Generators are great at keeping you connected to your devices when you’re away from home with no electricity or to power your appliances in an emergency blackout.
Whatever you use yours for, you may have noticed that portable generators aren’t exactly the quietest machines in the world.
This might not matter as much to you if your generator is going to be positioned at a reasonable distance from where you are, but for camping trips and weekends away when you have neighboring tents and RVs to consider it can be quite an inconvenience.
Don’t end up tearing your hair out over how loud your generator is when it’s running. You might end up at a point where you almost don’t want to use it just because of how much noise it makes, but we’re here to help you find a solution for your sound worries!
So, just how loud can generators really be?
Generator Noise Levels
Let’s just start by saying that compared to generators of the past, the advances we’ve seen in technology means that modern generators are generally much quieter than they used to be.
The majority of portable generators will operate at a decibel level that falls somewhere between 70 to 100 dBA which we’ve measured and converted from the standard 7-meter distance you’ll often see being used to compare generators in this industry.
However, this will hugely vary between models depending on the size, make, and model.
Size and power output play a big part in determining how noisy a generator will be for obvious reasons. With a higher capacity of power to deliver to your devices and more room for the cogs and inner workings to whir away while the unit is running, it’s no surprise that these beasts are louder than your average generator.
The noise output will also depend on the type of generator you go for. For example, inverter generators are some of the quietest power units currently produced and will deliver noise at a much lower volume than diesel or open-frame generators, which run at approximately 70 to 80 and 75 to 85 dBA respectively.
This is because inverter generators are typically enclosed which helps to trap some of the sounds and muffles the overall level of noise produced by the unit, meaning they only produce about 49 to 60 decibels when they’re in operation.
To put this into perspective, a regular conversation would usually involve a speaking volume of around 65 dBA and someone talking on the television or radio in the background would be closer to 45 dBA.
In between these two checkpoints, there’s a running refrigerator or a noisy vacuum cleaner that’s being used somewhere at around a 10-meter distance from you at 55 dBA, and at the higher end of the scale, there’s 100 dBA which is the equivalent of hearing a loud bang in the distance or someone crying loudly in close proximity.
So if you’re the type of person who is easily distracted or sensitive to sound, you’ll want to keep the noise pollution below around the 70-decibel mark.
One last thing to mention is that the load your generator is running under may also affect how much noise it’s making. Connecting as many devices as you have power outputs will mean your generator is working harder and that it’s supplying a higher overall wattage while it runs, so it will likely be louder than if your generator is running under light or half-load.
You can choose to purchase a generator that is marketed as being super quiet but these will often be among the more expensive options, whereas generators at the more affordable end of the price range will be louder by comparison.
It will mean paying a higher upfront cost, but some people will find it worth it if it means you don’t have to go to all the trouble of trying to muffle your generator’s noise output yourself. Only you will know the answer to this one.
Silence is Golden - Isn’t it?
You might be thinking, so what? Why does it matter that my generator is loud? Apart from the aforementioned crabby campers who definitely won’t appreciate it, is it really worth the effort to try and rectify the monstrous operating volume of a noisy generator?
The answer is yes. Every time. It won’t just save you from your neighbors or campmates who may be forced to take drastic action at night when your generator is humming and whirring away whilst others try to sleep, but it’ll also save you from the incessant irritation of being forced to listen to the background noises produced by your generator.
Whether you’re charging your devices so you can get on with some work or settling in to watch some generator-powered television pleasure, you won’t want your focus distracted by a loud noise coming from your generator, and neither will anyone else.
Even just an attempt to quieten your generator will go a long way with anyone else who’s nearby, so we’ve put together a list of some of the best ways you can reduce the noise levels for the sake of yourself and those around you.
Muffler Silencers - Do They Work?
One of the best ways to reduce the noise volume that your generator produces during operation is by replacing the muffler silencer with a larger model.
The exterior is designed to cover and, as you might have already guessed, muffle the sound the generator produces. A muffler works to reduce the volume of the sound that eventually escapes the generator’s exhaust pipes, as this is usually the noisiest element of a generator.
This is due to the perforated tubes featured in the muffler’s interior design as this helps to deflect and redirect the engine’s sound waves for a quieter noise output.
Generator Muffler Silencer
Unsurprisingly, a muffler that is designed for generators is the correct and most popular way to reduce the noise your generator makes.
By attaching one of these to the exhaust pipes on the unit the noise volume can be muffled by up to 10 to 15 decibels and could therefore take your 75 dBA generator to a more reasonable speaking volume of 65 or 60 dBA.
The Camco Gen-Turi RV generator exhaust system, for example, will do an excellent job of silencing your generator and will divert the fumes away from the exhaust to prevent a build-up that could be harmful to inhale. It’s slightly expensive but certainly effective.
However, there isn’t a one size fits all guide when it comes to generator mufflers.
To make sure that your muffler will effectively do its job and muffle the noise your power generator produces, it needs to have the right specifications to properly fit the unit.
They’re not always cheap, so it’s worth doing some research before you purchase a muffler for your generator.
Automotive Muffler Silencer
No, your eyes (and ears) do not deceive you, and yes, you really can install an automotive muffler to reduce the noises made by your generator.
There’s no denying that a car or vehicle and a portable generator are entirely different things, but with some clever welding and a lot of competence, it’s possible to install a muffler for your car on your generator.
But it’s true. In fact, provided you’ve carried out the installation without fault, you can achieve the same 10 to 15-decibel reduction as you would with a standard generator muffler. We do mean without fault though, as you’ll need to be practically flawless in your installation.
If you have less confidence in your DIY-welding abilities, it’s also possible to minimize the noise volume without having to solder the piping together. However, you won’t be able to achieve the same results.
Mounting the muffler onto the generator unit using exhaust flex tubing and a few strategically placed clamps will do the trick but it won’t completely silence your generator, so bear this in mind when deciding which installation method to use.
Think Outside of the Box - And Build One Out of Plywood Boards
We’ve already mentioned that purchasing a separate, large muffler to attach to your generator, which is in itself an expensive purchase, is going to put a little extra strain on your bank account. There are, however, more affordable alternatives for reducing noise volume.
For example, you can box in your generator using plywood to add an extra layer of sound-proofing as this is an inexpensive material. Even better if you have some spare planks of plywood cut-offs lying around from a previous job or if you can scavenge some from one of your mates because this will make it an even cheaper sound solution.
Whether you’re buying or borrowing your plywood, remember that you need to make sure that you have enough material to actually cover the entire unit remembering to leave enough room for a little leeway on all sides.
By enclosing the generator this way you can effectively trap and absorb the sound rather than releasing it unmuffled for your ears to pick up on.
How to Build a Silencer Box
For anyone who’d prefer to have a proper enclosure, you can use the same basic principles that are used when plywood is your noise-reducing method of choice to construct a silencer box.
If it sounds the same as what we just discussed above, that’s because it practically is, but with a slightly more technical assembly process.
While you don’t need to be a professional carpenter to carry out this job, it does require some basic woodwork knowledge and a certain level of skill in order to get it right. It’s definitely worth it if you possess the motivation, as it’s a super effective way to muffle noise from your generator.
Start by building a frame out of pieces of wood that will comfortably fit around the generator, then use plenty of padding material such as plywood, foam, or a different type of insulation as this is what will prevent the noise from escaping and disrupting your day.
At the same time, using insulation like foam will keep the weight of the box light so it’s easy to move.
It’s not that simple though. You need to also make sure that the airflow is adequate so that it is less likely to cause overheating, as this could result in damage to the actual unit or the inner workings of your power generator which may have a negative effect on its performance.
One of the best ways to create a good airflow system for your generator’s exhaust system is to create a small cutout section in the box where you can attach an exhaust extension, as this will encourage good circulation of the surrounding air and will keep the unit cooler.
We also recommend including a handle somewhere in your box design, best located on the top of the box so it’s easy to position and remove without damaging the generator.
Additional Tips for Reducing Generator Noise
1. Don’t overestimate the size that you need
The easiest way to make sure that your generator is no louder than it needs to be is to ensure you choose a unit that is actually going to suit your needs.
When you’re camping or spending a short trip away, for example, you’re probably going to be using your portable generator for smartphone charging and essentials, which don’t require a huge amount of power to run and can be done with just a few hundred watts.
Those who prefer to travel in their RV or mobile home may have more tasking appliances that need to be powered by the generator, which will, in turn, require a higher wattage output in order to handle the needs of any larger home appliances.
Remember at the start of this article when we said the larger the generator, the louder the sound volume? This is why choosing an appropriately sized generator is so important, as otherwise, you’re adding noise for the sake of it.
Plus, generators with a higher wattage are more expensive, so there’s even more reason to just stick to what you need.
With that being said, don’t forget that you can purchase portable generators which are specifically designed to be quieter during operation compared to regular generators, although you’ll pay more for the privilege of being able to have your cake and eat it.
2. Change direction
It should be a matter of common sense that turning the generator’s exhaust pipes to face the opposite direction from where you are will minimize noise disruption, as this is the part of the generator unit that will create the loudest noise.
In case you didn’t think of this yourself, here’s your reminder to turn the generator around so the exhaust is facing away from you and directing its noise elsewhere.
The same thing applies when you’re camping, for example. Make sure your generator is pointing towards somewhere in the distance and facing the opposite way from the campsite.
You can also point the exhausts in an upward direction so it’s facing the sky where the sound can be released with less disruption to you. This isn’t possible on all generator units, but it will have the same effect as turning the generator away from you if you can do this.
3. Change location
Another thing you can do to reduce the amount of noise you’re exposed to while your generator is running is to simply move further away from it. Sometimes it’s best not to overcomplicate things.
There is a little more to consider here, however, so it’s not just the quick fix you’d hope for, either. When you’re on a camping site, for example, you’ll need to be much more mindful of the people around you, and there might even be designated areas for generator use.
Cord length will also play a part in where you can physically station a generator, or you might simply want to keep the distance you’ll be walking between tent and generator to a minimum in addition to the noise levels.
4. Sound deflection
Again, similar to the plywood or silencer box method, putting something between the sound waves being produced by your generator and your very own ears can do a lot to reduce the overall volume of the noise when it reaches you.
Just because you don’t have access to the tools (or the motivation) to try out one of these box methods doesn’t mean you have to give up on noise reduction by deflection.
You can actually use anything solid from your surroundings, including a board, a wall, a sheet of metal, or any furniture that will partially block the sound as it travels from the generator.
Essentially, all you will need to do for this method is lean the deflective materials up against the generator, particularly between where it is and where you are in relation to the unit. This will have an almost immediate effect on how loud your generator is when it’s running.
5. Choose the right floor space
Rooms that have great acoustics are perfect for live performances or for jamming out to your favorite songs, but they’re not so great when it comes to amplifying noises you’d rather not hear.
The type of flooring you choose to place your generator on plays a surprisingly big role in terms of how effectively you’ll be able to reduce the noise volume of your power generator.
Flooring that is concrete or wooden will be particularly noise-amplifying rather than volume-reducing, actually enhancing the sound which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve and will undo anything you’ve tried thus far.
Replacing your floor completely is neither an effortless nor affordable job in most cases, meaning it’s therefore unreasonable to expect that people will change their flooring just for the sake of a noisy generator (but we did say the incessant sound would drive you crazy).
It’s much cheaper and simpler to set down a sound-absorbing mat which you can easily pick up online. The generator can then be placed on top of this which will help to soften the sound as it reverberates outwardly from the generator’s exhaust pipes.
6. Use Water as a Generator Muffler
Okay, so there’s technically no such thing as a water muffler, but you can still use water to quieten the volumes of your generator from up to 5 to 7 decibels. It might not seem like much, but it’s a relatively easy reduction to make.
To do this, bring a bucket that’s filled with about 5 gallons of water, a hose, and a clamp to your generator, as these are the things you’ll need to muffler your generator with water. The clamps will be used to attach the hose to the generator’s exhaust.
Before you connect anything, make sure that your bucket of water is at a lower height than the generator unit, as otherwise, you may end up with the water flowing backward which is an electrical safety hazard and it can cause serious damage to the inner workings of your power generator.
Once you’re sure that the generator is on higher ground, you can attach the hose to the exhaust pipes with the clamp, making sure everything is securely in place.
Put the other end of the hose in the water, and voila! The sound produced by your generator will exit the exhaust pipes and be muffled by the water before reaching your ears, making it quieter.
7. Invest in your power
For those who can afford to spend a little extra cash on a generator that won’t irritate you by whirring away when it’s in operation, we recommend investing in a generator that is high-quality and from a reputable brand, preferably with positive reviews to support the fact that this is a great, high-performing, quiet generator.
By doing this, you won’t have to worry about half of this article (way to make us feel obsolete) as there’ll be no need for additional muffling tactics because the generator will already be running quietly compared to most other power generator units.
A particularly great but pricey option is the Wen 56380i Super Quiet 3800-watt portable inverter generator which starts electronically, switches off automatically, and runs at just 51 dBA when it’s in operation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you run a portable generator in the rain?
The short answer is - yes.
For a more comprehensive answer on whether or not you can use your portable generator in the rain, check out our article on ‘How To Run a Portable Generator in Wet Weather, Rain or Snow with a Cover or Tent’ which gives detailed information on the safest ways to do so.
Can regular maintenance help to prevent loud noises coming from your generator while it’s running?
Yes, it definitely can!
Regular maintenance is a great way to keep any machine or electrical tool running smoothly, and portable generators are no exception. If you want to make sure that your generator runs as quietly as it always has, stay up to date with regular maintenance.
Will a bigger muffler be quieter?
In general, the larger the muffler, the more successfully it will muffle the sound produced by your generator when you’re charging your essential devices and appliances.
However, the muffler’s effectiveness will also depend on shape as well as size, meaning the different types of muffler have different effects on the noise volume of your generator.
Does a silencer affect the generator’s performance?
Installing a muffler to your generator will definitely affect its performance, but perhaps not in the negative way you might be thinking.
Of course, there’s the sound performance, which will actually be improved by 10 to 15 decibels, but there shouldn’t be any noticeable effect on the quality of power performance.
Even if you can’t justify spending a fortune on a generator that is designed to produce less noise during operation, there’s still hope!
Don’t go putting your generator back in the box because of how loud it is when you first test it out, as you can use any of the suggestions featured in this article to bring the volume down so that it’s less disruptive to you.
We hope you’ve found this article helpful and informative, and feel free to let us know in the comments if you decide to try out any of these methods and how successful you found them!