“Medium Pitched Humming Noise on 14th Street”?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric Spiegel

“Dear PoPville,

There is a medium pitched humming noise that comes on every 5 or so minutes and stays on for 5 or more minutes, all day, every day. The noise has been going on since spring or so. We live on Belmont Street between 13 and 14 and this noise is a real nuisance to a point where it is bothering us and affecting our quality of life. The noise is coming through open windows and even through the bathroom vent. We have tried to track down the noise, but we can only go as far as maybe 14 and Florida and we can’t follow the noise anymore, and I think that is because we are walking on the ground level and the noise is coming from some roof top. Our best guess as to the origin of the noise is from an HVAC system on one of the buildings between 13 and 15 and south of Florida and north of U Street. I am sure we are not the only street being bothered by this annoying noise since I have heard the noise when I walk around the area mentioned above, so I hope to hear from you guys who live around this area who could point us to the building that is causing this noise so that we can notify them to fix it. Thank you!”

Probably too far away but over the weekend on the Columbia Heights listserv a resident wrote:

“For those of us who live in close proximity to the Giant grocery store at 1345 Park, or just frequent it, it’s a common occurrence to hear hours of a high pitched tone. We’ve asked over and over how to fix this (what we’ve been told is that it’s an alarm initiated by an open back door, though closing the door doesn’t seem to shut it off), but it keeps happening. Today it’s been going since about 9am. Does anyone have any contacts there with management or the owners of the building to figure out a strategy to fix this? It’s making us nuts!”

25 Comment

  • This probably isn’t it (too north on 14th), but the Unity Healthcare HVAC is impressively loud when it cycles. Le sigh.

  • For my fellow fans of “The Office”: I believe this is called “pretendinitis.”

  • Yes!!! We heard it all weekend in the 1400 block of Florida. I thought I traced it to the construction at the old Latino Auto parts lot, but it kinds disappeared when I got there. Personally, I think it is way too loud, penetrating and consistent to be an HVAC. Metro runs underground there, so it could be something there. Comcast, if I remember correctly, has a big equipment space right next to View 14, but that is just a guess too.

    It is super annoying, and I can’t figure out who to call… or how to explain.

  • I’d take that over the incessant, off beat foot tapping going on right now courtesy of my co-worker next door.

  • binpetworth

    The BBC had a great article on industrial noise: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-13752688

    I feel your pain, though. I used to live in an old building that had an inexplicable hum that was worst in the bedroom.

  • There is also a similar roof-top noise coming from the Park Place apartments above the Petworth metro station. I figured that it was probably their heating system, since it started only recently. It’s pretty annoying, but not as bad as all the traffic that I always heard when I lived on Irving St. in Mt Pleasant.

  • I used to live on 12th and U and The Islander had a broken HVAC, which made the most annoying humming noise day and night. Every other day, someone would go on the rooftop and squirt some liquid into it, which would stop it for a couple of hours before it started up again. After enough people in my building and the building across the street called to complain, (I even think someone called the police and they came out to do a decibel measurement) they replaced it.

  • Live in the condos on the west end of the 1300 block of Belmont St NW. Almost positive it is the construction at the old Latino Auto Mart. When they are working, I hear it but not at night or off hours.

    Our balcony faces it directly and it seems to be from there (an air pump/hydrolic pump, maybe?). It gets amplified by the alley to the east of View 14.

    Also, has anyone in this area noticed little pieces of styrofoam falling out of the sky like snow?? Yes, this sounds totally crazy, bu not kidding. It gets all over cars and in between the cracks in the sidewalk. Can’t be good for the environment.

    • OP here, I thought the same thing about the noise so I walked to the construction site, but when I got there the noise went further, so I walked past it on Florida avenue towards 15, the noise was still there, when I walked down on 14 towards W, V streets the noise was still there, so I am not sure if it is coming from the construction on 14/Florida avenue and bouncing on buildings, but worth a talk with the crew there. One thing to note, the noise was present even in off hours with no construction activity at 14 and Florida Avenue. But if anyone from the View14 / Union Row buildings visits here, please help us by identifying this noise considering you can go to your roof tops to possibly pin point the direction the noise is coming from when it is on. Thanks!

    • Yes, ditto to the styrofoam comment! I thought I was going crazy but styrofoam bits are everywhere.

    • Yes, what is up with Styrofoam bits. So many!

  • Where’s the NIMBY smack down crowd? ANY business should be able to make ANY noise it wants to in ANY proximity to your home. If you don’t like that, you belong in the suburbs. That’s their position isn’t it?

  • There was a similar noise in the Chinatown area (right around 5th & H) that lasted for a few month — it just recently stopped. It sounded almost like an ambulance or car alarm and would last 10-12 minutes, stop, and cycle all over again. I’m on the 9th floor of my building and it definitely sounded like noise from an HVAC or something along those lines on top of a roof, as the noise would be loud initially and then lower. I’m glad it has ceased, and hope your situation is resolved soon. I went out and purchased earplugs.

  • Thanks so much for posting! My roommate and I have been going crazy trying to determine the source. Initially, we thought it was a generator, but HVAC makes sense.

    It definitely appears during non-construction hours (in addition to work hours) and varies in intensity. Last night it was getting really loud around 11:00 pm, but then ebbed. Unfortunately, we don’t live in Union Row, and can’t help locate the source further. But if you do find the source, please post.

    • OP here, yes last night was really loud. Where do you live and which direction do you think is the sound coming from? I live on Belmont between 13 and 14 and the sound comes from somewhere south of Belmont, the whole area surrounding 14 street perhaps as far down as U Street. The sound comes at all times, all weather.
      I hope PoP can repost this so that more people get to read this post in hope of getting a solution. 20 comments, 10 of them none related to the topic isn’t acceptable folks :). You all have a lot to say about random stuff, silly stuff, but this is a true quality of life issue and we would appreciate it if you could help us locate the origin of the noise problem.

      • Yes! I live on the same street, hi neighbor! I’m on the south side of Belmont. It’s November 5, and the hum was going on all morning. I started following it maybe 10 minutes before it stopped at 9:30 am. I think it’s coming from the construction site. I followed it to south side of Florida, and walked through the alley between Booker Washington and the YMCA. I couldn’t get through the construction barriers, and it stopped before I could talk to one of the workers. I’m almost positive that it’s coming from the construction site, even though it’s happening all hours of the day.

      • I’m the person above from the 1400 block of Florida. It has been bad the last couple of days and at all times of the day. (So bad I came back to check this post) The last time I tried to track it (before this post) it seemed to be coming from 14th and Florida. I will try to track it again. It is really annoying.

        • I also tried to track it again, but before I get a solution the sound stopped and I wasn’t able to stay around until It came on again. Last time I followed it, it was during lunch hours. The noise was still happening when I went to the YMCA building and asked if any of their tenants complained about the noise and they told me they didn’t. I went to View 14 building and asked the front desk, the same answer. I hope it is coming from the construction site.

          • I heard it while walking the dog Saturday morning (9 AM). It was back this morning (Monday). I walked to Fl and 14th on Sat. Interestingly, the sound kind of goes away when you are at the corner or right at the construction site. You have to get a little distance to hear it again. To me, this suggests the sound may be higher up in the construction site like on the roof. I guess it is also possible that the construction site is blocking the sound at that particular place, and it is coming from somewhere behind it like the Y. But I still THINK it is the construction site, even though I agree with those who say it comes and goes even when they aren’t working.

  • it’s probably aliens trying to communicate with congress

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