How to Quiet a Generator to Tolerable Sound Levels

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how to quiet a loud generator infographicMany people who go off the grid find themselves trying to learn how to make a generator quiet. The problem is that they don’t spend the time researching the right kind of generator to use and they end up trying to save a couple of bucks by buying an inexpensive generator.

Most of the people that I know who have done this end up looking for ways to make their generator quiet enough that it’s at least tolerable. I have to admit that we also fall into this category because when we first moved off the grid, we didn’t put a lot of thought into the type of generator that we should have and ended up going with a large generator that was very loud.

If you’d like to learn about the mistakes that we made while selecting our first few generators, you can read my articles called How To Choose a Generator That Will Be Perfect For Your Needs or What is The Quietest Generator For Camping?

How To Quiet A Portable Generator

The quietest generators are those that are designed to run quiet like our Honda EU2000i or some of the large backup generators for home use that are water cooled and encased in a sound dampening enclosure. If you end up doing like we did and making the mistake of buying an inexpensive generator and simply trying to make it quiet, you’re going to have your hands full because it’s not as easy as it might seem.

We’ve tried lots of things to quiet down our cheap 5500 watt unit and we were eventually able to come up with a solution that sort of worked for us but it may not be what you are hoping to hear. A lot of people want to hear that they can simply install a quieter muffler on their generator and that will magically transform the roaring beast into a purring kitten.

We purchased one of the quiet mufflers for generators but we ultimately weren’t very happy with the results. I can’t remember what brand we tried or where we bought it. We didn’t do any actual decibel testing but here’s a video that shows an example that was similar to the results that we got. In this video a man is demonstrating what you might expect if you install one of the super quiet mufflers for generators. His testing reflects the results that we got when we tried to do this although I’m not sure if the muffler he tested was the same one we tested.

In this video a special quiet generator muffler was installed on an 11 horsepower Briggs and Stratton engine that was powering a 6,000 watt generator. He did three tests and in the first test he got a reading of 105 decibels without a muffler installed on the engine. When he installed the stock muffler he got a reading of 96 decibels. Lastly, he installed a muffler that he claimed to have paid $180 for and it only decreased the decibel readings from 96 to 90.

How Many Decibels Is a Quiet Generator

The generator in the video above was quieted by only 6 decibels after an ultra quiet generator muffler was installed. That is an improvement but in my opinion it’s still pretty loud when you compare it to a similarly sized Honda EU7000iS that is rated at 52 – 60 dB(A) ( or a Yamaha EF6300iSDE that is rated at 58 – 64 dBA (

Building A Quiet Box For a Generator

After experimenting with a couple different types of mufflers, including a homemade retrofitted automotive muffler, we realized that the most likely solution to the problem of how to keep a generator quiet was to build a sound dampening enclosure for our generator to run in.

WARNING: Never install or run a generator or any other internal combustion engine in an enclosure or building that will allow deadly exhaust fumes into a building that people or animals will occupy. Also, never go inside a building where a generator or internal combustion engine is running. Doing so could result in death! Additionally, you should never install a generator in close proximity to combustible materials to prevent the risk of fire.

What we did was make a cinder block sound dampening enclosure for our generator. We built this enclosure about 150 feet from our house to help with the noise level. We also oriented our makeshift “generator dog house” so that the door was facing away from our home. We unfortunately didn’t build it very well so it didn’t last very long but it did quiet the generator down to some degree. It did, however, last long enough for us to finally save up enough money to buy a genset that was actually designed to run quiet.

I should point out that we also added an inlet vent that we inserted an electric fan in to blow fresh air over the generator to help prevent it from overheating. We also installed and outlet vent for the exhaust to vent out of which we think helped provide good airflow across the engine.

Generator Sound enclosure

This is a diagram showing the top view of the generator sound dampening enclosure that we made.

Tips for Quieting a Noisy Generator

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are concerned about the noise of your generator at your off the grid home.

