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Constant High Pitched Noise in House

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 MonkeyPuzzle 20 Nov 2020

I have a very high pitched constant electrical sounding whine in my house and wondering if any electricians or anyone who's experienced similar might help.

It started about 2 weeks ago and has been there ever since. If the TV or music is on it fades into the background but without a constant other noise source it's quite irritating, especially when it's dead quiet as I try to sleep (arg!). I've thrown the main circuit breaker to the house and the noise remains. I've asked my nextdoor neighbours on each side and they don't have anything their side. I downloaded a spectrum analyser app and have found that the noise (~22-24kHz) is worst on the inside wall adjacent to the gas meter outside, however the noise, audibly, permeates the entire house, up and down, front to back, on that side of the house.

Is it likely to be the gas meter, and if so what would explain it permeating all the way to the upstairs back bedroom? Potential pick-up on the electrical wiring on that side?

I've called the gas company, but they're saying I should have an electrician come out first to diagnose, which seems daft seeing that a) it's constant even with the main CB thrown, and b) I've located to the exact point where the gas meter is set on the outside.

Any advice which may save me an electrician's call-out would be AMAZING.

Thanks,

Ned.

 Timmd 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Ring the gas company and tell them your electrician couldn't find a problem and thinks it's likely to be the gas meter?

A strategic bit of dishonesty is sometimes fine. ;-) 

Post edited at 11:28
 Rob Parsons 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Do you have a burglar alarm fitted? I've heard failing/old PIR sensors emitting high-pitched whines.

 Mick r 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Can everyone else hear it, or is it just yourself?

 Trangia 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Bill Gates has bugged your house?

In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

This is how Chuck McGill started 

In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

I would do what Timmd suggests......

But: audio cat deterrents operate at the type of frequency. Doubt very much it could penetrate into a house, but just a thought. 

 nikoid 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Is it your wife?😀

In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Have you tried switching the house power off to see if it stops, and if it does try switching off individual mains circuits to further identify the source?

 toad 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Old low energy/ fluorescent bulbs can do this

 Jack B 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

> Is it likely to be the gas meter [...]

Is it a all-mechanical meter or an electronic one?  Does it change if you shut off the gas? (make sure everything in the house which uses gas is off first, otherwise it might leak gas when you switch it back on).

 jkarran 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Even in my very late 30s I'm still cursed with child like high frequency hearing so I feel your pain.

Valves and gas pipes (we have dozens venting at work) frequently whistle, stopping and starting with subtle changes in conditions.

It could be your gas plumbing whistling now the heating is on, either driven by something in your house or conducted up the pipe from elsewhere. There's a big gas pressure reducing valve up the road from me that whistles quite loud in the barely audible range (comparable to the 'mosquito' teenager deterrent on the nearby shop) at dinner time. Shut your boiler down, shut the quarter turn tap on your gas meter and shut your electricity off, laptops and other portables too, if that doesn't stop it it's external.

Best case you need to steal the batteries from a cat scarer, worst case you can hear your gas main and it's going to be a long winter.

Unless your visiting gas engineer shares your uncommon hearing acuity you're unlikely to get much from them.

jk

 wintertree 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

You have my sympathy.  I had to use a spectrum app to convince the apparently deaf faculties management person that the radiator valve in my office was making it impossible for me to work in there.  

Is it a mechanical gas meter or a smart meter?

Presumably there is an isolation valve in the feed before the gas meter?  Turn it off.  What happens?

Have you isolated the water mains?  It could be a small leak and some weird hydraulic effect.  Turn it off, what happens?

For a high frequency sound to be transmitted through the house it would have to get in to something rigid - meta pipe(s) being the most likely candidate. 

Check your smoke alarms.  Remove their batteries.  Don't forget to put them back.

What does your spectrum analyser show inside the meter box accessed from outside the house?

If turning the power and water off and the smoke alarms together doesn't fix it, phone the gas board to state that there is a high frequency sound apparently emanating form the gas meter that persists when the water and the power to the house are turned off, and that you are concerned about the safety of the meter as it appears to be malfunctioning.  Report it as a safety incident.

Do you have any gas appliances with a pilot light that persists in the absence of mains power?  Modern gas stoves may use an electrically powered FID to detect the presence of a pilot light.

What about the telephone?  Landline?  Unplug it.  ADSL micro-filter(s)?  Unplug them.  They could conceivably make noise powered by the phone line.

Shut it down.  Shut it all down.  Power, gas, water, phone. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJ8cjlEMLR0&

The property is detached?

If it is a mechanical (dumb) gas meter then I am very concerned if the noise persists to emanate from it with the power turned off and any pilot lights off.  This would imply that gas if moving through the meter to power the noise, but where is the gas going?

As far as I am aware an electrician is not trained in diagnosing random audio noise that may not even come from the electricity system, and is not an appropriate recommendation by the gas board unless they think you are to incompetent to throw your incoming isolator switch.

 MonkeyPuzzle 20 Nov 2020
In reply to wilkie14c:

> This is how Chuck McGill started 

Oh gawd, it is isn't it?

