Generators are quite handy during emergency situations. When your utility company fails to provide electricity, all you need to do is hook up your generator to your home’s circuitry and – voila! – running power!
Portable generators, on the other hand, can be useful for both emergencies and fun-filled times. Planning a family outingTake a portable generator to supply your RV with power! Need to do work on your computer while camping in the middle of the woodsJust plug it into a portable generator, and you’re good to go!
However, portable generators have one significant drawback which is their noise production levels. There are plenty of ways to muffle the noises coming from the machine; one such way is by using an actual muffler. However, many of these methods are for keeping the sound level down when it’s hooked up to your home’s electrical system and not when in use out in the open.
The good thing is that many modern portable generators are literally whisper-quiet from just a short 10-foot distance. However, there are several things in a generator that actually affect how loud/quiet a generator is. We’ll go over what these things are so you can find the right portable generator for your camping/home needs.
Noise Level (dB) at Quarter-Load
One way to determine the noise level production of a portable generator is by checking the decibel (dB) rating. All “quiet” portable generators produce between 50 and 70 dB which is just about the same noise level as conversation tones at a restaurant.
Always remember that the noise level of a generator is graded when the machine is running at a quarter-load. This means that if you push the generator to supply more than 25% of its maximum wattage capacity, it’s going to produce considerably louder noises. Whether this is a marketing tactic to trick us into thinking generators are truly whisper-quiet when providing far less energy than we’d normally use is up to you to decide.
The problem with relying solely on the decibel rating of a portable generator is that our perception of what “loud” varies from person to person. Some may feel that 50 dB is too loud whereas another might consider 70 dB to be too low. What we’re saying is that the decibel rating of a portable generator is a good starting point but shouldn’t be the only consideration.
Generally speaking, a beefier motor that provides a whole lot of power is louder than its tinier counterparts. If you really prioritize soft noise production over wattage capacity, then consider investing in a smaller portable generator that supplies around 2,000 watts maximum.
Keep in mind that a smaller owning a smaller generator means it’ll have the capacity to power up only a few appliances at a time. In exchange for a capped decibel count, you’re sacrificing total wattage. However, it depends entirely on what appliances you plan on plugging into the generator.
Fuel Economy Mode
Even if you have a beefy 5,000-plus-watt machine, there may be times where you only actually need around 500 watts. In this situation, it’s a good idea to switch from regular mode to fuel economy mode. It doesn’t only just save gas by limiting the maximum wattage capacity while active, but it also significantly reduces the droning sound to a gentle hum.
Many of the newer portable generator models have a fuel economy feature so finding such a model shouldn’t be too difficult. If you want a generator that’s guaranteed to have this mode, then look for an inverter generator.
Conventional vs. Inverter Generator
There are several ways that a conventional generator differs from an inverter generator. However, without going through the technicalities of how much cleaner the electricity produced by an inverter generator is, we can say for certain that inverter generators are by far the quieter option.
Conventional generators need to run at a constant speed, usually, 3,600 RPM, to produce energy, whereas an inverter generator works only as much as is needed. This adjustability not only increases fuel economy but it also significantly reduces the level of noises produced.
In addition, inverter generators are designed to run smoothly and at a constantly low noise level. In order to achieve this, manufacturers install a number of different sound-dampening features such as built-in insulation, mufflers, and smaller motors.
Something you should definitely know about inverter generators is that even when running at full capacity, depending on the model, the most noise it’ll make is around 60 decibels from a distance of up to 10 feet. This is about the same noise level as normal conversation tones. Sure, it’s not technically whisper-quiet, but it’s as close as you could ever hope in a generator.
Built-in Sound-Proofing Features
Even though inverter generators are typically the quieter option, there are several conventional portable generators that hardly produce any noise. This is because they come with sound-proofing features already installed into or onto the machine.
Such sound-proofing features to be on the lookout for include specialized mufflers which allow you to redirect sound away from you and the materials used to construct the casing which houses the internal components of the generator.
One of the largest contributors to loud noises coming from a generator, whether it’s a standby or portable model, is vibrations. Certain generators naturally wobble and hop around when active, so in order to prevent it from causing an earthquake, it should use either plastic or rubber stands/feet.
There are several ways you can dampen the sounds coming from a portable generator, but when you actually hit the open road, lugging around a bulky sound-proof casing can be as frustrating as the loud noises of your generator. If noise pollution is something that worries you, then there are several sound-proofing elements of a portable generator that you should consider such as the decibel rating, how large the motor is, whether it has a fuel economy mode, whether it’s a conventional generator or an inverter generator, and what sort of sound-dampening features (muffler, rubber stands or feet, and casing materials) the machine comes with.
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