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I live 200 feet from a 6 lane highway, and the noise is rather annoying to say the least.

I would like to reduce the noise coming into my 58"x 70" bedroom window by at least 50%, as I think the noise is causing stress and tension.

Unfortunately, moving is not an option.

I am looking to do so for a budget no more that $100 for materials.

Is it doable?

enter image description here

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    must you be able to open that window ?
    – Traveler
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 18:14
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    One thing to consider is whether the window is really the only issue. Voids in walls and/or poor insulation can also be a factor.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 21:35
  • do you have a balcony? maybe put the plexi shield on the balcony to give your window a sound shadow and see how effective it is. You could also build a sound shadow wall outside maybe mass loaded vinyl Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 6:23
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    Do you still want/require use of the window? Natural light is very important - just asking if you'd still have enough (for your preferences) without that window.
    – user82600
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 14:31
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    You may want to lodge a complaint with the city/county/state. Where I live, they've been installing concrete sound barriers along the major highways where apartments and have been built within a couple hundred feet of the road. Start talking with your neighbors about the road noise and when they complain, hand them a print out with the proper email address/web site to lodge a complaint, too. That way, the taxpayers will foot the bill for making your bedroom quieter.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 12:59

7 Answers 7

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Yes, road noise causes stress

Road noise is often underestimated as a cause of tension and stress, so you are on the right track.

There are of course windows with better noise attenuation available but this could be outside your budget.

Adrenaline and another stress hormone called cortisol bring on physiological changes, including a spike in heart rate and blood pressure. Your body reacts so fast; you often can’t tell these changes happened. Chronic exposure to noise keeps this stress response activated continuously. Eventually, it starts to wear the body down, causing mental and physical health problems.

Ref: https://www.brainfacts.org/thinking-sensing-and-behaving/diet-and-lifestyle/2018/noise-pollution-isnt-just-annoying-its-bad-for-your-health-062718

Shrubs and Curtains

A simple solutions involves placing a combination of heavy potted shrubs and heavy curtains inside and/or outside at the window, plus heavy carpeting inside.

enter image description here

Image: Sound Proof Curtains, Amazon

Mask & Distract

Additionally you can reduce the stressful aspect of the noise by masking it with a table top fountain inside or outside near the window.

This is generally a low cost and low effort measure that can be quite effective.

There are real water options of course, but also electronic sound machines. These do not reduce the noise itself but work by masking the noise (noise can make other noise less perceptible) and they distract the brain with more soothing and pleasant sounds, thus reducing stress.

Personally I find a real fountain far more effective than an electronic one, due to the quality of the sound from real splashing and how it is spread around in the room (the sound spectrum and radiation pattern).

enter image description here

Image: Cascading-Bowl-Brick-LED-Fountain, Amazon

Noise Shield (Plexiglass and/or Plywood)

For heavier attenuation you can build a noise shield, which can be applied in addition to the above options.

This is a noise attenuating insert, box or panel that you place outside or inside, against the window, depending on space, weather and other aesthetic considerations.

If it's a box or a wooden panel it may contain a glazed window opening (glass or plexiglass) to let light pass through. The size of such an opening determines how much noise still gets through. You can make it removable so that it is only mounted when needed.

There are also all-glazed noise attenuating "inserts" which you install snugly against the existing window. But attenuation is only 50 5o 70%, which really is not enough (see below)

A noise attenuating box or panel is made of heavy material, such as a few layers of plywood or particle board, and noise absorbing material such as foam or fabric placed in the box or attached to the panel on the face that faces the window. This panel or box must fit snugly against the window to seal off the noise. You can lean it, hang it, lock/arrest it etc...

You can build your own with thick plexiglass (the thicker the better) that is cut to size at a shop, and a vinyl edge guard or foam bumper around the pane's edge to form good acoustic seal with the window.

enter image description here

Image: https://www.bobvila.com/articles/soundproofing-windows/

50% is really not enough

Cutting noise or sound reduction by half actually doesn't do much; "half" is a perceptible difference but it's far from making a difference in terms of stress. You need more like an attenuation of 1/10 to 1/100, preferably 1/1000.

What factor is sensible is not only a matter of the desired attenuation, but also a matter of what can be accomplished despite the noise transference of other surfaces, such as the walls and doors. If walls and doors a poorly insulated, say at 1/10 attenuation, then bringing the window to 1/10 is a great improvement, but going beyond to 1/100 will do little more incrementally.

What about studio foam panels?

Studio-style acoustic foam panels can be used to attenuate sound, but beware their function is to limit reflections. Hang them on a wall and you'll have less of an "empty hall way" sound in your room. This certainly can help, in the same way that faux-curtains and carpeting can help. But they are actually quite poor at attenuating sound transference, i.e. stopping sound from going through them. Moreover, the low cost ones are made of a light foam pad, and although better than nothing, they are not at all to be compared to studio grade panels. They can be recommended for a pod-cast box in the corner of an office or bedroom, to improve recording quality, but not really for sound proofing.

