I’ve been camping for a while now, and the biggest mistake I see campers do to deaden the sound of their generators is using insulation or boxing the whole thing to silence.
While some of these fixes are better than others, most usually fail and even have the potential for catastrophe due to the same reason…overheating.
Now, if you don’t want to overheat your generator to the point of combustion, here’re some of the tips you could use to quieten your powerful generator for camping:
1) Invest in the right camping generator
2) Move the Generator Further Away
3) Face Exhaust Pipes Away from you
4) Place Generator on Soft Surface
5) Put Rubber Feet
6) Use Sound Deflectors
7) DIY a Generator Sound-Absorbing Quiet Box/ Buy a Baffle Box
8) Replace Generator’s Muffler or Install a Secondary One
9) Use Water as a Muffler
10) Wrap your Generator in a Soundproof Blanket
Of course, you can avoid all this by investing in a quiet generator, but sometimes, we don’t have a budget for that and can only work with what we have.
Long story short, I’ll detail the tips I use to make my generator quieter for camping.
Why you Should Silence your Camping Generator
To understand why you need to quiet a generator, consider your reasons for camping.
For most campers, it is all about getting detached from the hassles and bustles of the city and getting personal with nature.
In my case, it’s about seeking peace and tranquility.
Unfortunately, a noisy generator can shatter the serenity of camping, resulting in an uncomfortable and restless stay.
And that’s not all; a loud generator may also be harmful to all the wildlife in the vicinity.
See, animals rely on meaningful sounds for communication, navigation, finding food, and averting dangers against a background of loud noise.
When the generator is too loud, and there’s noise pollution, it alters its functioning and channels of communication.
So, if it’s possible, I would recommend you power your camping trip using entirely environmentally-friendly sources such as solar or batteries. It’s good for you and the nearby environment.
How Loud is a Generator?
Generally, the noise levels for generators are measured in decibels(dB). It’s a metric used to measure sound levels. The higher the metric, the louder the generator.
Usually, the sound rating of a generator measures 23 feet or 7 meters away from the generator itself.
Most portable generators have a noise level rating of between 60-90 dB, but others can exceed this limit.
To give you an idea of how loud this level is, a typical dishwasher, hairdryer, or vacuum cleaner has a noise rating between 60-70 dB.
It’s bearable in short bursts, but it can get pretty uncomfortable and challenging to bear
This noise isn’t only an annoyance in a camping ground, but it’s enough to scare the wildlife away, keep you awake all night, and violate a camp’s noise restrictions.
Why are Camping Generators Loud?
To understand how to quiet a generator, we first need to understand what makes a generator loud, how they get so noisy, and why they act up like that.
Understand that while all generators will generate generator noise, some are quieter than others.
But either way, any generator will still produce some sound because they’re all engines at the most basic level. And as with any motorized machine, it emits sound with a combustion engine and moving parts.
The three main engine components responsible for the sound in an engine are:
- Internal Combustion Engine: A generator produces energy through combustion. It happens in the engine, and the mechanical energy is usually transferred to the surrounding structures.
- Exhaust Pipes: When high-pressure gas escapes from the engines, it comes through the exhaust pipe in a popping or sputtering sound.
- Alternator: The sound comes from moving parts
Another element contributing to a generator’s noise level is the build quality and technology used.
Modern generators, mostly inverter generators (quietest generators), have better-developed technology and generate less sound.
They may not be completely silent, but their inverter technology is relatively more efficient and comparatively quiet than the traditional generators.
Their newer technology also has a couple of additional noise-reduction features that muffle the sound. For example, some have eco-nodes with less energy consumption and low sound production.
The inverters tend to be small and lightweight, so they produce much less sound than the bigger and more powerful generators.
10 Tips of How to Make a Generator Quiet for Camping
1) Buy a Suitable Generator
If you’re yet to buy a camping generator, consider your options, ideally basing your purchase on the power output, power needs, and build technology.
Generally, heavy load generators with more power output are much louder than smaller ones.
So, unless you’ve high power requirements, I wouldn’t recommend the powerful and bigger generators.
If you only need enough power to charge your phone, TV, and other small gadgets, you could easily get away with a small and less powerful new generator.
