How to Make a Noisy Generator Quiet for Camping
A couple of months ago, I set out to find a way to make my home generator quieter. However, while building a soundproof generator box may be great for your home generator, it would only add more weight to your camping gear. So if you’re looking for a way to make a generator quiet in time for your camping trip, you’ve come to the right place.
Some of you may be wondering why you would even need a generator to go camping. Well, the answer to that question is layered.
You could use it to charge devices such as your smartphone, to make sure you never get lost. Or, you might want to have the option to light up your campsite. Besides, having a generator in your car is always good, in case of battery failure.
For these and many other reasons, bringing a generator camping would be a great idea. However, some of them do tend to give off an irritating whirring noise. If you want to avoid ruining your enjoyment of the adventure and disrupting other campers, you’ll want to keep your generator as quiet as possible. Fortunately, you won’t have to put in a whole lot of effort for the solutions I’ve come up with.
Before I share some of the most effective methods I’ve found to silence a noisy generator, let’s talk about what it is that makes a generator loud in the first place.
WHAT MAKES A GENERATOR LOUD
There are many things that should factor in when you’re trying to determine why exactly your generator is making obnoxious noises. The first, and the most obvious, possible cause is that it’s simply built that way.
When it comes to the build of a generator, its various features are all interconnected. As always, a stronger engine with more wattage will produce more noise. However, a stronger engine requires a larger body. Smaller and less powerful generators are therefore quieter — I recommend sticking to 4,000W or under.
It’s also important to note the type of generator you have. Many devices are inverter generators, which are smaller and quieter than regular ones. They’re also more efficient with fuel.
Still, even if you’re looking at a standard generator, the manufacturer could have included some soundproofing measures. For example, some generators have a layer of rubber surrounding the engine — but most don’t.
The brand could also utilize some other proprietary technology to keep their generators running smoothly and quietly. Plenty of devices have Eco Modes or Engine Smart Control switches that automatically adjust their fuel consumption. So if the Eco Mode lowers the power consumption, it’ll also lower the volume of noise.
As for the fuel, the type your generator uses could also make it more or less prone to being noisy. Diesel-powered devices are generally the loudest. Gas generators are much quieter, as are propane and solar-powered ones. However, while the propane and solar battery generators are the best for the environment, they’re also some of the priciest products on the market.
How You’re Using the Generator
Of course, the other thing that affects the volume of noise is the way you yourself set up your generator. This is where you’ll be able to make the most change, although I do have some tips for making the best of any generator.
However, when it comes to the way you use the generator, there are two broad categories of tips I’ve got for you:
- The positioning of the generator.
- Any soundproofing methods you choose to implement.
Clearly, if the generator is already loud enough to be annoying, you’ll want to keep it far away from you and any other campers. However, there are also all sorts of things you can use to fence off the device, which could help muffle the sound, even in an open space. So let’s dive right into my tips.
HOW TO MAKE A GENERATOR QUIET FOR CAMPING
As always, I recommend using as many of the following methods as your resources allow for. This time around, I’ve decided to present my tips in the order I’d use them, so let’s start with the most obvious tip.
1. Move the Generator Further Away
Whenever I go camping with my generator, I make sure to leave it at least 20 feet away from the campsite. If you’ve ever had the chance to shop for quiet generators before, you’ll have noticed that many, if not most, brands make sure to mark the decibel measurement of the volume of noise their machine makes. Well, near those decibels, you’ll often see a “7m” — meaning that the sound was measured from 7 meters or about 23 feet away.
So even though the manufacturer says that a particular generator makes 50 or 60 decibels of noise, that may not be the case at all. Now, don’t get me wrong. The products that are marked as “quiet generators” are certainly less noisy than the ones that aren’t. I’m only trying to say that even the brand assumes that you’ll keep the device away from the campsite — especially if you mean to have it on while you sleep. Although, I personally wouldn’t recommend that.
However, let’s say you’re fishing during the day and would like some mood music. You can turn on your trusty generator a ways away and plug in an extension cord to reach you! Then, you can plug in your radio or whatever other entertainment you’ve brought with you and enjoy yourself.
2. Have the Exhaust Pipes Pointing up or Away from You
Another thing you can do to adjust the positioning of the generator is to know which are the noisy bits and direct them away from yourself. The loudest parts of all machines that run on engines and fuel are the engine itself and the exhaust system.
So, as far as positioning goes, simply turning the exhaust pipe to face away from you might do the trick. You could also place some generators in an upright position so that the exhaust pipe is pointed upwards. Either of these adjustments will direct the sound of the exhaust elsewhere.
However, doing this still won’t make the generator itself more silent.
3. Set It on Rubber Feet or a Platform
The next thing you could do to alleviate some of the noise your generator is causing is to lessen the vibrations it gives off. So whether you’re camping or using your generator in your home, you definitely don’t want to put it on concrete or a wooden board. In fact, it’s best to avoid hard surfaces altogether.
Instead, keep the machine on the ground so the vibrations get absorbed by the earth. Alternatively, you can put an anti-vibration mat underneath the generator. Many of the products I’ve recommended in my article on anti-vibration mats for washing machines could work here. Even the ones that are meant to fit onto the feet of a machine should work because plenty of portable generators have similar stands.
However, you can use plenty of other materials in a similar way, as long as they’re able to take some heat. If your generator overheats easily, you’ll want to stick to rubber mats or foams. But if it doesn’t, and if you need to improvise, an old blanket or clothes will do in a pinch.
4. Create an Acoustic Barrier
One of the best ways to contain any type of noise is to create an acoustic barrier between yourself and the source of the sound. This is the one tip I tend to give liberally any time someone asks for my advice. Naturally, the best materials for the job can be found among my soundproofing materials reviews, although I do have a couple of articles to get you started.
