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How to Quiet a Generator [Tips & Tricks]

DISCLAIMER: AS AN AMAZON ASSOCIATE I EARN FROM QUALIFYING PURCHASES. THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS THAT WILL REWARD ME MONETARILY OR OTHERWISE WHEN YOU USE THEM TO MAKE QUALIFYING PURCHASES. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE READ MY EARNINGS DISCLAIMER.

The most simple and effective solution to keep a generator quiet is to build a “fort” around it out of plywood. Of course, you could dedicate a sound-proof enclosure for your generator, if you have the means and time to do it. Keeping it on the soft, sound-proof platform, should also take a few dB’s out of it, and placing it as far as possible from the recreation area, is another option.

A word of caution! Even though you want to avoid noise coming from a generator, do NOT place a generator inside a living area (like a garage, basement, or room in a house)! The reason for this is that in high concentrations, exhaust gases are toxic and poisonous.

A specifically designed soundproofing box can be built for a generator and placed outside. Also, please remember is to keep it away from all flammable materials.

So, what are your plans for the generator? Generator applications typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Using for pleasure (for RV, camping, boating, etc.). A portable inverter-generator is a good option.
  • Industrial use (to power construction sites). A portable generator will do the job.
  • Home or business power backup (during a power outage). A standby generator is the best option.

Whether you are camping or powering a construction site, having less noise is generally appreciated. Homeowners and business owners will also appreciate if their power standby system is not noise-polluting the area around.  If you are out on the road, getting a better-quality inverter generator is highly recommended, because you may end up in areas where generator noise is simply not tolerable!

Now, let’s consider what makes your generator loud in the first place! Here are our noisemakers:

  • The engine block. The engine is the mechanical component with a lot of moving parts, which means that the noise it makes is just part of the deal! Large engines will produce more noise.
  • The cooling system. There are two popular types of cooling systems – Air-cooled or liquid-cooled. The air-cooled systems are noisier and less effective. Liquid-cooled systems are quieter and more effective, but they are more costly to buy and maintain.
  • The exhaust. The purpose of mufflers is to suppress the noise of the generator. If it becomes defective, you will have A LOT of noise to deal with!

Inverter generators have a range of advantages over conventional ones, including reduced noise, lower weight, and higher fuel efficiency. Inverter generators are considered to be the “cleanest” power source and are excellent for delicate electronics.

Some inverter generators can automatically change the engine speed to meet the power required. This ensures the highest possible fuel-efficiency along with reducing noise levels.

And yes, generators are NOISY, but reducing decibels doesn’t have to be a pain if you do it right! So, how to have as little noise as possible? Here the generator quieting tips:

1. Buy the right type of generator!

This point may sound silly, but did you buy the cheapest generator with the least amount of soundproofing? If so, return it and get the one that suits your needs better (paying a little more for peace and quiet is probably worth it in your case).

The noise factor

The majority of generators come with the so-called “a decibel rating”:

The level of noise is 10 times more with every 10-decibel rise (ex: a generator that produces 70 decibels is ten times louder than one that produces 60 decibels). A “quiet generator” will run at a noise level between 49 and 60 decibels (natural voice) and that is usually achieved with completely enclosed body and inverter technology.

Here is a chart:

Decibels (dB) Level Example
10 Breathing
20 A gentle swishing sound
30 Whispering
40 Light rain
50 Refrigerator
60 Conversation
70 Dishwasher
80 Alarm Clock
90 Hearing damage (due to long-term exposure) starts at 85 dB ☹

If a portable generator is what you are looking for, here is one of the best-rated generators on Amazon (48 to 57 dBA) from Honda (paid link).

Of course, if your needs are quite large and an inverter-generator is NOT an option for you, below are some tips on how to quiet “the monster” down:

How to make a generator quieter - 9 Ways That Work!

2. Mufflers and silencers

Increasing the muffler capacity is the first logical solution that comes to mind for quieting down a generator. It functions similarly to a vehicle’s muffler – the noisy sound is captured and muffled (as the name implies).

A generator muffler must be properly mounted and welded in place in order to be reliable and to achieve maximum effect. This solution, as logical as it sounds, maybe quite ineffective due to the fact that most noise is NOT coming out of the exhaust system, but from the motor and other rotating parts.

