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.
Unfortunately, not all generator manufacturers publish the decibel ratings for their generators. To be clear, a decibel is a measurement of sound intensity. Each value on the decibel scale is 10X larger than the previous number.
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.
Here are some guidelines on how loud your portable generator might be.
For a quieter generator, consider an inverter generator. Some models can even be talked over while running, and they produce cleaner power that's safe for devices such as laptops.
Check out how quiet this Honda inverter generator is:
Although they're much quieter, inverter generators max out at roughly 5500 watts. You can parallel two units for more power, but that will obviously negate some of the noise reductions.
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.