Table of Contents
- Quiet Generator: What Is It and Why Do You Need One?
- Quiet Generator Buying Guide
- 5 Best Quiet Portable Generator Review
- Final Word
Portable generators are a lifesaver during a power cut. There’s just one major wrinkle. They are noisy. If you can hear the sound of your generator over the sound of your TV set, you are paying a price for the convenience of backup power.
With the quieter options now available, you don’t have to put up with all the noise. There definitely is a quiet generator out there that meets your backup power needs!
If you are researching options for a quiet portable generator, we have done all the homework for you. This buying guide will cover everything you need to know about quiet generators. We will also recommend five of your best generator brand options.
Quiet Generator: What Is It and Why Do You Need One?
Low noise used to be a nice-to-have attribute in a generator. Now it’s a necessity. Preppers, RV owners, and tailgaters are increasingly drawn to models that don’t make too much of racket. If not to maintain a serene living environment, then because rules or the law force them to.
Yes, the generator needs to be portable. But even when it is, the generator is still a headache to use if it keeps the neighbors up at night. If you are an outside caterer, it is fair to say your clients and patrons will not appreciate the noise distraction by your generator.
A growing number of the more exclusive residential estates and some municipal jurisdictions are also taking a tough stance against excessive noise pollution from generators and other noisy machines. All in all, choosing a quiet generator over a noisy one will help you maintain good neighborly relations. But just how quiet can a generator be?
What is considered quiet for a generator?
Considering that normal conversation has a sound intensity of 60-70dBA, a generator rated around the same decibels should be tolerable. If you can talk over the sound of the generator running not far from you, it is fair to describe that generator as quiet.
The theory is the lower the dBA the quieter a generator is. As you will see, the generators we will review later are indeed quieter than 60 dB. That’s quieter than most lawnmowers (80-100dBA) and a sports venue with screaming fans (94 to 110 dBA).
According to the CDC, environments, where you have to shout to be heard, are too loud. That does not only make verbal communication difficult, but it can also damage your hearing. The louder a sound is, the more harmful it will be to your hearing. Qualify this to an emergency where a power outage lasts days and it becomes clear why a quiet generator is a necessity.
The CDC advises keeping noisy generators far away from the house (ideally at least 20 feet from any window or door). They also urge wearing ear protection, like sound-canceling headphones and earplugs. But in cases of extended power outages, this may be impractical. A quiet generator is a more practical fix for the noise problem.
How is generator noise measured?
Generator manufacturers use an instrument called a noise meter/dosimeter to measure the noise intensity/pressure different generator models produce at different loads. An important point to note, though, is that the actual measurement is variable and depends on the distance between the generator and the human subject.
The standard distance generator manufacturers use to determine dBA ratings is 7 meters (23 feet). This is considered to be a safe distance, not only in terms of noise but also of the respiratory health risks associated with the poisonous carbon monoxide gas that gasoline engines discharge.
Generally, generators get noisier the more power they produce. So as you shop for a quiet generator, it is important to compare dBA levels for generators with the same power output. For more practical comparisons, also make sure the generators you are comparing had their dBAs measured from the same distances. Decibels (dB) are the unit of measurement for sound.
Why inverter generators are so quiet?
The reason why inverter generators are quieter than conventional generators is down to their design and mode of power generation. Conventional generators are designed to run at a constant speed to deliver a constant electricity supply. If the engine speed fluctuates the power output also drops. The implication is that the noise the generator makes remains the same no matter the weight of the load it is powering.
On the other hand, inverter generators use a smarter technology that outputs the same AC power conventional generators produce but, crucially, converts it to DC current that it then inverts to cleaner AC voltage. The flow of the current to the load remains constant, but the special electronics these generators employ also adjust engine speed depending on the connected load.
Unlike conventional generators, inverter generators, therefore, don’t have to run at a constant speed. If the load is light, the engine throttles down. This guarantees quieter operations for as long as the load is light. When you increase the load, the generator recognizes that more power is now needed and increases engine speed accordingly.
Inverter generators also use special mufflers to reduce noise levels. Added to that, these generators are also encased. The casing serves as an acoustic cabinet that dampens the sound from the engine, unlike most conventional generators that are housed in an open frame. The casing materials are insulated and carefully chosen for their sound-attenuating qualities.
