How Loud is My Generator?
Generator Decibel Comparison
One of the biggest questions I get from generator customers is, "how loud is it?"
It's an important question. You don't want something that's as loud as a jackhammer running all night. If you are using a camping generator, there may be park rules on how much noise you can make. Although there’s no such thing as a noiseless generator, there are many quiet generators on the market today that may make you forget they’re even running.
How Many Decibels is Too Loud?
A decibel is a measurement of sound intensity. Each value on the decibel scale is 10X larger than the previous number and represents a doubling in loudness to the ear. The scale below shows different decibel ratings and sounds associated with them. For example, a private office has a decibel rating of 50 dB while a chainsaw has a decibel rating of 110 dB.
Generator Decibel Comparison
As shown on the graphic, generator loudness can range anywhere from under 50 dB to around 100 dB. What accounts for such a wide range? While most traditional generators are open-framed units with an exposed engine, special low-noise generators have enclosed engines designed for significant noise reduction.
The closest thing to a silent generator is a solar or battery-powered generator. Since they’re powered by the sun, there is no loud internal combustion engine. As a result, the most sound these relatively noiseless generators put out is a hum.
When it comes to generators with internal combustion engines, the quietest are inverter generators. In the video below, we tested how loud one inverter generator was compared to a traditional open-frame generator.
The decibel meter registered as high as 76 dB for the regular generator and only around 66 dB for the inverter. This quiet operation is perfect for campgrounds where, in addition to wanting to get a good night’s sleep, there may be official noise restrictions.
Why Some Manufacturers Don't Measure Decibels
There are currently no industry standards or requirements for generator manufacturers to follow during noise level testing. Because of this, manufacturers can test the noise levels under whatever conditions produce the most favorable results.
Besides this, everyone hears differently, and although a generator may list its decibel rating, its sound will still vary from person to person depending on the location of the generator and where the person is standing.
Therefore, decibel ratings aren't always as accurate as they were intended to be, which is why many companies are hesitant to provide any at all. The location of the generator, the direction in which the exhaust is pointing, and the type of generator you have all influence the noise level.
Overall, until industry standards are put into place and testing is formalized, you won't get a good answer when it comes to generator decibel ratings. If you need something quiet, your best bet is to use an inverter.