These quiet generators, only producing a couple of hundred watts, are less powerful and noiseless.
But power also cuts both ways.
Don’t choose a small and underpowered generator for heavy-duty tasks like running your AC, refrigerator, or microwave.
They’ll struggle and will equally produce more sound. It’s not to mention it’ll wear out fast.
The trick is choosing a power generator that can comfortably accommodate all your power needs while remaining comparatively quiet.
Along with the size and power output, also consider the build technology.
Generators with modern technology have greater efficiency and low sound output than traditional options.
I’d recommend a camping inverter generator. It has a near-silent operation, less noise doesn’t break any noise operation, and is one of the quietest generator.
On top of that, an inverter generator has an eco-mode that will help with fuel efficiency. And as a bonus, it’s super light and convenient to use.
2) Move the Generator Further Away
Distance determines how loud a generator is. The greater the distance, the more subdued your generator is. Self-explanatory.
The two main factors determining the distance you can place your generator from your camping site are the presence of other campers and the availability of open land.
If you’re camping in a location with other campers, you obviously need to keep other campers in mind. The basic camping etiquette is respecting your neighbor’s space, so you shouldn’t invade their space while trying to position your generator further from you.
On the other hand, if you’re boondocking, and have no camping neighbors, consider the length of your extension cable.
The longer the extension cord, the further you can place your generator, and the quieter it gets.
Either way, the bare minimum length for your generator should be 7 meters. It’s the standard rating that manufacturers use to determine noise level.
So, a rule of thumb is to always have your loud generator 23 feet away from your campsite.
3) Face Exhaust Pipe Away from you
Facing a generator’s exhaust away from you is one of the simplest and easiest ways to make a generator quiet.
Generator noises escape from the exhaust, so a good way to avoid the exhaust noise is facing the exhaust away from you.
Some generators will also allow you to face the exhaust upwards. Facing the exhaust in a vertical position makes a big difference in the sound output and makes the generator considerably quieter.
Either way, the simple act of directing the generator’s exhaust away from you directs the noise away.
Personally, I usually face my exhaust upwards, or away, directly into an open patch of space. You don’t want to direct the exhaust towards a neighboring campsite. Forests are great for absorbing noise and noise reduction.
Along with curbing the generator noise, facing the exhaust away from your campsite is also beneficial in directing the toxic exhaust fumes and gases from your vicinity.
4) Place generator on a soft surface
Soft surfaces absorb the generator’s vibrations while muffling some of the noise. It’s a great way to quiet a generator.
The grass is a nice soft spot to position your portable generator. I love using grass because it’s natural, and plenty of it around camp.
There’re a couple of other soft surfaces you can use to place your generator in the absence of grass.
Some of the surfaces that will help dampen the sound and vibrations include anti-vibration mats, yoga mats, rugs, and foam sleeping pads.
Simply put, any spongy material you can grab suffices as a great sound dampener will absorb much of the vibrations and create a noticeable difference in the noise levels.
I usually use my spare blanket when I’m backpacking.
Of course, there’re surfaces you need to avoid. These surfaces will mostly amplify the sound and rumbling of your generator, including concrete and other hard surfaces.
5) Put Rubber Feet
Along with the spongy surfaces, adding rubber to a generator’s feet also helps to drastically cut down the generator’s noise and make the generator quieter.
As with the spongy material, rubber has incredible sound-absorbing properties.
It curbs on the vibrations generated by the portable generator while keeping the sound in check.
I’m a big fan of the rubberized feet because it’s one of the simplest methods to quiet a generator and can pair with literally any other sound-deadening tip.
6) Use Sound Deflectors
The use of sound deflectors to make a generator quiet for camping is one of the easy DIY installs to make a generator quieter.
Find three sheets of plywood and an extra sheet of non-flammable material. I prefer drywall because it’s generally fire-resistant.
The idea size for the sheets of plywood is they should be slightly taller and wide for your generator.
Next, prop the plywood, and place them on each side of the generator at an angle.
Be sure to place the fire-retardant plywood on the exhaust side to avoid the plywood from catching fire from the heat and flames from the generator.
