How to Make a Portable Generator Quiet

Portable generators come in handy when there’s a power outage or when planning for a camping trip. You may also need one for your construction projects in areas with no power sources if you’re a contractor.  However, portable generators can be loud at times, particularly when they are running on full load. Nevertheless, this does not mean that they are faulty.

A noisy generator can be a nuisance to yourself and everyone around you. So, how can you make a portable generator quiet? There are several techniques that you can use to reduce the noise levels from your generator. However, you first ought to know why generators are noisy before going for the solution. Read on to learn more on how to make a portable generator quiet.

What Makes a Portable Generator Noisy?

1. Wrong placement of the generator

The amount of noise that a portable generator produces depends on where it is placed. Placing the generator on a metal surface will increase its noise output because of the high vibration nature of metallic surfaces. Surfaces with high vibration nature tend to amplify the noise produced by the generator, so avoid such surfaces.

Unstable surfaces such as asphalt and concrete also enhance the vibrations of the generator, which increases the noise output.  A stable and soft ground such as a flat soiled floor is the best surface to place a generator. Such a surface will absorb sound and any vibrations caused by the generator.

2. Energy the generator produces

How much load is on the generator? The amount of power a generator produces has a direct link with its noise level. Generators with big engines generate more energy, and they are normally noisier than those with small engines. A portable generator can also be noisy when operating at full load than when it has 25 or 50% load.

When there is a high power demand, the generator’s engine runs at a higher RPM. Maintaining that high RPM is what makes them noisy. However, there are new portable generators with an automatic voltage regular which regulates the engine speed depending on current load.

3. The level of technology used by the manufacturer

Modern portable generators are likely to run quietly than conventional portable generators because of the differences in technology used. Portable inverter generators are the quietest mechanical running generators. They are made utilizing the latest technology, which makes them compact and quiet. They are also fitted with sound deflectors and mufflers, which plays a significant role in keeping them less noisy. However, portable inverter generators are expensive compared to conventional portable generators.

How to Make a Portable Generator Quiet

1. Get the correct position for your generator

In normal circumstances, you will tend to move away from a source of the noise. If you are looking for an easy way of reducing the noise level from your generator, place it away from your position. If you are camping or at home, place it not less than 20 feet from your tent or house. It’s easier for you to space yourself from your generator, especially in rural areas, than in urban areas. If you’re an urban dweller with no ample space for placing your generator away from your house, there are alternative solutions.

Most portable generators have noise ratings from 20 feet, and they can range anywhere from 70 to 80 decibels. However, you can reduce the impact of your generator’s noise level by placing it beyond the 20 feet provided your extension cord allows. Alternatively, if you have a garage or storehouse detached from your main house, you can set the generator behind either of them. Doing so will obstruct high noise levels from getting to your home.

While positioning your portable generator, ensure there is no blockage on the exhaust.

2. Direct the generator’s exhaust pipe away from your house

If it’s not possible to place your generator far away from your home, there are other alternatives to quieting your generator. This approach will not cost you.

Your generator’s exhaust pipe can also be the reason why your generator operates loudly. And if the exhaust pipe is the source, then the sound waves are likely to travel towards the direction the pipe is facing. Adjust it away from your home, and this will direct the sound waves in another direction. This can make a huge impact on the noise level reaching your home when the generator is running.

You can also reduce your generator’s noise level by adjusting the exhaust pipe upwards. Naturally, hot air will follow an upward trajectory. However, many portable generators have a horizontal exhaust pipe rather than a vertical one. A horizontal exhaust pipe blows the air out and not upwards. The struggle of forcing air out instead allow it to go upwards makes the generator noisy. Vertical adjustments of the exhaust pipe will allow the hot air to rise; naturally, this can lower your generator’s noise level.

3. Use a water trick to dampen the exhaust noise

Water is one of the best sound absorbers. If you need a temporary solution to your noisy portable generator, it can sort you out.

