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Question DetailsAsked on 5/6/2013

How do I find out the cause of a low frequency hum in my house?

It occurs for hours at a time at different times of the day. Sometimes it is steady, sometimes it is pulsing. Sounds like the sound of someone using a compressor nearby-- but it isn't- neighborhood is quiet. Can hear it a bit outdoors in the back of my house. .Called the power co. ,it is not the transformer. The gas company replaced the regulator and moved the meter so that it is not in contact with my house. I turned off the circuit breakers, but could still hear it. Don't know what to do at this point.

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7 Answers

Voted Best Answer

This can be maddening. Over the past 40+ years, in 4 houses, I have had or have run across this problem from gas meter leakage, water well pump column vibration, doorbell transformer, circulating pump, an extremely small (mist spray) water pipe leak, flourescent and sodium lights, security system horn dead battery, gas meter leaking slightly, bees in wall, bat colony, electric typewriter left on, stereo left on very low, and speaker inductive hum.

This seems to be a popular and recurrent question, so I am going to give the long answer for use by future questioners too.

I am assuming you do not hear this noise away from your house, or that other family members can hear it to. Obviously, if you hear it elsewhere also and other family members cannot hear it, then maybe you have tinninitus or are hearing your own high blood pressure blood flow (seriously). This commonly gets more acute at night when it is quiet, so all you are hearing is your internal ear sounds. I had this happen once because of a middle ear blockage - drove me crazy, getting up in the middle of the night because I thought I heard a water leak through the walls. Try putting on a pair of earmuffs or hearing protectors - if you still hear it or hear it louder, this is probably the case.

One method if hum is on the clearly audible side is make a 2 foot long cone out of paper to hold against your ear - like an antique hearing horn - then in each room face each of 4 directions while listening for where sound is the loudest, and turn your head to pinpoint the exact direction - I would spend 10 minutes doing this before getting into detailed stethoscope listening.

Otherwise, sounds like time for the old stethoscope (about $12 at a drug store - get a metal soundhead one, not cheap plastic, which does not pick up vibration as well). Also, if you are older (say over 35 or so) your hearing might have started to deteriorated with age, so if you have children or grandchildren with sharp hearing, they might be able to help track it down. I am sure a young child or grandchild, if you have one, would love this sort of treasure hunt (with appropriate "treasure" for a reward for tracking it down).

Being careful not to come in contact with electricity with the stethoscope, check all the likely sources listed below. Start by placing it against pipes and walls and floor in each room of the house - water sourced noise goes a long ways, and tends to reverberate in the walls, so if that is the source likely to hear pretty easy. Hold stethoscope against bare pipes, both hot and cold, and heating system radiators or hot air vents.

If listening to water and hot water heating pipes indicates it is not water sourced, then you could turn off the master (outside) breaker or all the inside breakers and see if it goes away. I would only do this during above-freezing weather and early on a weekday, just in case a breaker fails to turn back on correctly when you switch it. Older master breakers particularly, which typically have never been used, sometimes break or fail to reclose properly after being shut off, so then have to be replaced. You want to be doing this at a time of day when, if necessary, you could get an electrician in the same day to replace it without paying weekend or nighttime emergency call rates.

If turning off the master breaker (or all other breakers) eliminates the hum, then turn them on one at a time until you find the one that turns the hum back on, then track where that circuit likely feeds (hopefully it is labelled) and check every switch, outlet, and light fixture.

Humming sources include (not in any particular order, a + in front means likely or common source of humming, - means rare or not likely):

1) + toilet fill valve - slightly leaking toilet inlet valve (listen where water tubing comes into toilet tank, and look inside tank to see if there is any water flow into or ripppling of the water in the tank or the bowl, or from the bowl filling tube (usually a small black plastic flexible tube which comes out of the fill valve (usually far left side of tank) and is clipped onto and discharges down into a hollow vertical brass or plastic tube or pipe in the toilet tank, which refills the toilet bowl after you flush)

2) + leaking faucet - kitchen, tub, shower, sink, utility tub, etc - it is amazing how just the smallest valve leak can make a hum or hiss that you can hear through the walls (especially at night), but only drips every few seconds.

3) - electric service meter dial motor

4) - electric breaker panel - rarely, a loose main power feed to a panel (especially with aluminum main service wire) will get loose enough that it vibrates back and forth and hums in its connector. A loose bus or snap-in breaker slot cover plate in the panel can also do this rarely

5) - gas meter or overpressure vent (unlikely, as you have had it replaced)

6) + boiling in the bottom of hot water heater or boiler because of buildup of lime, but would usually be intermittent - only when unit is heating

7) + furnace fan or electrostatic filter (forced air heat), or circulating pump (hot water baseboard heating), or steam condensate pump or overpressure venting (steam system).

