Make it go away.
June 16, 2010 9:07 PM   Subscribe

What is this noise coming from the apartment upstairs? I'm being driven slowly insane.

About a month ago, new people moved into the flat above me and they clearly brought some evil contraption with them. Sound-proofing between our units is minimal, and I could easily hear the previous tenants' phone conversations, TV, dog, etc.

But now, for most of the day (and night), my apartment is filled with this unbelievably annoying low, whirring, pulsating noise. It's hard to describe, but it basically sounds like the noise the Cylons made in the original Battlestar Galactica. Sometimes it's constant, but it usually goes in 3-second waves, stops for about half a second, and then starts again. Repeating over and over and over. And over. It's constantly noticeable, motorized, and rhyhtmic, not overly loud, but it can wake me up during the night. And it's the most annoying fucking thing you could ever imagine. Like a Chinese water torture for the 21st century.

What is it? It's some kind of machine, and there seem to be two, possibly three, of them from the way they're arranged on my ceiling. It/they seem to be on some kind of timer because all the noise stops at 12:15AM for about 3 hours, and it sometimes switches off for 15 minutes or so at a time before starting again. The neighbors seem to be on vacation, because they're never home when I knock on their door and I haven't seen them in a week and a half. I called the landlord to complain and he had no idea what it could be...and he clearly also thought I was possibly crazy. (For the record, friends were over for dinner on Friday night and agreed that it's awful).

What the hell is it, and how do I get it to stop?
posted by venividivici to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oscillating fan or ceiling fan?
posted by darkstar at 9:10 PM on June 16, 2010

I'm betting it's either a roomba, or some kind of semi-passive environmental unit, like a dehumidifier or an air purifier.

Tho a roomba done up like a Cylon would be pretty cool.
posted by swngnmonk at 9:10 PM on June 16, 2010

Can you use your phone to record the sound and send it to yourself in an email to post online at Dropbox or something? Having a sound file would allow us to better judge what it might be.

I doubt it's a Roomba. You would be able to follow it along as it swept the floor, and the schedule sounds wrong.

How long have your neighbors been there? When did the noise start - immediately when they moved in, or when they went away? I would guess it's an automatic oscillating fan, a dehumidifier/humidifier, or an ionic air purifier of some sort. Or perhaps a pet toy of some kind? Aquarium pumps? Or maybe even one of those rolling alarm clocks - it was left on when they went away and now it's rolling around going through the alarm/snooze cycle?

If you can send your landlord the sound recording, so that he can hear how annoying it is, perhaps he would agree to contact your neighbors/go inside to turn it off. (Another option might be to see if there is a circuit breaker for their apartment that you have access to. Not a good idea, though, and I definitely wouldn't recommend messing with their power.)
posted by gemmy at 9:35 PM on June 16, 2010

(1) An AC unit?

(2) This is a wonderful premise for a horror film.
posted by eugenen at 9:50 PM on June 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah, definitely don't do the power cutting thing. You never know when you're going to cut the power to the machine that sustains Grampa, auto-feeds their pet or powers the little fridge that keeps all their prized wines at the perfect temp.
posted by darkstar at 9:50 PM on June 16, 2010

It could be aquariums. They often have pumps and stuff on timers and more elaborate salt water tanks can have weird gurgling apparatus.
posted by chairface at 10:00 PM on June 16, 2010

I too was going to ask about the aquarium filter/pump/wave machine possibility.
posted by salvia at 10:30 PM on June 16, 2010

Like this? My guess is oscillating fan as well, I had a really big one running in my upstairs bathroom to dry some grout and it made the entire downstairs of my house hum. And I have good sound insulation usually.

If they are running 3 large oscillating fans on a timer and they refuse to answer the door- um, any chance of a large hydroponics operation upstairs?
posted by fshgrl at 10:39 PM on June 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm guessing it's one or more oscillating fans set directly on the floor. I used to run one in my apartment and I discovered months later to my horror that the projected hum of the thing was keeping my downstairs neighbor up at night.
posted by mochapickle at 12:20 AM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Yes, I think they must be fans, or possibly dehumidifiers, as I've suddenly remembered the previous people complaining about dampness. I don't think it can be a roomba because it doesn't move, and an aquarium seems unlikely since I think there are three of them. But maybe they're reeeeeeeally into fish.

I called the landlord again and hopefully he'll do something before they come back. It's difficult to convey what this is like and I think he thinks I'm being a drama queen -- but I'm sitting in my flat right now and holy FUCK is it the most irritating thing on earth. I'm off to get some ear plugs but I'm not sure how much they'll help since the walls kind of vibrate along with the noise.
posted by venividivici at 6:00 AM on June 17, 2010

If its sitting on the floor and making everything vibrate, they might can put it on a thick rug when they get back to dampen some of that.
posted by stormygrey at 10:41 AM on June 17, 2010

My first thought was a phone/pager or three, set on vibrate, with an absentee/lazy owner.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:53 PM on June 17, 2010

Response by poster: If anyone is still watching this thread, the noise is definitely coming from fans with some kind of thermostat device. Last night and all day have been chilly, and there isn't a peep from upstairs. Still no sign of the neighbors, but this must be the explanation. Hopefully the weather will stay cool until they get back.

The silence is blissful. For now.
posted by venividivici at 5:05 AM on June 18, 2010

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