  • Don’t install your generator near your home. The farther the generator is from your living quarters, the quieter your noisy generator will actually seem. This is probably the least expensive and one of the most effective ways to deal with the noise level of a loud generator.
  • Construct some type of a sound enclosure or at least a “sound deflector” for your generator. When we were trying to find out how to quiet down a generator, we tried an experiment where we simply placed a large piece of plywood between our cabin and the generator. Believe it or not, just deflecting the sound away from the home made a significant difference in the perceived noise level.
  • Don’t install your generator on a wood floor. Our initial attempt to build a sound dampening enclosure was a colossal failure. We simply built a small add-on which was about the size of an outhouse to the outside of my husband’s tool shed and placed the generator in that little room. This actually amplified the sound! It amplified sound just like a hollow body guitar amplifies sound. The wood box acted as a resonator that made the generator seem much louder than it actually was.
  • Orient the generator so that the exhaust is not pointing towards your home. We learned that simply turning the generator around so that the exhaust was pointing away from the house made a bit of a difference in how loud the generator seemed to be.

The Best Advice I Have Is To Buy A Quiet Generator

We learned the hard way that it’s much better to save up and buy a really nice generator that is designed to run quietly than it is to try to figure out ways to make a cheap generator quiet. Not only will these nicer generators run quieter, they are usually engineered better which means that they will probably be more fuel efficient and last longer.


Have a generator that won’t start or just doesn’t seem to be running right? Take a minute and read my article called, Solutions to Common Generator Problems.

35 Responses to “How to Quiet a Generator to Tolerable Sound Levels”

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  1. Ashland Fadeley says:

    I have a number of generators. The Onan generator runs at half the speed of the cheaper (about 1,700 hundred revs a minute) models and is much quieter.

    • Daniel says:

      Sound travels atleast 10 times faster in metal then in wood. This can be used to reduce sound, by:

      Get a wooden board,

      Drill holes completely through where holes are arranged in a grid pattern.

      Get screws that are 3 times longer than the thickness of the wooden boards, cut 90% of them down in length with random lengths.

      On both sides, screw in the screws in to all the holes. Screws from both side until they touch each other tighly. There should be minimal distances between screws in the array. The screws on both sides will have random distances from which they protrude from the board.

      The effect of this is that sound will hit some screws before other screws, and the sound will take different amounts of time to pass through. The effect is to split each compression wave up into multiple conpression waves, as a single wave front on hitting this board(screws) will exit at differring times on the other side and thus split this single wave front into multiple. Thus “blurring” or smoothing the sound out across many frequencies. Some effect causing a peak released from 1 screw while the other screw releases a trough and thus partly neutralising a wave.

      Effect can be improved if twist/angle the heads of the screws on inside of box in random directions. This helps to deflect the reflected sound waves all around and prevent resonance of sounds and helps to disperse/smooth out the sounds

      • Patty Hahne says:

        Hi Daniel,

        I’m not sure I understand what you’re suggesting. You aren’t suggesting that someone try to put a generator in a wooden box are you? I eagerly await your reply. I would never put a running generator in a wooden box myself. I just don’t think it’s safe and I’m pretty sure the generator would overheat quickly.

  2. Joe Tacker says:

    I am not the owner of this generator. It belongs to the water company that is directly behind our home. It sounds like a jet plane and last for at least a half hour… it is unacceptable. PLEASE HELP US FIND A SOLUTION!!!!

    • greg says:

      Privacy trees and Shade bushes can help drown noise. I would try talking to them and see if you can get them to install or pay for some to be installed on your land. The closer to their generator the better.

      • Patty Hahne says:

        Hi Greg,

        I’m not so sure that bushes would have much of an effect when it comes to quieting a generator and I certainly wouldn’t put them close to my generator. To much of a fire hazard.

  3. Mike says:

    Thanks for the tips. They were very informative. Will try implementing them with my 8000W Stanley generator, which is quite noisy.