8) - gas control valve or electric control box on a gas furnace, or its transformer (most have a 120V to 24, 16 or 12V transformer inside the front of the furnace

9) + air filter or electrostatic filter alarm on forced air furnace - some have a passive "whistle" opening that sounds softly when the filter is getting blocked, and if blocked with dust could make a hum rather than a whistle.

10) + Some water softener systems also have an "alarm" device to tell you it is time to service the unit, so check that if you have such a unit.

11) - a slightly leaking overpressure/overtemp valve on hot water heater or furnace (would be dripping)

12) - air venting from the air vents on hot water heating system. These will commonly make a hum or wheeze sound, for only for a few seconds at a time - not continuous unless leaking water

13) - city water system booster pump sound through the water column (if there is one near your home) - listen at the incoming water pipe - if much louder there than at other pipes within the house, that could be a house, though unlikely. If you think this could be it, find your water shutoff valve (typically 10' into your lawn from the street) and listen there. Would also be audible at neighbor's service pipe if that is the source.

14) - gas system compressor sound coming through gas pipe - listen to gas pipe outside the house and inside the house near furnace - if louder outside,, this could be a possible source, but the compressor or pressure reducer would have to be near your house. Would also be audible at neighbor's service pipe if that is the source.

15) + auxiliary booster circulating pump in your hot water or steam heating system (there may be one separate from the furnace, likely in the basement or a utility closet - most commonly found on multi-unit apartment building with central heating and in 3 story or higher buildings, but you never know)

16) + a water leak, either inside or a leaking hose bib or pipe, or in your service pipe coming to the house

17) - electric on-demand water heater or electric-powered water filtration unit under the kitchen sink or inthe basement

18) + refrigerator compressor or fan hum

19) + doorbell transformer (front or back door - transformer is usually NOT at the doorbell, it is usually mounted in an open space like nailed to a basement joist, in an entry closet, or in the cubby space under the stairs - always physically near to the door, but NOT always on the same floor)

20) - any instant-on device like a TV

21) + any audio device (stereo, iPod, music player dock, computer, etc) that may have been left on at very low volume. Also, VERY rarely, if stereo or external speaker wires are run close to and parallel with an electric wire in the wall, they will acquire an inductive voltage and hum.

22) + anything with a transformer, including stereo, add-on computer or iPod speakers, battery charger (rechargeable batteries or spare car battery or rider mower or boat battery charger), any portable electriconic device. Also portable device chargers (computer, iPod, cell phone, etc) - even if the device is not plugged into the transformer, as long as the transformer (charger) if plugged into an outlet, it is transforming high to low voltage, and transformers commonly hum

23) - electric typewriter left running

24) - electric ultrasonic cleaner or denture cleaner or electric toothbrush left on

25) - home hair drying hood left on

26) - a lint buildup-jammed bathroom, kitchen, or attic fan. Many of these have, for safety, so called "self limiting" motors that if they jam just sit there and hum, but do not burn out.

27) - an attic cooling fan whose thermostat has failed, so is on all the time

28) - electronic furnace thermostat

29) + air conditioning unit, or aquxiliary air conditioner evaporator

30) + humidifier / dehumidifier - either permanently installed or portable

31) + portable heater / fan / air purifier

32) - automatic animal feeder waterer - either water supply or electric, as applicable

33) - dishwasher motor runningcontinuously - not shutting down after end of cycle

34) - convective or direct-vent oven or cooktop exhaust fan not shutting off

35) + flourescent (tube or CFL) or sodium or halogen light bulb / ballast hum (either inside, outside front door fixtures, or public street lights). These can hum quite pesistently when the starter circuit sticks on, or the bulb is dying and will not start (light completely), so the started circuit tries continually to start the lamp - can make a hum audible up to a block away on street lights.

36) - a dying electronic photocell designed to turn on your outside lights

37) - home security system, especially its alarm or horn. If the alarm is sounding but for some reason the main power is not getting to it, then as the battery goes dead (or if full voltage is not getting to it) is can give off a squeek, hum, or rasping sound - ditto if insects like wasps or hornets build a nest in it, so it cannot sound correctly.

38) + well pump, pressure tank, or filtration system, if you are on a well

39) + insect or bat nest in the attic or walls or in outside bins or cupboards, electric panel/meter, or outside telephone connection box (bees /wasps / hornets most likely) - though this usually varies by time of day, although it would "pulse" at the time of day when they are waking up or going to sleep.

40) + carpenter ants or termites - their continuous chewing of the wood can sound like a hum till you get right up against the colony, then you can actually hear the chewing

41) - a regional hum, as has been occurring at times in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Arkansas - where micro-seismic activity causes a hum or booming sound. Google or call your local paper and see if anyone has been reporting this in your area.

42) + outdoor power service transformer - either a metal (typically army green or gray) about 1 foot diameter "can" mounted on a power pole if you have overhead service, or a 2-3 foot cubic metal box on the ground or in a manhole pit near the street if you have underground service, which usually serves 4-6 houses (so may be in a neighbor's yard) and will have a voltage rating marked on it, usually in yellow stick-on lettering - like 4160V - 220V. Usually has high voltage - keep away safety markings on it.

