Regulations governing location of outdoor heat pump condenser

Hello, does anyone know if there are regulations that govern Berkeley residents for where on our property we can install a condenser for a heat pump, i.e., not within 3 feet of the property line, not in the front yard, etc.?  I've been searching the regulations with no luck.

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The regulations won’t be written explicitly - you have to figure it out based on the zoning of your lot and the adjacent lots.

You will have to meet the noise standards at the property line based on the zoning of the area you are in. Those can be found in Berkeley Municipal Code 13.40 Community Noise. The section on Exterior Noise covers the sound level limits. The unit cannot be audible above the listed limits at the property line no matter where it is placed.

If you intend to put it in a required setback, you will also have to meet the Zoning requirements for what is allowed in that setback based on the zoning for your parcel. Berkeley Municipal Code 23.304.030 covers setbacks and Table 23.304-2 shows the maximum projection of heating and cooling equipment into the required setbacks.

If in doubt, you can stop by the zoning counter and confirm what you want to do is ok with Planning. Just keep in mind, even if the location is allowed by zoning, if you violate the noise ordinance and get a complaint, you could still have to move it.

It might depend on the details. In Albany (where we're about to have a very quiet heat pump installed), there's a strict 5-foot setback, regardless of decibel level (and they vary - a lot!).  I've heard from our contractor that in some jurisdictions (Piedmont?), the required setback depends on the operating decibel rating (which makes much more sense).  No idea how it works in Berkeley.  One Berkeley resident I know has their condenser in their front yard, so I assume that's allowed (at least in their zoning area - that may also vary). I'd think that any contractor that regularly installs heat pumps in Berkeley would be familiar with the regulations, but you could also just call and talk to someone yourself.

A qualified plumber should be able to come by for a free estimate and also identify ideal locations for the unit. We recently installed one, and we told the plumber about 2 potential sites that we had in mind. The plumber said both would be in violation of the set-back requirement. He walked around the property and identified a place that would be ideal and compliant.

Following up on the first comment - as it states it varies by property. First look up your lot's zoning here

Then find your side yard setback and rear yard setback based on that zoning: 

Generally you're not supposed to build anything in those setbacks. But that Municipal code section 23D.04.030 says that for mech equipment, you can project into your sideyard setback by 1.5 feet (or 2.5 feet for any sideyard on a corner lot that is adjacent to a street), 2.5 feet into your rear setback or front setback.  Caveat on the sideyard: you must maintain 3 feet between equip and lot line. 

One thing to note. The city of Berkeley knows that heat pumps are quieter than traditional outdoor mechanical equipment.  They are committed to electrification and are looking at what they need to change in their regulations to encourage it. One action item they are planning is to "allow setback exemptions for heat pump condensing units and conduct a study of heat pump noise levels to exempt any models that fall under noise thresholds to streamline installation.revising their zoning to allow heat pumps to be closer to the lot lines." They haven't made that revision yet... but I did find that in pointing this out the zoning / planning department during my application, they were willing to work with me to allow the heat pump to be much closer to the rear lot line than was allowed in their base rules.  Read more about their electrification here, the first linked report specifically: