During a power outage or on a camping trip, your generator is usually the most important machine on site.
But the generator we need so much… it’s pretty noisy.
The loud noises coming from the generator can make a stressful situation even more frustrating.
Being able to make your generator quiet as a cricket can be a pretty big deal if you want to enjoy your trip or reduce the stress associated with a power outage.
Knowing how to quiet a generator is pretty simple though.
Luckily, there are many super simple ways to make your generator whisper quiet such as moving it a new location or shifting the parts so they face different ways.
I’ve listed ten easy steps in this article and doing one (or all) of them can really make a generator quieter for Campin g and home use and make your life easier!
But, before we get into any of those simple steps, it’s important to understand why your generator is making so much noise, to begin with.
Why Are Generators So Noisy?
There are a ton of reasons why your generator could be making a ton of noise.
Most generators are engine-generators which are essentially electric generators connected to an engine. These call are called “GenSets.”
And the majority of those engine-generators and the type that I personally prefer in my own home is a standby generator.
Standby generators make noise because the process of creating electricity with the engine creates heat.
The heat created requires that the generator have a built-in cooling system to prevent fires and equipment overheating/shut-down.
Most generators in this category are either cooled by air or liquid. Air-cooled standby generators, in particular, are super loud.
Liquid-cooled standby generators are less noisy and work better than systems cooled by air, but are much higher in price.
Their initial purchase and their maintenance are both pretty expensive and sometimes aren’t completely cost-effective.
The engine noise combined with the cooling system’s noise results in most of the noise from an overly loud generator.
But every piece of a standby generator creates some level of noise.
The alternator, the induction process, structural noise from the vibration of the machine at large, and even the exhaust released by the generator all create some level of noise.
The other type of generator, portable generators, produces sound as a result of the engine block and the exhaust system.
Many of these systems are air-cooled and there’s little you can do to block the noise from this type of generator.
Any combination of these options are great for generating power, particularly when on camping trips, but come with different noise levels.
What Type Of Generators Are Quieter To Begin With?
So, if you’re interested in quieting down your system, the first step is purchasing a generator with better silencing capacity.
Pick a standby generator over a portable generator and, if you have the extra money, try to find an affordable liquid-cooled option.
They’re easier to keep quiet and easier to maintain than other options are. You may also want to consider buying a generator that includes an inverter.
An inverter generator produces a lot less noise than other generators and are usually a good bit smaller.
Consider either of these options and you’ll be off to a great start reducing the noise your generator creates.
Both options are a little bit more expensive than traditional generators, but your ears will thank you.
Quiet Generator Buying Options
There are many great options when you’re considering buying a quieter generator.
For campers, I personally recommend the WEN Model 56200i 4-Stroke Gas Powered 2000 Watt Inverter Generator.
It is safe to use for cell phones and laptops and provides 1600 watts to all electric units consistently.
Plus, it’s a small, portable option that’s designed to be quieter in comparison to other generators. It’s actually even quieter than most air conditioners.
And it can even be used at high altitudes, making it a great option for more intense camping excursions.
I also recommend the Honda EU2200i 2200-Watt Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator because it’s great for at-home use and use on your campsite.
It’s reliable, can power multiple appliances at once, and is extremely quiet!
With either of these options, you honestly can’t go wrong, but if you want to consider others - you’ll need to know what factors influence your noise level outside of the machinery and how to lower the noise level.
What 3 Factors Can Change The Level Of Noise Created By Your Generator?
Other than the mechanical reasons why generators make noise, there are other factors that make your generator in specific so noisy.
These factors stand true for reducing noise no matter what type of generator you buy and knowing how to make the right decisions is key to getting a quieter generator.
The space you put your generator in is just as important when it comes to reducing noise as choosing a quieter generator is.
You want to place your generator away from important areas like bedrooms or your campsite.
The closer the machine is to you, the louder it will seem. And you’ll also want to choose the right surface to put the generator on.
Putting your generator on shaky spaces will be noisier than placing it on solid footing. Shaky platforms and creaky floors will increase the amount of noise your generator produces.
The Energy Levels Your Generator Is Set To
The higher the power output of your generator is, the louder it will be.
For example, 3000-watt generators will be noisier than 1000-watt generators.
This is because the higher power output requires a heavier-duty engine that can work harder and, thus, creates more noise.
When buying a generator, you’ll want to choose a generator that produces the exact amount of energy you need. Any higher and you’ll be dealing with more noise than necessary.
For homes, this can mean buying generators with more power. You won’t need as much electricity when camping and can settle for 1000-2000 watt machines.
This might seem like a pretty basic idea, but generators that have been soundproofed are generally quieter than ones that haven’t.
Applying rubber feet or soundproof casings to your generators will help make your generator quieter. This is because these materials reduce sound vibrations.
Even purchasing soundproofing or sound-absorbing materials to place near your generator will help reduce the amount of noise you hear.
We have plenty of tips for how to soundproof your generator later on in this article!
10 Tips to Quiet Down Your Generator
Now that you know the factors that can cause your generator to be loud, we can get into what options you have to quiet it down.
Many of these options include using soundproof or sound-absorbing materials to help deflect or absorb the noise your generator creates, but are pretty affordable and easy to install.
Others are simple, easy, and quick. But, overall, all of them are effective at reducing the noise your generator creates.
Shift the Exhaust Pipes
As we discussed early, the parts used in building a generator are one of the main sources of noise.
Noise from the exhaust is one of the easiest areas to tackle and reduce.
In order to reduce the amount of noise coming from the exhaust, try changing the position that they’re set at.
Shifting them to a vertical position from a horizontal one is a great way to limit the amount of sound your generator produces.