Quiet Generator Buying Guide
Let’s be honest, you are not going to get a silent generator. As long as it has an internal combustion engine, your generator is going to make some noise. A quiet generator should only be assumed to mean one that is not so noisy that you can’t maintain a conversation or enjoy your favorite TV show.
How to choose the right quiet generator for you?
No matter how quiet it is, any portable generator first has to deliver on its stated starting and continuous power ratings. It also has to be reliable. A whisper-quiet generator that smokes like a train after only a few hours of use is not going to make a happy owner out of anyone.
A backup generator has to be light enough to carry or roll outside without difficulty. If it’s too heavy, it means you won’t be able to immediately restore power to your appliances, lights, and tools after a power outage. That said, it follows that larger capacity generators will typically be heavier and bulkier. So choose one that has handles and wheels for ease of moving.
If you are buying a generator for your RV or for tailgating, you will want it to be compact as you will have to lug it around. Depending on the size of your RV or tailgate vehicle, you may not have space for a large generator.
Tank size affects total running time. If your fuel tank is too small you will have to refuel the generator after every few hours. That is not ideal as some power cuts can last for days. To draw a clearer picture, a fuel tank capacity of fewer than 2 gallons will be too small for a home backup or RV generator.
Not all inverter generators come with an electric start, which allows you to start your generator with a simple push of a switch. Some models, especially those with power outputs less than 3,000 watts lack this important feature.
While a manual recoil start isn’t the worst thing in a generator, it does mean ladies especially may struggle to start it. That is not ideal as there won’t always be male help around.
Emergency power does not have to come at a huge financial cost. So a generator that sips and not guzzle gas is always better. Often that means a generator that consumes just enough gas as it needs to run the connected load.
Sometimes called efficiency mode, an eco-mode feature helps to save gas and increase total running time. It ensures that the engine automatically throttles down when the load is lowered.
The slower engine speed also reduces noise, ensuring quieter operation. An added bonus is that the engine does not run at maximum speed all the time, which guarantees a longer service life.
Total harmonic distortion
Conventional generators are notorious for their ‘dirty’ or unstable power that makes it unsafe to charge sensitive electronics like laptops and smartphones. On the other hand, inverter generators use superior technology that delivers cleaner, smoother power with THD as low as 1.2%. To prevent damage to your sensitive electronics, shoot for generators with THD ratings below 3%.
How to use your generator safely?
When you shop for a generator your goal is to get one that will start and run as long as you need it to. But just as important is getting a generator that you can use safely. Thanks to advances in technology, generator safety has improved significantly, with such features as automatic shut-off, carbon monoxide monitors, and spark arresters.
But while generators have become much safer than before, there are still risks that result from improper use. Knowing how to use your generator safely is just as important as buying one with the necessary safety features. And the best place to read up on generator safety tips is the owner’s manual. Generally, though:
- Avoid using your generator indoors. The carbon monoxide gas the generator discharges is extremely dangerous to health. Run your generator outdoors, away from doors, windows, and vents.
- Don’t fill your fuel tank near open flames. Gasoline is highly flammable and is a serious fire risk. Also, avoid spilling gas onto a hot engine as that may cause a fire. Just as dangerous is refueling your generator while it’s running. Switch it off and wait for it to cool down.
- Do not connect your generator directly into your house’s electrical wiring. It may cause a back feed into the grid, endangering neighbors and power utility workers.
- Do not overload your generator as that will damage your appliances and the generator itself. Determine your needs and work out what size generator will give you enough power to safely run all your appliances and gadgets.
- Ensure the generator is properly grounded to prevent electrocutions.
5 Best Quiet Portable Generator Review
Who wants the tag of being the one with the noisiest generator on the street? Since you are here, it’s definitely not you. So, without wasting time, let’s review our picks for five of the quietest portable generators on the market today.
Best for the money, this inverter generator does its job in an unfussy way. It runs smoothly and fairly quietly and will give you enough power to run your refrigerator, lights, and your electronic communication gadgets without difficulty.
The product description on the WEN website claims the sound this WEN 56203i Super Quiet 2000-Watt generator makes compares to the sound of a normal conversation. Apparently, this is according to the US Department of Health and Human Sciences. But do actual users agree?
Some verified buyers on Amazon agree that the generator is remarkably quiet when you first start it. But as it runs and as you add load, the generator gets noisier. So depending on your load, this inverter generator may be very quiet. That said, it has a noise rating of 51 decibels at a quarter load.
