There are a number of ways to minimize generator noise. If you’ve ever had to run a generator when the power is out, you know just how loud it can be when your generator breaks through the quietness at 50 to 80 decibels. The noise level can be overwhelming, and if your locale has a noise ordinance, you might need to make a solid effort to soft the noise.
You can minimize generator noise in the following ways:
- Purchase a Higher Quality Generator
- Choose a Smaller Engine Size
- Change the Location of Your Generator
- Change the Surface Your Generator Sits On
- Put Rubber Feet On Your Generator
- Adjust the Direction of the Exhaust Hose
- Quiet Your Generator with a Bucket of Water
- Add a Car Muffler to Your Generator (10 – 15 reduction)
- Purchase a Generator Silencer (10 -15 reduction)
- Make or Purchase Sound Reflection Panels
- Buy or Build a Baffle Box
- Keep your Generator in Good Working Order
In the rest of this article we will go over each of these methods in more detail and I will give you some practical specific pointers to help you minimize your generator noise with each. You’ll want to be prepared by trying out the methods you choose to implement before a power outage happens, so you know what to expect and can have any needed supplies on hand. And of course, you’ll always want to follow safety measures when using a generator.
1. Purchase a Higher Quality Generator
Many generators can easily create 70 decibels of sound when running. Just imagine sitting next to a vacuum cleaner when it is turned on, and you’ll get a good idea of how loud 70 decibels can be. However, there are quieter models on the market. More expensive generators are more likely to be quiet, so investing a little extra cash up front will help keep your neighbors happier. Also, generators that use inverter technology tend to run a little bit softer. Some of the quietest generators on the market run around 50 decibels of sound or about the sound level of a large fan or hairdryer. Most big box stores that sell generators will have several models to choose from, and you should be able to easily compare the sound output by the numbers on the box.
2. Choose a Smaller Engine Size
Although it might be tempting to purchase the largest generator you can afford, you might want to reconsider if this is your plan. The larger the generator, the bigger the motor. The bigger the engine, the louder the sound that it will make. A simple solution to making less noise is to use a smaller generator.
To pick the correct size, you will need to figure out all of the things you want or need to run when the power is out. For example, you might only need to run your refrigerator and a couple of lights to get by in an emergency. In other instances, especially if there are frequent or extended power outages, you might need your generator to power more appliances in your home. You might even need a generator big enough to power your well so you have access to running water for drinking, washing dishes, and flushing toilets. Once you know how much electricity you’ll need to run your necessities, you can choose the smallest possible generator to make them work.
3. Change the Location of Your Generator
Naturally, the closer to your home or campsite, the louder your generator will seem. You can mitigate the noise by moving the generator. It isn’t safe to run a generator in an enclosed space even though it might be a tempting method of minimizing the noise. Instead, move it as far away as you can without having to go nuts with extension cords. If you cannot move your generator far away from where you are sleeping, you might be able to position it on the other side of a tree, shed, or car to deflect some of the noise away from where you are working or sleeping. Naturally, keep in mind the location of your neighbors, too. They won’t be happy if you aim the noise towards them.
4. Change the Surface Your Generator Sits On
Generators create a lot of vibration. This vibration can create extra noise depending on the surface the generator sits on. Metal surfaces will create the most vibration, while softer surfaces will create less. For example, if you were to place your generator on top of your Bilco doors or in the back of a pickup truck, the metal would rattle excessively and increase the noise created by the generator. However, if you were to place the generator on a sidewalk, asphalt, or another hard surface, the only vibrations would come from the generator itself. Better yet, put your generator on soil which will help to dampen the vibrations.
5. Put Rubber Feet On Your Generator
If you cannot move your generator to softer ground, you might consider putting rubber feet on it. Many household appliances come with small rubber feet on the bottom to give stability and reduce vibration. Adding rubber feet to your generator will reduce the vibrations that carry over onto the surface your generator is sitting on. If you cannot find feet to fit your generator, you can place it on a large rubber mat to achieve the same results.
6. Adjust the Direction of the Exhaust Hose
Some generators will come with an adjustable exhaust hose. Point the hose away from your location or home to make it seem quieter. You might even be able to position the exhaust hose vertically, to send the noise up and away from you.
7. Quiet Your Generator with a Bucket of Water
An old-fashioned trick to make your generator quieter is to muffle the sound by running the exhaust into a large bucket of water. Attach one end of a hose to the exhaust hose with a clamp, and place the other end into your bucket of water. The water will muffle the sound naturally. Ensure that water can’t back up into your generator by raising the generator up higher than your bucket.
8. Add a Car Muffler to Your Generator
If you are handy with a welder and auto parts, you can put a car muffler onto your generator. Adding a muffler requires a certain amount of knowledge, skill, and the right tools, but it is possible. A car muffler can reduce the sound by up to 10 to 15 decibels.
9. Purchase a Generator Silencer
If you aren’t handy with car parts, you can still reduce the sound level by 10 to 15 decibels. You’ll need to invest in a generator silencer. Although these may set you back a few bucks, they work just about the same way a car muffler would work.
10. Make or Purchase Sound Reflection Panels
Sound reflection panels can be placed around your generator to reflect the noise away from your location. If you don’t have access to commercially made sound reflection panels, you can simply use plywood leaned up against the generator to reflect the sound. However, you need to be very careful not to block the exhaust, cause overheating, or accidentally start a fire. Leaning plywood up against the generator will deflect the sound down into the ground, which could reduce the noise level by as many as ten decibels.
11. Buy or Build a Baffle Box
A Zombie box is a large box for your generator that protects it from weather and dampens the sound by an impressive 75 to 90 percent. While a Zombie box can easily cost way more than your generator, you can create your own type of sound muffling box known as a baffle box.
A baffle box works similarly to sound reflection panels. Whether you purchase pre-built baffle boxes or make your own, you’ll need to consider several things before you make your final decision. First, you’ll need to have plenty of air circulation around your generator to make sure it doesn’t overheat or trap carbon monoxide. You’ll also need to know if your generator is portable or permanently installed. If your generator is portable, you’ll want your baffle box to be easy to move. You’ll also need to think about how you will access your generator in the box. You’ll need to be able to turn it on and off, add gasoline, and access the power supply.
12. Keep Your Generator in Good Working Order
Over time, vibrations can cause nuts, bolts, and other parts of your generator to become loose. Wear and tear on the bearings and other parts can also increase the noise level. Have your generator serviced regularly to keep it in good working order. It might need nuts and bolts tightened, bearings lubricated, oil changed, and a good cleaning to keep it running smoothly and quietly.
Which is louder, a portable generator or a standby generator?
A standby generator is a permanent fixture that can run an entire home. While these are more pricey than their portable counterparts, they are also a little bit quieter.
Why shouldn’t you run a generator indoors to make it quieter?
Generators produce carbon monoxide, which can quickly build up in enclosed spaces like a home, shed, or garage. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal.
Is it ok to run a generator all night?
Yes. Most generators are designed to run up to eight or even up to twelve hours at a time, depending on your make and model. However, they aren’t designed to run continuously. To refuel, you’ll need to shut it off and let it cool down since gas is highly flammable. If running your generator at night isn’t an absolute necessity, you might want to shut it down so you and your neighbors can get a peaceful night of sleep.
What generator is the quietest?
Although it isn’t cheap, one of the quietest generators is the Honda EU2200iTAG 2,200-watt ultra-quiet portable generator, coming in at around 57 decibels, 2200 watts, and approximately $1200.