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.

The regulations regarding how close an air conditioner can be to a property line can vary, and they are typically governed by local building codes and zoning regulations.

These regulations are set by municipalities or local authorities and may vary from one location to another. It’s crucial to check with your local building department or zoning office to determine the specific requirements in your area.

In the United States, setbacks and clearances for outdoor HVAC units, including air conditioners, are often outlined in local zoning ordinances or building codes.

Setbacks are the distances required between structures and property lines. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure safety, accessibility, and aesthetics within a community.

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, also known as a lot boundary or property boundary, is the defined border that separates one property or lot from another.

It marks the extent of ownership and delineates the legal limits of a piece of land. Property lines are typically established through land surveys and legal descriptions.

Setbacks refer to the required distances between a structure (such as a building or outdoor equipment like an air conditioner) and the property lines.

These regulations are in place for various reasons, including safety, aesthetics, and the prevention of overcrowding. Setbacks are determined by local building codes and zoning ordinances.

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.

This means that it’s the distance from the point on the property line closest to the structure or equipment being considered.

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.

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.

And of course, safety – to prevent structures from being too close to property lines to avoid potential fire hazards and allow access for emergency services.

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.

Understanding and adhering to setback requirements is an integral part of the installation process for external air conditioning units.

It ensures not only compliance with local regulations but also contributes to a positive neighborhood environment

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