In order to use this method, you need a hosepipe and a bucket of water. Connect one end of the hosepipe to the exhaust pipe and place the other end of the hosepipe into the water. If the generator is running, the water should start bubbling as carbon monoxide fumes escape out. This method will dampen the noise produced through the exhaust pipe and not the one that resulted from the generator’s vibrations.

To avoid any instances of water flowing back to the exhaust pipe, elevate the generator to a higher level. Alternatively, you can poke a little hole in any part of the hosepipe not covered with water. In case of any blowback of water, it will leak out through the hole.

When using this approach, it’s good to power on your generator before dipping the hosepipe into the water. You should also be cautious using water near a running generator.

4. Get a sound-absorbing flooring material

Sometimes, the noise you hear from the generator doesn’t come from the motor, but it is the surface. Hard surfaces like wooden floors, concrete, and tiles will make your generator sound louder because of vibrations and echo.

If you cannot get a soft surface to place your running generator on, invest in sound-absorbing flooring material. Thick industrial blankets and rubber carpet pads are good examples of sound-absorbing materials. When placed under the generator, these blankets can absorb and reduce the sound from your generator. The sound-absorbing material is effective because it also absorbs any vibrations from the machine.

Use this approach to quiet a noisy blender; fold a towel severally and place it underneath your blender, and it will dampen the noise.

You can also install rubber feet on your portable generator. Rubber feet will prevent noisy vibrations from the generator when it is running.

5. Build a soundproof shelter box for your portable generator

It is one of the best approaches to inhibiting noise from a generator. This box will not only lower the noise level from a running generator, but it will also protect it from the rain. One of the cheapest materials to use when building this box is to use cinder blocks. Line the inside of this box with a sound-absorbing material like mass loaded vinyl to enhance its soundproof features. If you have adequate space in your compound, place the shelter box about 100 feet away from your house.

The soundproof shelter box must have exhaust points and a cooling fan. The exhaust points ensure carbon monoxide fumes don’t accumulate in the shelter box while the fan cools the generator. The cooling fan will also help in blowing carbon monoxide fumes out of the box.

Air compressors can also be noisy; take advantage of your soundproof shelter box to make the compressor quitter. If the box is big enough, it can be used to store your power tools and the generator when it’s idle.

If you’re not in a position to build this box, you can buy a ready-made acoustic box, and it serves the same purpose.

6. Cover the generator with plywood boards

How to Make a Portable Generator QuietIf you cannot invest in a soundproof shelter box, muffling your portable generator with plywood boards is a cheaper option. Set some pieces of plywood around the generator; this can reduce the noise level by about 10 decibels. A reduction of noise output by 10 decibels will make a big impact on your bothered neighbors.

You don’t have to buy new plywood sheets; plywood scraps can do, provided they’re big enough to cover the generator. Lay them against your portable generator, making an enclosure box design. The plywood sheets will deflect the sound from your generator downwards to the ground, reducing noise dispersion to the environment.

This method works well if your portable generator is operating on a soft surface that can absorb noise. As a precaution, ensure the side that the exhaust is there is a fire-resistant material like drywall.

It is a standard method of controlling generator noise because it is easy to find plywood. And the set-up can be done by anyone. However, it’s not a long-term solution, and it may also not work out well in a windy situation. In the case of a strong wind, it can blow your plywood sheets.

7. Change your portable generator’s muffle.

How to Make a Portable Generator QuietIf your old portable generator has started operating loudly, check on the muffler. There are high chances that it is faulty. Take it to a qualified generator mechanic for servicing and replacement of the muffler. Even though this will reduce your generator’s noise output, go an extra mile and fix a quiet muffler on the exhaust. Fixing a muffler on the exhaust may necessitate welding. That is why you should allow a qualified mechanic to handle it.

A qualified mechanic can also assess whether the muffler or worn-out engine parts need a replacement. The replacement of worn-out parts can restore your generator to its mint condition.

8. Invest in a ZombieBox Portable Soundproof Casing

How to Make a Portable Generator QuietIt is a special casing made to lower the amount of noise produced by portable generators. It’s best for campers who have noisy generators and would wish to operate them quietly while on a camping trip. This soundproof enclosure is portable and weatherproof. It is also collapsible for easy storage and transportation.