    • Patty Hahne says:

      You’re most welcome Mike. Hopefully some of the things we tried will help you as well! Best of luck to you!

  4. Steve Seddon says:

    Great tips!! I used to work around a sound room that had foam cones in it designed to absorb sound. I suppose something similar to that could be used to help absorb that racket along with the deflection plywood idea.

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks! Yeah, we thought about that but didn’t want to get anything close enough to the hot exhaust that might melt or catch on fire.

  5. Don Russell says:

    4 July 2015
    Thank you for this article. I am looking for a quiet camping generator that I could use for a cpap. We have tent camped for many years but now need some power. I am glad that Honda is recommended, because I think it is the best of the small engines. Don.

    • James Mullin says:

      There is no genset quiet enough to run all night to power your CPAP. Most camp ground rules won’t allow it, and I would probably come over during the night and put a cup of water in the gas tank so I could get some sleep.

      Instead, get a deep cycle battery, a charger, and an inverter to run your CPAP. I do this on my motor scooter camping expiditions.
      During the day:
      Plug the inverter into the car system while the motor runs, plug the charger into the inverter, and connect the battery to the charger.
      During the night:
      Disconnect from the car system, connect the deep cycle battery to the inverter, and the inverter to the CPAP. With no humidifier my 35 amp hour battery will give me at least three nights of CPAP power. Powering a humidifier? Get a larger battery. My wife and I got three nights out of a 100 amp hour battery running two CPAP machines, one with the humidifier powered up.

    • Steve says:

      I bought a battery pack specifically for my CPAP. They are pricey but I haven’t died in my sleep yet, so it might be worth it in the long run. I didn’t have the cash for the power inverter that lets me recharge from the cig lighter, so I tote the battery with me into buildings and charge when I can.

      • Jim M. says:

        2017 – Many CPAPS are made in Australia.

        Watch out for reverse polarity on 12 volt plug in cords.
        Australia wires 12 v backwards and hides the fact.
        When you request 12v cables, they make you (by warranty) buy only their 12 volt converter to plug into 12 volts.

        Think about that. Convert 12 volts to 12 volts? At a high price? Its only a polarity converter. They disguise this by talking about quality issues. American customers should not have to pay extra for this. What gets me is they do not disclose this when selling expensive medical equipment.

        Yep! I fried my unit not knowing this on an unexpected emergency using cords available. No polarity safety feature on unit. No warning on unit. Had to fight tooth and nail with the company. Spread the word! Still mad at them.

  6. Patrick says:

    Good info. Another possible solution (albeit pricey one) is using Acoustiblok sound blocking panels. I’m looking into getting this for my exterior AC unit.

    • Patty Hahne says:

      I’ve never tried this but if you do, make sure you don’t have them close enough to the generator that the heat can cause a fire.

  7. Tom "Big Ears" Young says:

    Harbor Freight sells a 2000watt inverter for around $400 with a coupon runs at 54dba. I was a skeptic but have wasted money before so I bought one. I am very pleased with the unit, price,noise level. Nothing that runs on gas is quiet as a mouse not Honda not Yamaha not one from Harbor Freight but the HP inverter is just as quiet as the Honda my brother owns and we ran them side by side on our campsites fora week. It does it at 1/3 the price too.

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Tom,

      I would be really interested in knowing how that generator holds up after a lot of use. We have THOUSANDS of hours on our Honda. For me, I learned my lesson the hard way by purchasing inexpensive generators. I’ll stick with the Honda. Thanks for the info though.

  8. Chris C. says:

    I built a portable acoustic generator enclosure from scraps and leftover hardware for use with our small 4000 watt generator when we go camping. It made an enormous difference! I took panels of leftover Masonite, which is just highly compressed fiber-board. I used hinges with removable pins at the corners, lined the enclosure with anechoic foam rubber, available online or from many foam rubber suppliers, cut holes where needed for the exhaust, pull rope, controls, etc… and added a small 120VAC centrifugal fan directly next to the engine. The fan plugs into the genie so it is always on when the genie is running to keep it cool.

