Generators are an absolute lifeline when you are camping. Whether you use them for charging your phone or hooking up larger appliances, we wouldn’t be without them.
The issue is generators are noisy little beasts. Nothing ruins the serenity of the wilderness like a generator chugging away in the background.
If you want the convenience of a generator but the sound of nature, there are a few things you can do.
Why are Generators so Noisy?
Generators make electricity through their gas-powered engine.
Engines have lots of moving parts and rely on combustion to work. The movement of the pistons and the sound of fuel burning is what creates most of the noise.
Generators also tend to have open frame designs that allow the fumes to dissipate. This means that they have very little soundproofing.
Most portable generators have a decibel level of between 60 and 90 though some can surpass 100 decibels.
60-90 decibels is about the same level as household appliances like a dryer or vacuum. We can manage the sound of these machines for short periods of time. Listening to them constantly or at night when you’re trying to sleep can be really difficult.
Generally, the cheaper the generator, the louder the noise. This is because manufacturers reduce the cost by using cheaper parts which creates more noise.
If you’re thinking about buying a generator, check out some of our generator reviews to help you make the best purchase.
How to Quieten Your Generator
We’re going to take a look at the best ways of reducing the noise emitted by your generator.
You can use some of these tips in conjunction with others to really reduce the noise levels.
Choose the Right Size
The very first thing you need to do is make sure your generator is the right size for your needs.
The bigger the generator, the more noise it is going to make. If you just want to charge your phone and a few other bits, you don’t need a massive generator.
For charging devices, you’ll only need a few hundred watts of power. Get a smaller generator that will be quieter overall.
If you are using the generator to power appliances like fridges, microwaves or A/C units, you’ll need a generator that can put out a few thousand watts.
You need to find a balance between the amount of noise you are willing to tolerate and the amount of electricity you can live without.
Where you place your generator can have a significant impact on the amount of noise that reaches you.
The first thing you should do is place your generator with the exhaust pipe facing away from your campsite. This will reduce the noise made by the exhaust and prevent dangerous fumes from clogging up your campsite.
In a similar vein, the further away you place your generator, the quieter your campsite will be.
Obviously, you are limited by the length of the cable and the size of your campsite.
If you are on a campsite with neighbors, you don’t want to place your generator close to them. It’s just inconsiderate. If you don’t want to deal with the noise, neither do they.
You may have a designated pitch marked out. In this case, you are going to have to keep your generator in that space but try to get it as far away from your tent or camper as possible.
If you are free from neighbors and designated pitches, you are only limited by the length of the cord. Invest in some heavy-duty, long length extension cords and you can place your generator wherever you want.
If you can get it more than 20 feet away, you’ll notice a significant drop in the noise level.
The final thing to think about in terms of positioning is the surface you place the generator on.
A generator on a hard surface is going to create more noise because it will rattle. Also, hard surfaces like concrete or wood do not absorb sound very well.
Look for grass or dirt. These surfaces are soft enough to absorb the impact of your rattling generator without making noise. They are also very good at absorbing sound waves in general.
If you only have hard ground, put a rubber mat under the generator. You can buy anti-vibration mats for this purpose but any kind of thick rubber mat will do.
Muffling the Noise
So you’ve placed your generator on a soft surface, away from your campsite. What else can you do?
Sound likes to travel in waves and those waves are disrupted when something is placed in their way.
You can deflect the sound waves back into the ground by placing sheets of plywood around the generator.
You’ll need four sheets of plywood or similar solid material and a non-flammable sheet. Drywall or metal works for the non-flammable material.
You want to rest the plywood against the generator at a diagonal angle making sure to leave room for airflow.
The non-flammable sheet should be placed on the side with the exhaust pipe. You can then place a plywood board over the non-flammable sheet.
The diagonal angle should bounce the sound waves back into the ground. This will significantly reduce the noise level.
If you want a more permanent solution than carrying around a plywood board, you can get a baffle box.
A baffle box is a wooden box lined with foam that your generator sits in. You can make one yourself if you’re handy or you can buy one.
If you are making your own you need to make sure you cut air holes and a space for the exhaust.
The final thing you can do is purchase a muffler for your exhaust. Mufflers are filled with little tubes that deflect the sounds coming from the engine. You’ll need to check the muffler is compatible with your generator before you purchase.
There are a lot of simple ways to reduce the noise coming from your generator. The vast majority will not cost you a single dime!
By following the steps above, you can have the best of both worlds. You don’t have to choose between the peace of the great outdoors and the convenience of power.