How close can an air conditioner be to a property line?

Determining what property lines are, how close an air conditioner should be to a property line, and why it is important to abide by setbacks.


Some air conditioners can be quite noisy and take up space both in the interior of the space it is cooling down, and on the exterior, if it comes with an outdoor unit. It is therefore important to note where you should place a unit outside.

The reason for this is because there are certain requirements for how you place your outdoor unit in your yard, so as to prevent being too close to a property line. So how close can an air conditioner be to a property line in some areas in America?

Air conditioners and property lines

The placement of an air conditioner in a homeowners yard is important, as you cannot just place your unit anywhere you want to. It is especially important that your unit is placed a safe distance from a property line as per the requirements of the area, referred to as the setback guidelines.

So, depending on your location, your air conditioner must be placed a certain number of feet away from the property line. The proper placement of air conditioners is generally in the side or rear yard.

How close can an air conditioner be to a property line?

The permitted proximity of an air conditioner to a property line will depend on your geographical location and the setback requirements of your city or state.

An air conditioner needs to be positioned in such a way that it complies with the zoning ordinance and in some cases, the noise control ordinance.

Setback guidelines are allocated to different areas and stipulate how close air conditioners can be to property lines. Some examples of setback requirements include that of the City of Seattle, where the setback needs to be five feet from a property line.

In the City of Los Altos, air conditioners must be a minimum of five feet from a property line unless the noise rating is over 64+ dB, in which case the setback increases depending on the sound rating. In Oroville, California, the setback for air conditioning units is three feet.

Noise ordinance setback requirements for Los Altos, California

If you are living in Los Altos and your air conditioner has a sound rating of over 64 decibels, you need to comply with the setback guidelines according to how loud your unit is.

If your air conditioner exceeds the limits of the Noise Control Ordinance, it will need to be replaced, relocated, or modified to achieve compliance with Municipal Code Chapter 6.16. Generally, the Noise Control Ordinance limit for Los Altos is 50 decibels for most residentially-zoned properties.

Sound rating (decibels) Distance to property line
64 6 feet
66 8 feet
68 11 feet
70 14 feet
72 18 feet
74 22 feet

 Determining a property line and how a setback is measured

To better understand the requirements of correctly positioning your air conditioner according to how close it is to the property lines, you have to understand what property lines are and how setbacks are calculated to maintain the correct distance.

A property line is the boundary of a lot or premises that separates one lot or premise from the other or from the public right-of-way.

The distance of the setback is measured inward from and perpendicularly to the nearest property line from which you are trying to maintain the correct distance.

The importance of obeying setback guidelines

Setback guidelines are a way for property owners to respect each other’s boundaries in terms of the use of air conditioners on their properties.

Air conditioners can be loud and when they are situated too close to a property line, they can be quite disruptive to your neighbour and disturb the quietude of their backyards and overall space.

For this reason, certain areas have to adhere to their given setback requirements to ensure that the use of their air conditioner does not impede on their neighbours’ peace and quiet. It is always best to maintain AC setback rules.

Final thoughts

The installation of an air conditioner comes with benefits that you get to enjoy, particularly keeping your space cool during summer days. It is important, however, to take into account some of the requirements that come with having an external air conditioning unit in your yard, such as setbacks.

Different areas require air conditioners to be positioned on one’s property in a way that does not disrupt the peace of their neighbours. Setbacks stipulate how close an outside AC unit can be to a property line, and this needs to be adhered to. Different locations and areas set different setbacks.

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