To start with the smallest type of products, let’s talk about Sound Deflectors. Products like these are sloped pieces of hard materials that are meant to direct the sound of downward-facing flat screen TV speakers toward you. However, I’ve seen people use them to actually point the sounds coming from a generator away from themselves as well.
You could also use soundproof partitions to fence off the area where you’ve put your generator. The device is on the ground, so a nice partition should keep it in check. As a bonus, you’ll be able to use the partition to change during camping trips, as soundproof partitions are usually also opaque.
However, I don’t imagine many people have space in their car to carry around partitions. Still, something like the VP6 Portable Partition could be perfect. The pipe frame is easy to take apart and pack. Moreover, you can take the black fabric part of the partition off and fold it up during transport, then simply Velcro it back onto the frame once you put it together at the campsite.
Are Soundproof Curtains, Room Dividers, and Blankets an Option?
The main thing you’ll need to worry about when dealing with generators is the ventilation. So naturally, I’ll never recommend that you just throw a blanket over the thing and forget it. However, if you already have soundproof blankets, room dividers, or just thicker curtains or blankets of any kind, you can fashion them into a partition.
In lieu of a curtain rod or walls to attach the blankets to, you can fashion your own frame. You can pick up PVC pipes at your local hardware store, or hang the blankets or curtains over a wire, as though you were putting laundry out to dry. In fact, you might have already done the wire laundry maneuver on a prior camping trip, so this may even be a familiar technique.
5. Make a Removable Rubber Cover
Since I’ve already linked to my previous article on building a soundproof generator box, I won’t repeat myself here. However, you could achieve a similar, though admittedly less effective, result in a couple of different ways. One of them is making a rubber flap or cover for your generator.
The rubber flap is actually something you can use with a soundproof or baffle box for your generator. If you’ve already started construction on your generator box and lined the inner walls with all sorts of soundproof materials, you can leave the side with the controls open.
Then, you can attach a rubber flap there. The material is sturdy, heat-resistant, and dense enough to block some of the noise from the generator. However, it’ll also be easy to get out of the way when you go to plug in a new device.
What’s more, you can make a similarly effective rubber sleeve as well. I’m suggesting that you make something like a dog crate cover, with a flat piece on top and four flaps on all sides that can be rolled up. It should be pretty easy to make, though I wouldn’t suggest doing it from a single piece of material. Instead, you can cut out pieces for all sides, then use glue to attach the sides to the top piece.
Overheating is our most pressing issue because rubber tends to hold air in. Although the material itself won’t suffer, the generator might. So having something you could easily and quickly take off or lift to let the machine cool down is key.
6. Or Wrap It in Fireproof Insulation
Another thing you can do to dampen the sounds coming from your generator is to create a similar box from fireproof insulation. Rockwool insulation, fiberglass, and mineral wool in general might be just the thing. However, airflow remains a major concern.
If you decide to do this, I recommend creating a cover like the one I just talked about. So make it with walls that can be rolled or flipped up. Again, it’s very important to have a removable solution. And of course, you should always test out your invention before you relax.
Whether you end up making a generator cover out of rubber or insulation, both should give you an audible difference in volume. However, don’t celebrate too early. You should make sure that the generator is functioning properly and getting enough cool-down time.
Keep the cover on for 5 minutes the first time you try it. Then, extend that time until you’re confident that the materials you’ve used are alright. But don’t worry if they’re not — just gather different supplies and try again. Or move on to another technique.
7. Try the Water Bucket Trick
The water bucket trick might seem complicated at first, but the physics of it are pretty simple. Many online sources will tell you that you can attach a hose to the exhaust pipe of a generator. Then, you can put the other end of the hose into a bucket of water, and that’s it.
You know how everything sounds muffled when you’re underwater? Well, that’s what you’d be doing here, directing the sound underwater, where it wouldn’t disturb anyone. If your generator is also vibrating, you may still be able to hear it. However, it’ll be much quieter with the exhaust sounds going through water.
However, you should be careful and make sure that the water doesn’t travel through the hose into the generator. Find the highest point along the hose, which will most likely be at the edge of the bucket. Then, poke a small hole in the hose to let the water out if it starts to climb. But, you can make sure that doesn’t happen by simply placing the generator on higher ground.
8. Replace the Muffler
If directing your exhaust pipe or having a length of rubber hose around it didn’t dampen the sound, perhaps there’s something wrong with your exhaust muffler. Just like with cars, you may need to get a new muffler, the last part of the exhaust, for your generator.
Although you’d have a whole assortment of mufflers available online if you were looking for a car or even a motorcycle, I doubt that you’d be able to find many options for your generator. After all, there are so many different generators out there, all in different shapes and sizes. So companies can’t very well offer universal mufflers, can they?
If you want to try to find a new muffler, I recommend speaking to a specialized mechanic or a repairman first. They’ll at least be able to point you to where you might find a new muffler for your generator model. In fact, some of them may even be able to get you a custom-made muffler.
9. Buy a Quiet Generator
Finally, the last and possibly the best thing you can do to make your generator quieter is to get one that isn’t all that noisy to begin with. As I’ve mentioned, there are all sorts of ways to figure out which generators are quieter than others. Essentially, you’ll want to look for smaller and less powerful models up to 4,000W. Fortunately, that describes just the exact type of generator you’d want to take camping!
I know I wouldn’t want to lug around a hundred-pound machine on my camping trips. If you want to check out my recommendations, as well as a more detailed shopping guide, you can check out my article on quiet, portable generators.
ON MAKING A NOISY GENERATOR QUIET
Now that you’ve done all you can to make your loud generator quieter or, rather, get a new generator, you can rest easy. Your camping trips will be just about your companions and the great outdoors, not about any external distractions. So just relax and enjoy the fresh air!