We don’t typically receive requests for information regarding noise levels with our equipment. But today we did, and it got me thinking: just how loud are our lug washers? Let’s dive in to find out.

“You said WHAT?!”

What Are Decibels?

A decibel is a unit of measurement used to quantify the level or power of a signal, and it is most commonly associated with acoustics and sounds. You can also finds uses in electronics, optics, and imaging too. Decibels, usually written as dB, are displayed on a logarithmic scale (as opposed to a linear scale). The numbers at the upper end of the dB scale are simply too large to display, so this scale uses makes it manageable. [1]

The origination of this system comes from the early days of telephony. They needed a way to measure how much signal was lost over a length of cable, and originally the unit of loss was measured as Miles of Standard Cable (MSC). Bell Telephone Laboratories introduced a new method in the 1920’s and created the decibel, named after the famous inventor of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell.  

This one goes to 11!

How Are Decibels Measured?

Decibels are a measure of a sound’s intensity [2]. Sound is simply energy that travels in waves. And like all waves, they have frequency and amplitude. The higher the frequency, measured in Hz, the higher the pitch of a sound or tone. 440 Hz, for example, is “middle A” on a piano and is the standard concert tuning for professional orchestras [3]. The amplitude measures a sounds pressure, or as we usually think of it, it’s volume.

Another way of thinking about this scale: every 10 dB translates to 10 times the power. [4] A sound at 80 dB, such as a garbage disposal, is ten times more powerful (or louder) than a vacuum cleaner at 70 dB. Which is why when you get to the higher end of the range, sounds just 10 dB apart represent an incredible change in the amount of power!

Official Innotech lab testing setup

Testing the Lug Washer

How was I going to go about actually testing our washer? I would need a decibel meter, recording equipment, and … oh wait, there’s an app for that! I simply took my smartphone outside to the washer and did some good old-fashioned data collection. I started with a baseline reading of ambient noise from the shop, the nearby road, and birds. I came up with an average of 57 dB, which is roughly the same as normal conversation or ambient office noise.

Ambient noise capture

Next, I ran the lug washer and recorded while walking around it in very close proximity. I made sure to get as close as possible to the loudest parts at the entry and near the pump motor. I averaged 74 dB, which is roughly equivalent to a dishwasher.

Washer running and measured from ~3ft away

I ran the same test again, but this time from roughly 3ft away. I got an average of 72 dB; only a 2  dB drop. But remembering the logarithmic scale, that actually represents a reduction of twice the amount of sound lost, simply by adding a short distance.

Results and Conclusion

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that our Lug Washer would be deemed safe enough to be in proximity to for a normal working day (8 hours) without the need for protective equipment. The threshold for risk of hearing loss due to prolonged exposure begins at 80 dB (heavy traffic, lawn mower). Customers tell us that they love the rugged and simple construction and how effectively it washes their containers, but it’s also great to know it’s quiet enough to run in any setting safely!

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