With consumer goods, often it is the small, seemingly inconsequential design decisions that make them stand out. For example, the gas fill for this generator is positioned off to the side and not on top or directly above the controls. That means any spills will drip off the back and away from the controls.
In terms of power, this generator delivers 1,700 watts of running power and peaks at 2,000 watts. It has two 3-prong receptacles, two 5V USB ports, and one 12V DC receptacle. Another noteworthy feature is the fuel shut-off that enables the generator to use up all the fuel in the generator before shutting down, maximizing the generator’s lifespan.
Fuel Type Gasoline Wattage 2,000 Starting watts Runtime (at 50% load) 10.8 hrs (at ¼ load) Dimensions 17.3 x 11.5 x 17.7 Inch Weight 39 lbs Noise Level 52 dB(A) (at a ¼ load) Ignition System Type Recoil starter Voltage 120 V Engine Type 79cc 4 -Stroke OHV Output Wattage 2,000 Watts Tank Volume 1 gal Warranty 2 Years
The Westinghouse iGen2200 inverter generator is compact, lightweight, and easily one of the best quiet generators for camping. It is a tad quieter than the WEN 56380i at 52 dBA at a quarter load, measured from 20 feet away.
This inverter generator delivers 1,800 running watts, with a peak watts rating of 2,200. At 7 pounds heavier and slightly bulkier than the WEN 56380i, you will not struggle to pick up this generator and load it to the back of your truck. It is, however, more fuel-efficient, running over an hour longer on the same amount of fuel.
Though not RV-ready, this generator will meet an RV’s basic power needs. It is a perfect quiet generator for camping and tailgating. On the job site, this generator can power standard tools like your impact drill and air compressor.
Modeled around the fabled – but expensive – Honda iGen2200, this Westinghouse comes with two 120V outlets and two USB ports for charging your small, sensitive gadgets. Speaking of sensitive electronics, this generator’s 3% Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) rating means you can charge your phones and laptops without damaging them.
Most reviewers on Amazon report that the generator started with the first pull, which means both men and ladies alike will start it without much hassle. The Westinghouse iGen2200 also has a few features we really like. One is the Efficiency Mode that conserves fuel when running low loads. The overload protection and low-oil shutdown are other handy features that protect the engine.
Fuel Type Gasoline Wattage 2,200 Surge Watts Runtime (at 50% load) 8 hours Dimensions 19.8L x 11.4W x 17.9H Weight 46 lbs Noise Level 52 dB (at a ¼ load) Ignition System Type Recoil Start Engine Type 80cc OHV 4 stroke Output Wattage 1800 Running Watts Tank Volume 1.14 gal Warranty 3 Years
During a power outage, most of us are just glad to be able to get some backup power to keep the freezer and other essential appliances and gadgets running. Only after a few nights without power do we then notice how noisy the generator really is. Thankfully, this WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt hardly makes a racket, which is remarkable for a generator its size.
At a power output of 3,800 peak watts and 3,400 running watts, this generator is adequate for most household emergency power needs. It should comfortably power your freezer, dehumidifier, sump pump, several routers and modem, computers, and lights. It is worth noting that this is clean power with 1.2% of harmonic distortion, which is about as good as it gets.
For RVs, the generator has all the power you need for your appliances and electronic gadgets. Its power output aside, an AC 120V NEMA TT-30R RV outlet and spark arrester make this generator a perfect fit for RVs and camper van owners.
On the noise front, the 57 dBA is remarkable for a generator of its power output. While the generator runs 20 feet away, chances are it’s your neighbor’s generator that you will hear chugging away 50 feet farther.
Design-wise, this generator has a really nice collapsible handle that makes it easy to stow away when not in use. With the built-in wheels, the generator is easy to move around. The digital display helps you monitor the voltage, wattage, running time, frequency, and fuel supply.
Fuel Type Gasoline Runtime (at 50% load) 8.5 hrs at 1/2 load Surge Watts 3,800 watts Running Watts 3,400 watts Dimensions 23.2L x 18W x 20.1H Weight 111 lbs Ignition System Type Electric and recoil Engine Type 212cc 4-stroke air-cooled OHV engine Output Wattage 3,800 watts Tank Volume 2,2 gallons Warranty 2 years Noise Level 57 dB (at a ¼ load) Harmonic distortion 1.2% at full load
The Harbor Freight Tools company, which manufacturers the Predator brand of generators references an interesting customer video on its website. In the video, a customer conducts a head-to-head noise test of the Predator 3,500-watt and Honda 2,000-watt generators. He measures the two generators’ noise levels from 10 feet away.