According to the ZombiBox website, this box can reduce your generator’s noise output level by 99% or 5 times. Put your portable generator inside the box, and one will notice a generator in the box. The box is made from high-quality sound dampening materials, and it can last for many years.

9. Buy the right generator for your power demands

When it comes to shopping for portable generators, you should buy a generator that fits your needs. A big portable generator is likely to be the noisiest compared to a small one. For instance, a 10,000 watts portable generator is likely to be louder than a 5000 watts portable generator. The noise level is differentiated in the decibels rating.

If the generator noise level is one of your priorities when shopping for a portable generator, you should not have high power demands. Go for a generator whose power output is slightly upper than what you need. Avoid running your generator at full load; this will also reduce the noise output and extend its lifespan.

The type of fuel that the generator runs on also affects its noise output. Generators powered by diesel are the loudest, followed by gasoline-powered ones, and propane-powered are the least in noise production.

Inverter generators are designed to operate under low noise levels. They are the best portable generators for noise-sensitive areas such as estates, camping grounds, and national parks. However, their power output is limited, and they more expensive than conventional units.

Why Should You Quiet Your Portable Generator?

Generators operating at a rated noise of above 85 decibels can hamper your hearing and cause a permanent hearing problem. This is something that you would not wish for anyone, your family members or friends. Silencing your noisy portable generator can save your family members from such predicaments and yourself too.

Loud generators can be a nuisance to your neighbors and the environment too. Operating a noisy generator in the estate with limited noise levels can land you in trouble for causing a disturbance. This is something you can avoid.

Furthermore, a noisy generator is not allowed in national parks and most camping grounds if you love camping and RVing. And this is why most campers prefer inverter generators over ordinary portable generators.

Frequently Asked Questions on Making Portable Generators Quiet

Which is the best way to make a portable generator quiet?

The cheapest way is to place the generator around 100 feet from your house or tent if you are camping. This method requires that you have a long extension cable with outdoor ratings. Alternatively, you can build up a soundproofing box, and the generator will run on a lower sound.

Which is the quietest portable generator available today?

How to Make a Portable Generator QuietHonda EU2200i is the quietest portable generator in the market today, with a noise of 48 decibels at a quarter load. It is followed by WEN 56200i that operates at a rated noise of 51 decibels running at a quarter load. The Honda brand is, however expensive than WEN, which is also a reputable brand.

Can I enclose my portable generator?

Portable generators will always provide you with power whenever you need it for short-term or long-term goals. Besides the excellent service, buying one can be expensive. It is therefore essential to protect them. Building an enclosure is one way of keeping them safe from harsh weather and wildlife while camping. A section also muffles noise from your generator, giving your neighbors an excellent environment to converse and rest.

Final Word

With the unexpected increase in severe weather nowadays, having a portable generator is crucial. While this equipment will shoulder you from the inconveniences of experiencing a blackout, it has a downwards side. Portable generators can be too noisy, more so when operating them at full load. Fortunately, there are different approaches you can use to quiet a noisy portable generator.

Pick any of the methods above and see if your portable generator will operate quietly. Suppose it doesn’t combine several methods like increasing the distance between you and the generator, placing it on noise absorbing material and adjusting its exhaust pipe. Combing two or three methods above will significantly lower the noise your portable generator produces. Operating a quiet generator gives everyone around you peace of mind.

If none of the methods above seem to give you satisfactory results, consider investing in a portable inverter generator. Inverter generators are built using the latest inverter technology, which lowers the generator’s output noise. However, they are expensive and have lower power output.

About Steve Stuart

Steve Stuart is an electrical engineer who developed interest on generators during his school years. After school, he became a generator enthusiast. This is after encountering power supply problems at the area of residence where he lived. Power would be on and off and so food would go bad and the room heater would go off especially during winter. After trying the different generator brands for several years, Steve now provides information on the available brands and products in the market today. Based on his experience, he gives the do’s and the don’ts when it comes to generator use.

Leave a Comment