    I topped it off by painting the entire thing in camo so it would blend in more at our campsites and it’s now hardly noticeable. We found that most of the noise wasn’t coming from the exhaust output, but through the aluminum crankcase of the small engine. A friend of mine has an infamous Honda EU-series genie, but it’s often too heavy and difficult to transport just for camping. It’s also a very expensive genset.

  9. Lunch says:

    If you build an enclosure for a generator, you can line the inside with the same acoustic lining as used in boat engine bays. Not overly expensive and very effective. Also obviously heat and fuel/oil resistant.

    Try and duct fresh air to the air intake and have a way for exhaust to leave the enclosure. Don’t just cut holes in the sides as that just lets sound out. You can run appropriately sized hose for the intake to outside the box (with a suitable filter obviously) so it only breathes fresh air which is good for generator efficiency.

    You can build small boxes that direct the noise downward which helps a lot and maintains rain resistance to house the exhaust outlet and air intake.

    Look at motorcycle/atv parts retailers for exhaust pipework and intake filters. Original mufflers from road bikes can be very good if you have welding skills. Also consider using multiple mufflers just like a car.

    • Chavans says:

      Because the engine is air cooled, is there a danger that there would not be enough fresh air to cool the engine when confined in a small enclosure?

      • Patty Hahne says:

        Hi Chavans,

        Yes, I do believe that an adequate supply of fresh air is essential as well as a way for the hot exhaust gasses to be pulled out.

  10. Scott Tomkins says:

    I am posting on you tube my 3 generator sound tests stock. I have a calibrated sound meter at 23 feet. ( I have no idea who invented 23 feet either ). A Harbor Freight Predator 3200 watt at 71 db, my champion duel fuel 75-76 db, and lastly, the Darling that everyone talks about, The Honda EU3000-is. Tests on the Honda reveal 63db with eco ON, 66-67dn with eco off. The honda advertises very silent levels, buy dosent come close to the mfgrs clain of 49-57db,

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Scott please post a link to your YouTube video when it’s complete.

  11. JB says:

    Has anyone thought of noise cancellation? It would be difficult to apply without the box around the generator, but with the box it might significantly reduce the amount of noise dB. From what i found from a quick google search isnt much. Has anyone else looked into this? Some sort of device that you could put inside the noise dampening box?

  12. paul c says:

    A great deal of noise that comes from a generator is not exhaust noise, but is engine noise that cannot easily be eliminated. i.e., small internal combustion engines have very thin engine casing walls (therefore, crankshaft, piston, and valve noise is constantly generated pardon the play on words;) unlike the walls of the engine in your car that are quite thick. It is because thinner is cheaper; and since the mfg. knows such engines only run once and a while, they opt for economy of thinness.

    That said.. I have a friend who says he has heard of running the exhaust pipe of his generator thru a bucket (barrel) of water will absorb excess sound: Don’t know yet if that worked or not.

    I have found that It is also not even absolutely necessary to use a generator for your power source. We recently survived hurricane Mathew (Florida,) and were without power for 37 hours ugh..

    I well researched remedies and found the following to be true and readily available:

    I have decided that I will create for us, a bank of deep cycle golf cart batteries wired parallel (2@) to make 12 volts, then wire multiples of 2@ in series to keep 12 volts but increase total amp hours. This power will supply the house with 120 volt AC power by way of an inverter from the batteries.

    As the batteries draw down, I will run a 12 volt connection (high quality jumper cables,) from my car’s battery system straight to the aforementioned battery bank.

    This way, my car only has to idle to recharge batteries. No one is capable of hearing my car running at idle, so the noise issue is eliminated entirely. The $500-800 I would have spent for a noisy generator, can now go to other parts of my proposed (quiet and efficiently adequate) system.