Surprisingly, the Predator 3500-watt beats the Honda 2000-watt when measured with and without load, as well as when the Eco-mode is activated. What makes this case study so remarkable and why Harbor Freight Tools is happy to use it is that Honda is the gold standard in quiet, reliable inverter generators.
The Honda 2000-watt is also a smaller capacity generator, although the customer did mention he was older than the Predator 3500-watt. If it does not prove anything else, it at least shows the Predator as a demonstrably quiet generator. By the way, the Predator was $300 cheaper than the smaller Honda, according to the customer who shot the video.
Other features we like about the Predator 3500 include:
- electric start that makes operation easier for all users
- the electronic overload protection that enhances engine protection,
- A parallel capability that doubles power when combined with another Predator 3500 generator.
In terms of portability, the Predator 3500-watt is lighter and more compact than the WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt.
Fuel Type Gasoline Runtime (at 50% load) 11 hours at ¼ load Surge Watts 3,800 watts (surge) Running Watts 3,400 watts (running) Dimensions 22.75” x 17.3”x 20” Weight 99.20 lbs Ignition System Type Electric start Engine Type 212cc air-cooled OHV engine Output Wattage 3,500 watts
Tank Volume 2,6 gallons Warranty 2 years Noise Level 57 dB (at a ¼ load)
Honda generators are some of the quietest and most reliable you will find. Honda EU3000IS inverter generator is a well-made portable generator. Powered by one of the best-engineered engines around, the inverter generator delivers 3,000 watts of clean power that’s almost as good as plugging into your wall outlet. But how lofty a standard does this generator set? Let’s run the key figures, starting with the all-important noise level:
The generator is rated at between 50 and 57 dBA, depending on load. Those are class-leading ratings, as is the fuel efficiency that tops 20 hours on a 3.4-gallon tank at a ¼ load. So confident of the quality of their generators is Honda that they are happy to extend a 3-year warranty for both residential and commercial customers.
So what’s not to like about the Honda EU3000IS? Besides the price? Well, not much as the 4.7 average star rating on Amazon shows. We did notice, however, that the generator is heavier and larger than the Predator 3500.
That point on the price is worth repeating as the Predator 3500 we referenced can be had at three times less than the Honda EU3000IS’ price. Then again, these generators have proved themselves over years of use, with hordes of raving fans who are happy to pay the steep price.
Fuel Type Gasoline Runtime (at 50% load) 19.6 hrs at 1/4 load Surge Watts 3,800 watts (surge) Running Watts 3,400 watts (running) Dimensions 25.9" x 17.6" x 22.0" Weight 130.7 lbs Ignition System Type Electric start, recoil Engine Type 196cc Honda GX200 Output Wattage 3,000 watts
Tank Volume 3,4 gallons Warranty 3 years Noise Level 50 dB (at a ¼ load)
Generator engines typically make a lot of noise, but a fair bit of it is mechanical. Some noise is also caused by vibration, which gets worse if there are loose parts on the generator. Remember that a larger generator will also be noisier. So you can reduce noise by buying a generator whose capacity does not exceed your needs.
A portable generator with noise ratings of around 60 decibels is considered quiet. That’s about the same as a normal conversation. Some inverter generators are even as quiet as 51 dBA.
Building an acoustic chamber around your generator can help muffle the noise it makes. But make sure there is enough air circulation around the generator to prevent it from overheating. It also helps to face the exhaust away from you, as does placing the generator on a soft surface.
It is not recommended to stop your generator from making too much noise by covering it with a tarp and sheet of plastic. Doing that starves it of air, which damages it. If you have to protect it from rain, put the generator under an open-sided, canopy-like structure.
Generators are designed to run for as long as 500 hours continuously. So, in theory, you can leave your generator running all night. That also assumes that the tank has enough fuel to last that long, because letting your generator run out of fuel can damage it.
If it seems that your portable generator is too noisy for the convenience that it brings, it is not a bad idea to invest in a quiet model. As we have shown, Honda is no longer the only viable option. There are cheaper options that are just as quiet.
After testing the Predator 3500 inverter generator, we are happy to recommend it for emergency home use as well as for your RV or camper. It is an affordable and super quiet generator that will deliver great value. Of course, if you can justify the expense, the Honda EU3000IS will be an excellent investment.