, giving off bubbles) is threaded through a hole I drilled in the windowsill. Air is pulled into the litterbox and then pumped down the tube out the hole. Less smell.

Of course air comes into our house to replace what the air pump pumps out. It comes in through our poorly sealed door and windows, I am sure. If you have musty funk, or cigarette smoke, my litterbox type set up could help you exhaust it, with new air coming from somewhere.

If you want outside air blowing on you, you could put the bubbler outside on your window or in the space between glass and screen. If you want to get fancy you could get one run off a solar battery. Run the tube back into the room. Now you have a little air pump which is pumping fresh air out into your room.

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Window fans are designed to be placed inside a window and some can also be reversed for pulling air in, or pushinfg air out. However, no solution is going to solve a noise issue. You will have nooise in one way or another.

https://images.homedepot-static.com/productImages/60fc870e-6fb8-4d7c-bad4-686dbcb6977f/svn/white-lasko-window-fans-w09550-64_1000.jpg

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I would go with an eco-friendly air purifier with an ionizer. These will circulate the air in your home, remove dust and odors while adding ozone to the air. These are great.

Air Purifier

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I've seen some portable air conditioners have a vent sticking out the window -- would something like that allow air to come in, but not noise?

No, because of 2 reasons:

  1. Most portable AC don't suck air in, they pump air out.
  2. The required opening to stick AC's vent out will allow all external noise in. Plus, portable AC units likely will make even more noise.

Typical gravity ventilation works by drawing air via imperfections in window seal, warming it up (with you, your computer and whatever is on in the room) and then letting the warmed up air thought ventilation chimney. Most buildings are literally designed for leaky windows. Stale air is typically an effect of installing new windows with rubber seals that are too airtight.

Your best course is to install a "trickle vent", an opening so small that the increase in noise in hardly noticeable, but allowing small, yet constant exchange of the air in the room. Basically, bringing the air permeability back to where it was before new windows were installed.

Forcefully ejecting air from an apartment will inevitably suck new air from the rest of the building, most likely reversing flow of gravity ventilation and drawing used air that your neighbors are getting rid of.

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