43) - you have found where the Caddyshack gopher (who hummed to himself) moved to after Bill Murray blew up his happy home at the golf course.

Hope this list helps you (and future users with the same question).

Answered 7 years ago by LCD


This is an intermittent problem so it is easy to get confused. For expample, the sound may stop when you turn off a faucet which may lead you to beleive that it is water related when it may have been a coincedence.

Anyway, that being said, try turning off circuit breakers while you hear the hum. If you find a particular breaker that you can turn on and hear the hum and then turn off and the hum goes away, then you probably found the circuit from which the hum gets it's power.


Answered 7 years ago by Kestrel Electric


It's the switch mode power supply on your smart meter

Answered 6 years ago by Lori


I hear it too. So does my neighbor a few acres away! Odd thing is that neither of our husbands can hear it! Except one night my husband thought it was the refridgerator malfunctioning and got up to check it, and it wasn't even running! So, it was loud enough that he heard it that time. It comes and goes and has nothing to do with something inside my house. It's difficult to describe it exactly, or where exactly it comes's like EVERYWHERE, and no where. If you google the 'hum' you will read about something similar in lots of places, and no one seems to know what it is. If you find a cure for it, let me know. Thank goodness it comes and goes, the going is the good part, and it can be gone for weeks at a time. (Laurel Fork, VA)

Answered 5 years ago by Hum


The noise is the smart grid network. the noise is ubiquitous and is present in our air 24/7.

You will not get the answers you are looking for from the Utilities or regulatory agencies for they are alligned. They will not do anything about it until more are impacted.

My family and I have been tortured by the constant noise you describe since 2006. This is our story at:


Answered 5 years ago by Sandaura


Here are a couple more possible causes for the low frequency hum.

1. Check any dimmer switches you have that control ceiling fans or lights. Many ceiling fans are notorius for humming when on a speed other than high, and many fans require special dimmers or controls. Consult the manufacturer or your manuals. And some lights will do the same when on low or not turned off completely.

2. If you have large power transmission lines anywhere within a quarter mile, you may be hearing a hum from them.

3. Many of the power lines in residential neighbor hoods will hum when the humidity gets high or when they are handling power loads near the high end of their capacity. (very hot days, very cold days, early mornings, or late in the evenings)

4. Many of the newer refrigerators and freezers that run quietly often sound like they are humming and the sound seems to penetrate everywhere.

Answered 5 years ago by 1snowcreek


Did you ever figure out what it was? i could have written your question. I'm going crazy trying to figure out what the sound is! i was reading some answers and we do have a leaky outdoor hose faucet and when we flush the toilet in the 1/2 bath/laundry room there is a knocking sound. I'm convinced the humming is from faulty plumbing. My husband can't hear it but he has trouble with low tones. I don't hear the sound anywhere else other than my house so I know it's not in my head!

Answered 5 months ago by Cfouser


Low frequency sound waves can travel many miles and cause vibration to the building structure. In fact, you may not hear anything outside your home, but only inside, where the low frequency ( example from 40-70 Hz) causes sound vibration in the walls, windows etc. Pressing your ear up to the wall to hear, wont often reveal much because it is the entire large structure that is resonating. You may notice " zones" in the room, or house that are louder. There is no doubt this is a real problem. But locating the cause is extreamly difficult.
some examples of cause are deisel engins, especially deisel electrib trains that may be idling at a station miles away. They often run them all the time, esecially in cold weather, if they dont have an auxilary systemat the station. Town water pumpiming stations, industry with motors or vibrating equipment, mining operations etc. Even heating unit or AC unit from a nearby home can set up this disterbing hum, vibration. In my case, it is especilly noticable in bed when sleeping on my side . You can hear the hum vibration more through the floor, bed and pillow. Only ear protection muffs will quet it at my location. On thing to note it season ans time of day and weather. But note that in summer, if windows are open etc, you get more " background noise" that will cover up the hum. You can try running a radio tuned to hissss to cover it, or some othe device to mask it, but it maynot stop the effects of nausia, sleeplessness and madness.

try posting letters on neighbourhood doors asking to report it they have been bothered by the low hum or vibration. Contact your Town or city. Finding an expert to locat the scource is difficult and expensive, but the only solution. You can try some low frequency apps on you iphone or Android. There are several. They clearly show the " hot" frequency at my place of being just above 60 Hz...closer to 70hz. While eletrical service is at 60Hz, it is usually constant. The vibration hum most report is an " undulating", moaning, inconsistant , slightly varriing sound....which makes even more anoying. Note that the " world hum" often reported is Infra sound...VLF frequency way below hearing. It unlikely to be your cause. Its more kikely a real, vibrating, low frequency machine or device , miles away oossibly, causing the building to resonate, vibrate and cause this undulating hum.

Answered 2 months ago by Humcrazy

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