enter image description here

Image: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VDTR22R

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    My takeaway so far is it will cost big bucks. I am on second floor, so no shrubs etc.
    – fixit7
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 19:18
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    Good answers. I've often wondered why no one sells an active noise cancelling solution for this kind of thing.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 20:38
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    @JimmyJames active noise cancelation is very finicky in terms of where the noise comes from and where the canceling is done. Best is on or in ear. If done in a room you have to determine where the recipient's ear is located with sub-inch accuracy, since canceling is accomplished by subtracting pressure waves. What subtracts in one spot can double noise in a another. Just turning your head can make the difference between doubling or canceling. It exists in vehicles through the audio system. Cabins are a more controlled environment and deep engine rumble is easier to cancel than highway noise.
    – P2000
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 20:58
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    Yeah, that makes sense. I just seems like if you know where the noise is coming from (the window) it makes the problem easier. I believe there are even drivers that you can attach to glass to make them act as a speaker. Easier said than done, I'm sure.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 21:27
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    @JimmyJames It might make the problem easier, but not by much. The speed of sound in air isn't all that high (roughly 340 m/s or 1100 ft/s), so the wavelengths are surprisingly short. For 1 kHz you're down to 34 cm or a little over a foot for the entire wave, so a typical window is way too big to treat it as a point source (cancellation only works when you align the cancelling waveform precisely down to a fraction of the wavelength). And 1 kHz isn't anywhere close to the maximum frequency you need to care about, so it gets even worse.
    – TooTea
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 15:35
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Consider testing your idea first - try wearing some cheap foam earplugs and see how that helps your sleep.

This is just a short-term way of checking up whether the noise reduction will help before committing to spending much money at all.

You may already have some. Cotton wool in the ears will not work as well, and external protection like earmuffs/ear-defenders are too bulky to sleep in.

You should have an idea within one night if this will help. Good luck !

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    This seems more like a comment than an answer - in its current form it does not address the question posed by OP.
    – user82600
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 14:26
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    This answer is a frame challenge. It's saying you don't need to carry on in the direction you think the answer will lie, because there is a very cheap and instantaneous solution available. (Yes: earplug-wearer here. This type really work.) Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 14:52
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    @AndrewLeach exactly - OP has a low+fixed budget so lets help avoid wasting it. There's a small chance this will be enough by itself.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 23:06
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    @fixit7 He's not suggesting earplugs as a permanent solution, merely as a simple test to see how much benefit you get from noise reduction. If the noise is still bothersome with the earplugs, then most of the solutions recommended here wouldn't be effective either.
    – bta
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 4:03
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    @fixit7 loud high-pitched noises like smoke alarms will get through earplugs to some extent. Unless the OP is a very heavy sleeper that shouldn't be a worry. A noisy break-in, like smashing glass, would be similar.
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 10:27
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Just a note: The window may not be the only way noise is coming into your house. Having blown-in insulation added to my (previously minimally-insulated or uninsulated) walls significantly reduced noise from outside.

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Do you care about aesthetics? Buy some sound baffling foam. You can get 50 sq. feet for about $40.

Leave it black or spray paint the back of it white and fill up that window; double or triple layer it. Heck, cover your walls with a layer and enjoy even more silence.

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  • what happened to the window ?
    – Traveler
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 18:58
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    FYI that sort of foam will diffuse and absorb high frequencies but it won't do squat for mid and low frequencies, which highways have plenty of. For that sort of absorption you need heavy materials like mass loaded vinyl, rockwool, etc.
    – KMJ
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 18:59
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    Nothing happened to the window. :-) @Ruskes
    – fixit7
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 19:20
  • @MonkeyZeus Your idea looks promising, but not to some here. :-)
    – fixit7
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 19:21
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    @Ruskes What about it? OP didn't list sunlight as a concern.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 20:02
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In dealing with sound they are multiple approaches.

One is a reflection and the other one is absorption.

The reflection is achieved with a hard surfaces materials while the absorption is achieved with heavy soft and thick materials.

Example used on highways:

highway

Assuming you don't use the bedroom during the day you would like the window to maintain its function of letting the light and sun through it.

For the reflection you will use acrylic plastic sheet probably 1/4 inch thick, and mount it on the outside.

For the absorption during the night you will mount shutters on the outside and heavy curtains on the inside

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  • That is an idea using plexiglass. May have to see how much a 50 x 70 inch costs. I would want to use a single piece if possible. @Ruskes
    – fixit7
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 19:59
  • @fixit7 probably within your budget, assuming you install it, the cost is based on the thickness. The standard size panels are 48x96
    – Traveler
    Commented Dec 12, 2022 at 20:08
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You could go for a somewhat thick plastic sheet (eg acryllic or plexiglass) and place that on the outside of your window.

If you make the sheet a little wider than your window and use standoffs in order to make it about 10cm/4" away from the window you might get a fairly good bang/buck. Just dont make the standoffs of something to hard like metal, than it would transfer it anyways.

This is something which you can test before committing, if you can jerryrig a temporary budget solution, you can see wether it aproaches what you want.

Glass would be better because of its higher mass, it dampens more, but that would also complicate placement (glass might be cheaper though!).

Edit: If you add a simple wooden framing around in it similar colours, it might appear more as a regular window.

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Rough but cheap and probably reasonably effective:

  • Get a sheet of drywall and lean it against the wall on the inside to block the window. 5/8" would be better than 1/2" but heavier thing to move. These should be like $15. You could also cut it to size and attach it to the window trim or fit neatly inside the opening.
  • Put hooks along the top (indoor side) of the outside walls that faces the highway. Either screw into the studs or put up command strip plastic hooks.
  • Hang moving blankets or curtains (or both) on the hooks covering the wall, the window, and the drywall sitting in front of the window. You can get the moving blankets for pretty cheap at Harbor Freight. Get bigger than you need and let them pleat up or fold them double to hang from the hooks. Hang nicer curtains over those if you don't want it to look industrial.

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