How to Quiet A Generator: Get All The Power With Less Of The Noise

Researched & Written by Craig

Looking for a little more power, with a little less WHIRRRR?

Generators are real lifesavers. But man they can be loud.

In this article, I’ve put together every tip I could find on how to quiet a generator.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.

Quick Tips to Quiet Your Generator:

Before we get into details, here’s the 7 best ways to quiet a generator.

  1. Point the pipes away from the house
  2. Move the generator farther away
  3. Place on a soft surface
  4. Add or replace the muffler
  5. Use water as a muffler
  6. Create sound deflectors
  7. Build an enclosure

I’ll offer more detail on the above plus several more ideas, so read on!

The Ultimate Guide to Quiet Your Generator

1. Pipe positioning.

A lot of websites, and sometimes even your generator’s manual will tell you to just point the exhaust pipes away from your home in a horizontal position. This may be great for you, but not so great for any close neighbors.

The best solution is to point the exhaust pipes skyward. You may annoy the birds, but Angry Birds are better than Angry Neighbors.

Of course, how you can position the exhaust pipes will depend on what the model you have allows you to do.

2. Location, location, location.

No, you aren’t looking to move. But moving the generator farther away might be a good idea.

This will be difficult if you live in an urban neighborhood where your houses are about 3 feet apart. Another factor to consider is local building codes that may dictate where you can place your generator. And those codes may supersede anything that your manual suggests you do, so be sure to check.

Once you’ve covered all your bases legally, and assuming you are using a portable generator, place it as far away from your house as an extension cord will allow.

Generator moved to garden
Generators work perfectly fine via extension cables, so moving it out into the garden will help quiet things indoors.

3. Place on a soft surface.

You can buy cheap rubber pads or mats that are specifically for this.

Be sure to check the manufacturer’s requirements and recommendations for placement, but check your local laws as well. Some localities stipulate that a generator must sit on a concrete pad—which kind of kills your plan for sitting yours on a rubber pad or mat.

The advantage of the pad is that it will absorb the vibrations—which is what causes sound.

4. Add a muffler.

There is a good chance your generator already has a muffler, although it is possible that it doesn’t. So you may need to replace or simply add one. This will take a bit of retrofitting, so you’ll need to do a bit of research to see what works for your specific model.

There’s a good detailed guide on generator mufflers here.

Yes – car mufflers do work on generators!

5. Use water as a muffler.

This is known as the water bucket trick. You’ll need a 5-gal bucket of water, a garden hose, and a clamp that will hold it to the generator’s exhaust pipe. And a setup that allows you to place the bucket lower than the generator.

Using the clamp, connect the hose to your exhaust pipe. The other end of the hose goes into the bucket of water. Now the exhaust ends up in the water and is muffled by it—instead of into the air where you will hear it.

This trick can reduce the decibel level by about 5 to 7.

6. Sound deflectors.

This is probably one of the easiest things to do.And maybe the cheapest if your local Home Depot has a respectable scrap wood pile like mine does.

Basically, you’re going to build a little lean-to around your generator. A piece of plywood or whatever you can find cheap on each side except the side with the exhaust. On that side you want a fire-retardant product, so drywall is a good idea.

Place them all at a good angle around the generator since you want to have lots of airflow and the ability for sound to be deflected to the ground, not the air.

7. Build an enclosure.

This is the same principle as the above deflectors, but a bit more work. If you’re a DIYer at heart, you’ll love this. If you’re not, you can buy one.

What you’re going to do is build a little sound studio for your generator that will keep the racket in.

You’ll need:

  • 2 x 4 lumber
  • L-clamps
  • Quiet board
  • Spray foam

And a YouTube video with easy building instructions to guide you through making your own baffle box.

What Decibel Rating Is Loud for A Generator?

Now for those of you who are in still research mode and yet to buy a generator, I’ll try to provide some info to help you find one that’s a bit quieter. That way you won’t need to go through the steps above. Hopefully.

First of all, how loud is a decibel? How are you supposed to know what 50, 60, or 70 decibels sound like? Thanks to the American Academy of Audiology, we have a chart showing the levels of noise.

Noise chart for portable generator comparison

Source: American Academy of Audiology: Levels of Noise

And here’s something that you need to understand about an increase in decibel levels. An increase of 10 points means something is 10 times louder.

So a generator that is rated at 70 decibels is going to be 10 times louder than one rated at 60.

A very important consideration when looking at the decibel levels of generators is how they are measured. Most, but not all, manufacturers measure from a distance of 23 feet (7 meters) away. Why is this important?

First, you need to be sure any comparisons you are making are measured the same.

Second, let’s say you understand that 60 and 70 decibels sound like what’s listed in the chart below. But you also need to understand that what sounds like a dishwasher or vacuum cleaner from 23 feet away is going to be a whole lot louder if it’s 2 feet from your house.

The point? Don’t be seduced by those numbers.

You can find generators that range from the mid-50 decibel level all the way up to the mid-80s. Try to choose a model in the lower range, especially if you can’t situate it far enough away from your home.

Can You Leave A Generator in The Rain?

Should you use a hairdryer in the bathtub?

The answer there is no. Generators are high-voltage electrical machines. Water and voltage of any kind are not a good mix—in fact, they’re a potentially deadly mix.

This is not to say there aren’t workarounds, but you still need to use a lot of caution. You can buy special rain covers but I must be clear, that doesn’t mean they are recommended.

Most manufacturers are quite clear that their generators aren’t to be used in the rain.

So what are your options?

There are special covers called tents or canopies that you can use to surround your generator while still allowing airflow. Amazon has a product called GenTent.

The other option is a steel enclosure, but it will probably require the use of a cement pad and professional installation.

And lastly, you can build your own DIY wooden enclosure.

How Long Do Generators Last?

This is going to depend on the quality and size of the generator you buy, so there is no one size fits all answer.

Typically, you should expect your generator to last between 1,500 and 3,000 hours. So assuming you don’t live in an area where you have regular, extended power outages, it could last anywhere from 20 to 40 years.

So the deciding factors on how long it will last are:

  • The size
  • The type
  • The quality
  • How many hours a year you run it
  • How well you maintain it

How to Extend the Life of Your Standby Generator

First of all, read the manual and follow the maintenance and service guidelines. Most generators require that you power them on for about half an hour every week to keep the engine in good working order.

If you do have extended outages, try to give it a break and lighten its load whenever and wherever you can.

Conclusion

As a wrap-up, here’s what we talked about.  If you want to quiet your generator, you can:

  • Point the pipes away from the house
  • Move the generator farther away
  • Place on a soft surface
  • Add or replace the muffler
  • Use water as a muffler
  • Create sound deflectors
  • Build an enclosure

Lastly, if you’re still looking to purchase a generator, pay attention to decibel rating and find out how each manufacturer measures them. Is loudness measured from 23 feet away?

Of course, you’ll also want to use it with care in bad weather. But if you look after your generator, you should have years of use out of it.

Thanks for reading! I hope you found all the information you were looking for. Check out below. Maybe there is something else we can help you with.