The missus can hear it as well and the spectrum analyser confirms its real at least.

 deepsoup 20 Nov 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

> Do you have a burglar alarm fitted? I've heard failing/old PIR sensors emitting high-pitched whines.

Smoke detectors could be worth a go too - or anything else battery powered or with a back up battery.  (Laptop?)

Also (directed to the OP now)..  you say it's coming from the point on the wall where the gas meter is attached on the other side - have you tried actually listening to the gas meter itself? 

If you're trying to localise the source of the sound you could try borrowing/buying/improvising a stethoscope.  (Less than a tenner to buy a new one, eg: https://www.machinemart.co.uk/p/cht171-mechanics-stethoscope/ )

If it really is 22-24kHz, just because your neighbours can't hear it doesn't mean it isn't there.  There's absolutely no way I'd be hearing that either.  What you're hearing is a lower frequency harmonic, the spectrum analyser app on your phone is lying to you, or you're a bit of a freak of nature.  Unless one of your parents was a bat?

 Timmd 20 Nov 2020
In reply to wintertree:

> As far as I am aware an electrician is not trained in diagnosing random audio noise that may not even come from the electricity system, and is not an appropriate recommendation by the gas board unless they think you are to incompetent to throw your incoming isolator switch.

I thought it sounded like somebody on the phone passing the buck and getting on with their day.

Post edited at 12:19
 wintertree 20 Nov 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

> There's absolutely no way I'd be hearing that either.  What you're hearing is a lower frequency harmonic

Some of us are cursed with well preserved hearing.  In a quiet room I crap out at about 20 KHz now, 10 years ago it was over 22 KHz.

In reply to wintertree:

Yep, I (at 41) can hear cat scarers fine, hate the things.  I can't really hear the "teenager repellent" Mosquito thing now, but I could well into my 30s.

 deepsoup 20 Nov 2020
In reply to Timmd:

> I thought it sounded like somebody on the phone passing the buck and getting on with their day.

Perhaps they didn't believe that the OP had really turned the power off to the house completely.

It's certainly not ideal and v annoying for MonkeyPuzzle, but apart from anything else the person on the phone is likely to be a bit sceptical because people lie to them *all the time*.  You suggested it yourself.

1
 The Lemming 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

> I have a very high pitched constant electrical sounding whine in my house and wondering if any electricians or anyone who's experienced similar might help.

I have had a constant high pitched sounding noise since my early teens. I've just lived with the tinnitus.

 Jenny C 20 Nov 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

> Yep, I (at 41) can hear cat scarers fine, hate the things.  I can't really hear the "teenager repellent" Mosquito thing now, but I could well into my 30s.

Those mosquito things are so annoying...

And don't get me started on the high pitch wine you used to get off badly tuned TVs, to add insult to injury I was seen as awkward as nobody else in the room could ever hear them.

 deepsoup 20 Nov 2020
In reply to wintertree:

> Some of us are cursed with well preserved hearing.

Rotten luck. ;-)

I'm a bit surprised the phone app goes that high too, it would require a sampling rate of at least 48kHz which seems extraordinarily high given that audio CDs are only sampled at 44.1kHz.  (That's on account of the 'Nyquist criterion' which requires sampling at a frequency of at least twice the frequency of the analogue signal to prevent aliasing.)

I don't know, but I'd have thought the sampling rate is a function of the phones hardware/firmware rather than any one app.

 wintertree 20 Nov 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

> I don't know, but I'd have thought the sampling rate is a function of the phones hardware/firmware rather than any one app.

48 kHz audio is a pretty common spec these days; the bigger issue is the sensitivity of the onboard microphone.

The app I have lets me choose both the sampling rate and the maximum frequency displayed.  Sampling rates are 8000 Hz, 11025 Hz, 16000 Hz, 22050 Hz, 24000 Hz, 32000 Hz, 44100 Hz and 48000 Hz. 

 Timmd 20 Nov 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

> Perhaps they didn't believe that the OP had really turned the power off to the house completely.

> but apart from anything else the person on the phone is likely to be a bit sceptical because people lie to them *all the time*.  You suggested it yourself.

I've found that most people are out for an easy life, so who knows whether they were sceptical, or going for the easiest way of dealing with things? One could speculate on here forever...

Post edited at 13:23
 gethin_allen 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

I'd second what someone above said, look at the gas meter. My old one used to squeal when the boiler was drawing a lot of gas. Obviously the pipes will then transmit the noise around the house.

 MonkeyPuzzle 20 Nov 2020
In reply to wintertree:

Thanks for a really comprehensive troubleshooting post.

I'm a little bit astounded: Just got off the phone from Ecotricity and they're going to replace the meter. Not down as an emergency, but blow me down with a feather they just took my word for it.

 MonkeyPuzzle 20 Nov 2020
In reply to wintertree:

> > I don't know, but I'd have thought the sampling rate is a function of the phones hardware/firmware rather than any one app.

> 48 kHz audio is a pretty common spec these days; the bigger issue is the sensitivity of the onboard microphone.