If you are stuck with an old generator that makes more noise than it used to, the muffler could be damaged and should be replaced. Here is a Generac replacement muffler (paid link) from Amazon, if anyone is interested.

You could also add a generator silencer. Unfortunately, not all of them work great. If I find one with good reviews, I will add it here.

If you think of upgrading your muffler, maybe try using water instead! What do I mean? A 5-gallon bucket of water, a hose, and a clamp to tie the hose to the exhaust pipe are what you’ll need.

Make sure that the generator is higher up on the ground than the bucket of water. You don’t want to allow the water to drain back through the exhaust pipe of your generator.

If you want to be extra cautious with water backflow, you should poke a few tiny holes in the hose. So, this is how you can use a water bucket as a muffler to quiet down your generator (it’s exhaust noise):

  • Using your clamp, secure the hose to the exhaust vent.
  • Then, put the hose’s other end into the bucket of water.

You could expect to reduce the generator’s noise level by 5-7 dB by using this water muffler tool. The next solution would reduce the noise produced by your generator even further.

3. Plywood fort

The best part about this method is that you probably don’t even have to buy anything extra. Simply find few pieces (4 is sufficient) around your backyard or garage and lean them against each side of the generator.

The plywood can be slightly larger than the generator’s edges. Use OSB panel or even sheetrock instead of plywood to improve this plywood process. Another effective way to remove dB’s is to apply a coat of tar to your plywood, OSB, or Sheetrock.

Don’t forget the ventilation! It is essential for preventing your generator from overheating and being destroyed or causing a fire! The good news is that you can lean these pieces of plywood at the angle, starting a few feet away from the generator and then leaning it in.

Anyone can do the plywood process above, and it’s very lightweight. This reduces noise levels by up to 10 decibels. However, it isn’t very attractive, and those who use their generators often will notice that their fort falls over sometimes or moves out of position.

Here is a good video on that:

4x Quieter generator in 10 seconds

Have some spare time on your hands? Make a real enclosure for your generator. Don’t forget about proper ventilation though…

4. Build a generator enclosure

An enclosure for the generator is essentially a box into which the generator should be put to absorb the noise it makes. It operates in the same way as the plywood fort, except it looks better, lasts longer, and is easier to set up any time you choose to use it.

The majority of people choose to make their own boxes out of plywood, which is relatively cheap, and allows for a lot of flexibility, although it does take some time and effort. Simply design a wooden box to fit your generator inside, but make sure to have holes in place for the exhaust and fumes to exit (this will also avoid overheating).

Consider spraying tar on the interior of your box or constructing an inner and outer box of insulation between them to help with soundproofing. Some people would drill a hole in the box to allow for refueling, eliminating the need to remove the box any time the generator has to be refueled.

Building a generator box is one the easiest way to keep a generator quieter and it could be used for camping as well. The trick is to make sure that there are no air holes for noise to escape the enclosure while having enough space for the ventilation system.

Of course, you could have someone build it for you or you can find an already build storage enclosure that no one is using.

5. Other ways to silence your generator

  1. Move it to a detached garage or storage shed. Don’t forget that you will also need to provide exhaust exit and ventilation. Your fixture could be soundproof further with acoustic panels that will reduce echo and noise.
  2. Move it further away from you. At a distance of 20 feet, a typical generator can emit between 70 and 80 decibels. This will keep the generator quieter for you, but not your neighbors, so it’s your call… All you need is long extension cords.
  3. Point the pipes away from the house. turn the exhaust pipe away from your home, which in some situations can be the main source of the noise. Sound waves produced by noise can flow in the direction opposite of your location and that can make a big difference! Some people suggest pointing pipes upward!
  4. Use a sound absorbing mat. You can try sitting it on inexpensive rubber pads or place it on the soft ground to absorb any vibration.

Some municipalities require that a generator be placed on a concrete base, which effectively destroys the attempt to place yours on a rubber pad or mat. Check not ONLY the manufacturer’s standards and placement guidelines but also the local rules.

Life is a very serious venture, so here is a cartoon break: “The quietest generator”:

Do you also like to do everything yourself? Leave a comment below!


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1 Comment

  1. Eve Mitchell

    I loved that you brought up the importance of paying for a generator with the right level of soundproofing. There have been a lot of blackouts in my neighborhood the past few weeks, and I don’t want our house to be next. I am hoping I can get a professional in here to check my generator’s status.

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