A generator, especially a portable one, is always handy. You can use it to keep your home safe during an emergency, use it while outdooring with your RV or at a campground or use it with anything that needs emergency or portable power. But, all its benefits come with one downside – the generator noise. So, how do you make a generator quiet?
Practically, it’s close to impossible to try and make a generator completely quiet. But you can make the sound tolerable. How?
- Move it some distance from you
- Point its exhaust away
- Shield the sound using deflectors
- Replace its muffler with a quieter one
- Place It on a Soft, Vibration-Absorbing Surface
- Place it inside an enclosure or entry-restricted, well-ventilated shed
And that’s precisely what you need to do to make your generator quieter and tolerable. But under each of these points, there are tips on the best practice or approach to take to achieve the trick.
What is the Best Way to Make a Generator Quiet?
As I mentioned above, it’s close to impossible to make a generator completely quiet. The only thing you can do is reduce noise coming from it and make it endurable. So, what can you do?
1) Move the Generator a Distance Away From You
You can make your generator quiet is to move it some distance away from your home, camping tent, or RV. It will allow you to enjoy the backup power while keeping the surrounding a bit quiet, something necessary in a camping or boondocking ground.
But how far you can place the generator is affected by few factors:
Extension Cord Length
You can only place a generator at a distance equal to the length of your extension cord. The rule of thumb of using generator extension cords is that you must never join two extension cords together, which can be risky due to overheating.
What’s more, you cannot go too far. The extension cord length is affected by the wire gauge and the generator amp and voltage output. The longest extension cord you can use is 100 meter 10-Gauge type at 20 Amp and 120 Volt output.
Whether at home, park, campsite, or boondocking ground, you don’t want to direct the generator noise towards your neighbors. Pick a spot that keeps the generator a distance from you and your neighbors too.
If you’re not using the generator in a fenced compound, its placement spot must be secure and a spot you can see it. You want to make sure you keep an eye on the generator when it’s away from you. It’s quite easy to lose it to burglars at a campsite or any outdoor event.
Residential Generator Placement Regulations
Your generator must be 5ft away from any doors, windows, and vents. It must also be away from any flammable and fire-hazard materials. So, even if the position makes the generator quieter, it has to be away from all those features.
2) Point the Exhaust Pipe Away
If, after placing it away, you’re still getting a considerable amount of noise, it’s probably that you have placed it with the Exhaust Muffler facing you. Adjust the placement and make sure the exhaust system is facing away from you.
The exhaust system is the noisiest part of a generator. Keeping it facing your house, tent or RV can make the generator noisier, and turning it away from you can reduce the generator considerably.
By doing so, you are directing the exhaust noise waves away from you. Don’t forget to direct it to your neighbors, either.
3) Place It on a Soft, Vibration-Absorbing Surface
Apart from the engine and exhaust system, generator noise can also come from all the vibrations the internal parts rotate. Placing the generator on a soft, vibration-absorbing surface can help to reduce the impact of the vibration, thus reducing the overall noise.
If you place the generator on a stiff surface such as cemented ground or gravel, the sound will be amplified, and its impact might cause damages to your generator. At home, you can invest in an anti-vibration mat. The product is made using soft materials such as rubber that can help reduce vibration.
While camping, you can find a spot with loosened sand or wet grass. Avoid dry grass as it can catch fire from the hot generator engine. Find a sport that can absorb and dampen the generator vibration produced by the rumbling of the generator, and you’ll have reduced the generator noise exponentially.
4) Shield the Generator Noise Using Sound Deflectors
Sound waves travel in a straight line unless deflected to another direction where they lose some distance. If you use sound deflectors with your generator, the sound will be confined, and upon finding an exit, its energy will be lost, making your unit sound quieter.
And the best part is, creating sound deflectors is a simple process. All you need is four plywood sheets and sizeable fire-resistance sheets, preferable drywall. Make sure the plywood sheets are more than 4ft wide. The length and width will depend on the size of your generator.
Start by getting some heat-resistant glue and apply it on one side of each of the four plywood sheets. When setting it up, prop the sheets at an angle leaning towards the generator, starting with the longest.
Place all four leaving some vents between the plywood sheets to allow cold air in to vent the engine and allow the exhaust fumes out.
5) Replace the Muffler
You also have the option of replacing the noisy default muffler on your generator. Most of the time, the factory-fitted mufflers are quite noisy, but some third-party mufflers are designed to reduce the generator noise.
And the best part is, installing a new muffler to a generator is never complicated. All you need is to remove the few bolts holding the muffler to the generator and detach it from the exhaust pipe.
However, you do have to make sure that your muffler is compatible with your generator to match the assembly of the factory-installed model.
Most of the modernized mufflers are compatible with most generators. But, some have designs that allow them to fit specified generators only. So, when searching for a muffler replacement, consider checking the compatibility before ordering.
Check for the compatible models, the muffler size, and its type. Also, confirm if your original muffler is threaded or use a clamp. Some use diffuser discs.
You can even try out a car muffler since they are mostly made to silence the car’s exhaust. But consider a model that uses a flexible exhaust tube. You also need some welding skills to attach it to the generator exhaust.
If done right, the new muffler can reduce the generator noise significantly, around 15 decibels if I talk numbers.
6) Use Water as Generator Muffler
If placing a generator away, directing the exhaust noise way from, and using a deflector isn’t working for you, you can use water as the silencer.
You’ll need a bucket with water and disconnect the default generator muffler. At the end of the exhaust pipe, connect a garden hose and direct it inside the water. Remember, the garden hose has to be heat resistant as the exhaust can get quite hot and burn or meltdown the regular rubber hose.
Another thing, make sure water doesn’t travel back to your generator as that can be catastrophic. Create a small leak, big enough to allow water to flow out of the hose before reaching the muffler but tiny enough not to leak the sound.
As the sound waves pass through the water, they will face resistance enough to distort them and make the generator less noisy.
7) Place the Unit inside a Generator Enclosure
Like standby or inverter generators, enclosing your generator inside a sealed unit can help reduce its noise. The enclosure will cover the noise distort it before it can leave the cage.
You can buy an already-built generator enclosure or build one for yourself, which is cheaper and convenient. I have a complete guide on how to build a soundproof generator enclosure. Do check it out.
8) Place It in a Shed
And lastly, there is the option of placing the generator inside an ENTRY-RESTRICTED shed with maximum ventilation. It’s something you might have seen with those portable standby generators used for commercial business.
If you have a small empty shed far from the house and it’s highly ventilated, place the generator in it and restrict entry to prevent accidents. You can also opt to build one for yourself. But, of course, you’ll need some masonry skills.
What makes a generator noisy?
A generator has to produce noise to tell you it’s operational. For it to produce power, the fuel has to get into the combustion chamber ignited and cause an explosion that pushes the piston and the crankshaft that turns the rotor, and the burnt fume has to leave through the exhaust. When all this happens, there will be a considerable amount of noise produced.