This is because any noise will be sent upwards and not outwards towards your living or camping space.
This is probably the most affordable option. And it’s super quick and easy to do!
Replace the Muffler
Another mechanical part that could be allowing your generator to create a lot of noise is the muffler.
Mufflers are meant to reduce machine noise.
But, sometimes, they break or they just aren’t large enough to completely smother your generator’s loud noises.
Installing a larger muffler can make a complete difference and will help make your generator much, much quieter.
Another cheap and easy option to reduce the amount of noise you hear when running your generator involves using water. And that may sound weird, but it actually makes sense.
You aren’t applying the water directly to your generator (that could break it). Instead, you’re using it as a sound-dampening material.
You do this by connecting the pipe of your house to the exhaust of your generator.
You’ll pop a small hole at the high point of the hose pipe to prevent water leakage and, then, you’ll take the other end of the hose pipe and place it into a bucket of water. Usually, 5-gallon buckets do the tick.
This easy and affordable process is a great way to dampen sound created by your generator’s exhaust.
Use a Sound Deflector
A sound deflector is a device that helps direct noise away from a specific space.
It’s a great device to keep in the areas you don’t want to hear generator noise from because sound directors will direct any noise away from that area.
While it doesn’t make the generator itself quieter or reduce any of the noise it makes, it does keep the noise from reaching you.
This will create at least one area of peace and quiet while you run your generator.
Plus, sound deflectors are great to use in combination with any of the other techniques.
Most of the other techniques will reduce the overall noise while sound deflectors are hard at work making sure any remaining noise can’t reach your ears.
Enclose Your Generator
If you want to keep your generator’s noise from reaching you, try building an enclosure for it.
Enclosing your generator is a great way to reduce the amount of sound waves that reach your ears.
To build an effective (and safe) enclosure for your generator, you’ll want to pour concrete flooring and build walls made out of brick or wood.
Including soundproof materials, including soundproof insulation or fireproof insulators, will also help absorb the noise your generator creates.
However, you need to remember to include ventilation points - even if some sound can escape through them.
Without including ventilation points, you run the risk of machine fires and contaminating the space with harmful fumes.
You may also want to consider building a smaller-scale enclosure for your generator like a box.
Boxes should be made out of fireproof materials and should always include proper ventilation holes
Purchase a Baffle Box
A baffle box is a specific type of enclosure designed to capture the sound waves your generator produces.
Unlike other enclosures, you can buy this type of sound-reducing product directly from the store.
You don’t necessarily have to build it on site!
However, there are some very good do-it-yourself directions online and many people say they’re relatively simple to build so if you want to save yourself a couple of bucks, give it a try!
You’ll just have to make sure that you can access the control panel. You want to be able to operate your generator, even when it’s in the baffle box.
And remember: you ALWAYS need ventilation holes or you could run the risk of starting a fire.
Even if you buy one online, check the construction before using. You don’t want to take a risk that the ventilation holes aren’t large enough or that the box has been damaged in any way.
Many people prefer to apply rubber flaps over their generator instead of using baffle boxes.
This is because, with a baffle box, you need to remove the box before you can access the controls.
With rubber flaps, you simply move the flap.
It acts as a simple cover for the controls and also helps reduce the noise associated with most generators.
Try Different Locations
Location, location, location!
Choosing the right location is key for the vast majority of things, but is particularly important when placing your generator.
Whether you’re using your generator at camp or at home, how close it is to you has a direct correlation with how noisy it can seem.
Generally speaking, putting it as far away from you as possible will keep the noise you hear to a minimum.
But if you have it far away and it still seems loud, try to move it to a location with more secure footing.
Use Acoustical Absorbers
Most types of generators include various openings in their design.
They need these openings to take in the air and release heat.
These openings are absolutely required for your generator to operate but can be lined with acoustical absorbers.
This type of lining will create specific pathways for airflow and will help absorb the sound waves in the air before it can even escape the generator.
Some types of modern acoustical absorbers even include thermal regulation technology to help lower your generator’s heat.
Apply a Weighted Barrier
A weighted sound barrier can be a huge difference in your generator noise level.
They can reduce the sound by 12-15 which significantly decreases on the amount of noise your ear can even pick up on.
Great sound barrier materials include an outdoor sound curtain, barrier walls, and mass-loaded vinyl sheets.
There are many options for the type of sound barrier you can use and they all work great.
However, when choosing the right option for you, look at the height of your generator.
Your weighted barrier must at least block the line of sight from the generator to your location, or it won’t be effective.
To recap, there are many great ways to get yourself a quieter generator.
These options can include buying a generator that is specifically designed to produce less noise, creating sound barriers, and even shifting important parts of your generator so they make less noise.
Whether you’re at your campsite or at home, location is still going to be the most important factor when it comes to decreasing the amount of noise you hear.
Placing your generator properly can make the loud noise unable to reach you. Generally the farther it is, the less you can hear it.
And, if you have it on stable footing, it shouldn’t be making any extra noise.
Adding the other materials are great ways to reduce the sound at its source, but always make sure to keep a healthy distance from your generator.
You might even get lucky and the distance will be all you need to get in order to have a quieter generator.
Jessica is a Acoustical Engineer, currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. After graduating from her degree in Master of Engineering degree in Acoustics from Solent University in 2014, Jessica worked for a few companies before She will be blogging about her past and current experiences in the studio and sharing her journey as she pursues her career goals. She enjoy the balance of work inside and out of the office, solving practical problems on a daily basis as every project is different and requires a different solution, the variety of work (sound insulation testing, background noise survey, mechanical plant commissioning, external plant assessment, plant room breakout assessments) and the mix of independent and team work.