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How Loud is a Generator? All Types Tested by Specialists

How Loud Is a Generator
Written by Jamie Masterson

It’s really hard to find really quiet generators though people have been looking for such units ever since they were discovered. While all of them make some noise due to being heavy-duty machines with engines, some units are louder than others and vice versa.

Here we’ll see how loud different types of generators can be to give you a clear picture.

How Loud Is a Generator?

1. Whole-house standby generators

A 22000-watt whole house unit generates 70 dBA of sound at its maximum load. That’s actually as loud as a generator can get. But they are quieter when run at a lower RPM.

2. Portable generators

An 8500-watt open frame portable generator produces a sound level of 76 dBA when idle and 82.5 dBA under a 1000-watt load from 3.5 feet away. You will hear between 70 and 72 dBA of sound from the same unit under the same load when you stand 25 feet away.

3. Inverter generators

Small 2000-watt inverter units operate at 71 dBA when they start and 66 dBA when idle from 15 feet away. The low noise level means you don’t have to raise your voice to talk standing that close and the sound won’t bother anyone around.

This sound level and power output is ideal for tailgating or powering your refrigerator and lights around the house.

4. Diesel generator

35 kW diesel generators have around 68 dBA of noise level when running idle from 3 feet away, 62 dBA from 10 feet away, and 59.5 dBA from 23 feet away.

Diesel generators tend to be louder compared to other fuel-type units but some of them have a noise-insulating canopy to mitigate the noise.

5. Natural gas generator

8 kW natural gas units operate at between 69 and 72 dBA while 12 kW units produce between 69 and 65 dBA of noise depending on the model.

The larger 20 kW generators operate at between 64 and 69 dBA. The decibel level of all three generator sizes has been measured from 21 feet away, which is the US standard.

6. Propane generators

The noise level of 3600-watt propane generators is 92 dBA from one foot away, 72 dBA from 20 feet away, 70 to 71 dBA from 30 away, and 69 dBA from 50 feet away with no load.

The same units produce 93 dBA of noise from one foot away, 71 to 72 dBA from 20 feet, 70 dBA from 30 feet away, and 67 to 68 dBA from 50 feet away under a 1500-watt load.

Propane generators are preferred over other types since they are quieter and great for outdoor activities, RVs, and emergency backups at home.

How Loud Are Generators Compared to Common Sounds?

How loud are generators compared to common sounds

  • 180 dBA: Rocket launch
  • 160 dBA: Shotgun sound
  • 150 dBA: Fireworks
  • 130 dBA: Jackhammer
  • 120 dBA: Snowmobile running
  • 110 dBA: Chainsaw running
  • 95 dBA: Subway train 200 feet away
  • 90 dBA: Leaf blower
  • 80 dBA: Police whistles
  • 75 dBA: 12000 watts heavy-duty portable generator
  • 70 dBA: Hairdryer
  • 68 dBA: Central air conditioner
  • 60 dBA: Moderate rainfall
  • 55 dBA: Household refrigerator
  • 40 dBA: Nighttime in suburban areas
  • 30 dBA: Whisper
  • 20 dBA: Watch ticking
  • 10 dBA: Regular breathing sound
  • 0 dBA: The hearing threshold

Keep in mind that 70 dB is measured four times as loud as 50 dB and twice as loud as 60 dB.

The noise of our office conversation is measured at 60 dB while quiet conversations at home are often around 50 dB.

The good thing is that a noise level at 70 dB is not considered harmful to your hearing but any extended exposure to 55 or higher dB can be annoying.

Set up your generator in a way that you are only exposed to 70 dB of noise throughout the day to keep yourself safe.

Tips to Keep Your Generator Quieter

1. Whole house standby generators

  • Install the generator away from your house
  • Place it on a soft surface
  • Plant shrubs around the unit
  • Place acoustic panels around your generator
  • Use an isolation mount to reduce vibration
  • Use MDF or OSB to build a well-aired structure around the machine for temporary
  • Fix the loose parts

2. Portable generators

  • Use a sound-absorbing mat
  • Attach a car muffler
  • Get a portable soundproof enclosure
  • Use your storage shed to place the generator
  • Replace the muffler if faulty
  • Use 2 smaller units instead of a big one for the same power with quieter operation
  • Cover with plywood boards

Tips to keep your generator quieter

3. Inverter generators

  • Cover with car sound deadener
  • Use putty pads

4. Diesel generator

  • Use an attenuator
  • Use insulation
  • Use anti-vibration mounts

5. Natural gas generator

  • Buy a noise-absorbing housing
  • Get a generator that directs the sound at the ground instead of to the top
  • Buy models that are designed for “off-the-grid” users since they are quieter

About the author

Jamie Masterson

With decade-long experience as a generator technician, Jamie has worked with USA’s top generator manufacturers and suppliers as an independent contractor.

The long years of service to the industry has taught Jamie the ins and outs of troubleshooting, repairing, and maintaining all kinds of generators in home, industrial and outdoor settings.

Jamie thinks this platform is a great opportunity to share his tips and tricks with you so you can make the most of such power equipment for better living.

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