> The app I have lets me choose both the sampling rate and the maximum frequency displayed.  Sampling rates are 8000 Hz, 11025 Hz, 16000 Hz, 22050 Hz, 24000 Hz, 32000 Hz, 44100 Hz and 48000 Hz. 

Yep, mine's set at 48kHz sampling rate.

 deepsoup 20 Nov 2020
In reply to wintertree:

> The app I have lets me choose both the sampling rate and the maximum frequency displayed.  Sampling rates are 8000 Hz, 11025 Hz, 16000 Hz, 22050 Hz, 24000 Hz, 32000 Hz, 44100 Hz and 48000 Hz. 

The maximum frequency displayed being at most half the sampling rate?

Do you know whether the app governs the sampling frequency that's used to digitise the output from the analogue onboard mic in the first place, or does it resample the digital output of an A-D converter connected to the mic that's just there doing its thing independently of the software running on the phone?

I just tried googling, but couldn't find anything.  I'm inclined to think it's probably the latter though.  If it's the former there would have to be an adjustable analogue low-pass filter in play as well wouldn't there?  Otherwise there would be significant aliasing going on at the lower sampling rates - for example sampling at 8 kHz would cause problems with anything in the analogue signal from the mic above 4 kHz.

Post edited at 17:07
 wintertree 20 Nov 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

I haven't looked re: my phone, but every time I've written audio acquisition code in the past on other platforms (including OS X), I've told the OS what I've wanted and it's told the audio hardware which then samples accordingly.   I doubt it's any different on iOS - but you'd have to dive in to the "Core Audio" docs to find out...

https://developer.apple.com/library/archive/documentation/MusicAudio/Conceptual/CoreAudioOverview/WhatisCoreAudio/WhatisCoreAudio.html

In reply to Jack B:

> Is it a all-mechanical meter

Are you Father Ted?

 deepsoup 20 Nov 2020
In reply to wintertree:

Thanks.  I found that when I googled.  Didn't try very hard, but basically couldn't make head nor tail of it.

 Rob Parsons 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

> I'm a little bit astounded: Just got off the phone from Ecotricity and they're going to replace the meter.

Please post back with whether or not that fixes the noise problem. Thanks.

 MonkeyPuzzle 20 Nov 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

I will. I really f*cking hope it does, or I'll have to bulldoze the house down and start again.

 Dave the Rave 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Tinnitus?

 Andypeak 20 Nov 2020
In reply to mick taylor:

> But: audio cat deterrents operate at the type of frequency. Doubt very much it could penetrate into a house, but just a thought. 

I wouldn't rule it out. Working for the council I had to investigate a noise complaint about a high pitched whining noise. Turned out to be the chaps own cat deterrent. He claimed to be able to hear it through the whole house. 

 MonkeyPuzzle 20 Nov 2020
In reply to Dave the Rave:

Unless my tinnitus is loud enough my partner and an audio spectrum analyser can pick it up then thankfully no.

 Sealwife 20 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

We had a high-pitched buzz which plagued me during night-feeds when one of my kids was tiny.  Only ever heard at night when the house was otherwise quiet.

Eventually it was tracked to a transformer for the doorbell, which was sitting on a beam just inside an access hatch in my daughters room.  Ruddy bell didn’t even work.  Disconnected it and got a new doorbell.

I spent weeks wondering if there was something wrong with my hearing/I was going mad owing to sleep deprivation etc

 lorentz 21 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

I lived with an annoying high pitched whine for a couple of years in my living room (I'm a deaf as a post and could still hear it.)

Turned out to be the power supply unit for the Virgin WiFi router. They sent me a new one and it's been fine since.

In reply to lorentz:

Switched mode power supplies (SMPSU) regularly hoot, if they're badly designed, or are failing. Old CRT TV line scan transformers whined too. Modern flat panel TVs use SMPSUs, and they whine instead.

But in this case, the OP had turned off the house power. So it's either an SMPSU in the electricity meter (upstream of the isolator switch in the consumer unit), or it's another cause.

 Kermi 21 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

I had something similar many years ago. It turned out to be the float valve for the water header tank in the loft.

Does the noise go away when you run some water? Can you poke your head through the loft hatch to see if it's louder? If you're happy going into the loft then you could push the float down to see if the noise goes away.

Pipes allow noise to travel in strange ways.

Good luck

 deepsoup 21 Nov 2020
In reply to MonkeyPuzzle:

Did you work your way through Wintertree's list and see if you could track it back to the meter itself?  Or even just go and stick your ear next to the meter?  What happens if you just grasp the pipe next to the meter and hold it?

With regard to the valve on your incoming gas pipe, I can't believe I'm the one suggesting this on a forum so heavily populated with IT types..  but have you tried turning it off and back on again? ;-)

> Unless my tinnitus is loud enough my partner and an audio spectrum analyser can pick it up then thankfully no.

I met a chap a few years back who'd made a career of touring with various heavy metal bands as their monitor engineer.  His friends all called him 'Ringing Bob', because he joked that his tinnitus was so bad it kept the rest of the crew awake on the tour bus overnight.


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