    It might be something you should consider.. Hope I helped someone.. pc

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Interesting idea Paul but a lot of the people who read Booney Living aren’t necessarily using a generator for their emergency power source but rather their main power source.

      Also, if you want to wire two batteries together to increase the voltage, you need to wire them in “series”. Then, if you want to connect two more that are also wired in “series” to the first two in order to increase the amp hour capacity, you would wire those two in “parallel” to the first two. You had the right idea. You just had the terminology backwards.

      For anyone who might be confused by Paul’s comment. Wiring two batteries in “series” will double the voltage but the amp hour storage capacity will stay the same. Wiring two batteries in “parallel” will double the amp hour storage capacity but the voltage will remain the same. What Paul is describing would be called “series/parallel” wiring.

      In Paul’s case, wiring two 6 volt golf cart batteries in “series” would double the voltage so it would be like one 12 volt battery. Then, wiring two more 6 volt golf cart batteries that are also wired in “series” to the first two using “parallel” wiring would double the amp hour storage capacity of the entire battery bank.

      For anyone who would like to learn more about wiring batteries together, here’s a helpful resource:

      Thanks for your comment Paul!

  13. Dave says:

    Could someone suggest a bank setup that will comfortably run a 27 foot RV lights, fridge, radio, tv at a minimum. .

    Thx Dave

  14. James Hollander says:

    I used to compete in off-road motorcycle endurance events and we all had to reduce our exhaust and engine noise levels to be allowed to compete in each event. We tried many different techniques and learned that we could reduce the dB levels by running a thick (3/4″) bead of silicone sealant on the 4 corners of the engine exhaust cooling fins (air cooled engine), and run an air intake “muffler” which meant a change in air volume thru five 1″ diameter pipes for our 340cc engine before the air reached the carburetor, and an old rubber inner tube on the exhaust outlet. The air intake noise was significant, and although we lost a bit of power from the engine, it got us past the noise level inspections. Then we would take out the air intake system at the first gas stop of the event. The rubber flapper on the exhaust outlet would just flap around and eventually fall off. The silicone beads in the corner to prevent the engine cylinder fins from resonating would stay, and did help.

  15. James Hollander says:

    The air intake “muffler” sat under the seat, between the frame and the air filter, so the air had to go from open space, thru the five 1″ diameter tubes that were approximately 4″ long, then into the air filter box before entering the carb.

  16. Billy Wilson says:

    I welded a car muffler I bought for $30 from Autozone onto my exhaust. It is very quiet now and very very tolerable to be around. Easy do if you have a welder.

  17. Fred Hughes says:

    Thanks for the tips. I have been living in my home for 42 years. There was a nice city woodlot next to my driveway. Eventually someone bought it and ripped the trees down and planted a big house right up on my property line. I had a wind chime on my garage. The new owners asked if I would take it down, as it kept them awake at night. I complied. My house is old. The electrical wiring is modern, however will not handle 2 a/c units. I have a Honda EZ2500 Generator which will power a 2nd portable unit. I’m thinking about using it as we are suppose to get some oppressive weather soon. I have a 20 year old sick/cripple cat that I want to keep comfortable. I just don’t want the police coming to my door complaining. The generator will be out in my driveway only 10 feet from their new home.


    Was about to place out 6500w gen inside the shed behind out cabin and create a hole fornexhaust, after reading this, dodged that bullet. Thank you kindly

  19. Nick Willcutt says:

    The exhaust through the water barrel idea is interesting. Curious if this could double as a method to heat water. What about a barrel of sand? I have a book which mentions setting up a generator with the exhaust routed through a giant metal drum buried in the ground. There are baffles and tubing welded inside the drum sand fills some of the voids. Then the whole thing is buried with just a pipe sticking out pointed at the sky.

  20. Burt Gummer says:

    During my military career, we often dug a hole large enough for the 5k gennys that came with our M577s, and used sandbags to rim the hole. the best natural sound dampening comes from the Earth.

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