Turn on the generator, and allow the sheets of plywood to deflect the sound waves to the ground, away from you.
Again, this underlines the importance of soft ground because it’ll absorb the vibrations and sound waves rather than amplify them.
7) Build a Sound-Absorbing Quiet Box
Sound-absorbing box work uses the same principle as the plywood sound deflectors. However, a sound box is more effective since they cover your generator on all our sides.
But the main reason why a sound-absorbing box works better than the sound deflector is they cover the generator on all four sides. The quiet enclosure box contains sound waves and vibrations, drastically lowering the noise level.
And the good thing with a sound-absorbing box is that it’s more convenient to use. It’s compact and easier to carry than lug pieces of plywood panels.
You can get a sound box off the shelf or a DIY one.
An off-the-shelve sound box is also known as a baffle box, generator box, or generator quite a box. A baffle box comes pre-assembled, and all you need to do is place your generator inside.
Alternatively, you could choose to DIY a sound box. I prefer this method since it’s a simple endeavor.
There’re a couple of ways to do it, and my favorite option is using a milk crate or any crate.
Get a crate that can fit your generator, attach sound-absorbing foam, and set your generator inside.
The side facing the exhaust should be open to allow exhaust fumes to escape and avoid heat build-up.
Another DIY option is using plywood to create a box-like sound box.
Get some thick plywood to prop them into a box-like shape that can accommodate your generator. Attach the sound-absorbing foam inside and set up a vent to allow the escape of exhaust fumes.
Whatever DIY install you choose, you need to have a couple of tips at the back of your mind.
Ensure the absorbing foam isn’t pressed against the generator. Or rather, there shouldn’t be contact between the generator and the board/crate.
It ensures the generator’s fan isn’t blocked. Otherwise, it may result in heat build-up and ultimately combustion. Remember, most portable generators are air-cooled, so they need constant airflow.
The second crucial thing is there should be vents or air holes, particularly on the exhaust side.
Vents allow the escape of exhaust fumes and prevent the culmination of gases, which may heat and damage the generator.
Finally, consider the seams and the base the generator sits on. They should also be well padded for sound absorption.
8) Replacing Generator Muffler or Installing a Secondary One
As its name suggests, an exhaust muffler muffles or dampens the noise from your generator’s exhaust system and motor.
Typical mufflers contain perforated tubes, baffled chambers, and holes, deflect sound waves and reduce exhaust pressure to dampen sound.
In addition to dampening the sound, a generator’s muffler can also combine different sound waves to make them cancel each other for a quieter generator.
But either way, the larger the generator muffler, the more effective it dampens the sound. So, replacing your generator’s stock muffler with a bigger muffler will dampen the sound output further.
Finding a Muffler for your Generator
Finding a new muffler for a car is easy, but the same can’t be said for generators because they come in different designs, different generator brands, and different size generator exhaust pipes.
However, you can find an automobile muffler or motorbike muffler compatible with your generator in rare cases.
The ideal automotive muffler should have a similar size and thickness to your stock muffler.
If you can’t find a compatible muffler, consult a specialized mechanic/ small engine mechanic for an after-market solution.
Adding a customized muffler to the existing muffler isn’t a simple DIY, so I would highly suggest you find a repairman to do it. Otherwise, you might destroy your generator.
9) Use Water as a Muffler
If replacing the muffler sounds like too much work, consider the water bucket method.
It’s an alternative to replacing your muffler, but it still needs a bit of craftiness and customization. But not so much as the first method.
- Hose clamp
- A bucket filled with water
Fill your bucket with water.
Attach the hose to the generator’s exhaust pipe using the clamp or other method.
Set your generator on an elevated ground, higher than the water bucket.
It should prevent the backflow of water. You can also drill holes into the hose to ensure water doesn’t flow back.
Dip the open end of the hose into the bucket of water.
Run the generator. The bucket water should drown the exhaust fumes and sound.
10) Wrap your Generator in a Soundproof Blanket
The blanket method uses similar operating principles as the quiet enclosure box or the deflector method.
It dampens the sound generated and deflects some of it to the ground, where it’s absorbed.
It’s a simple DIY that involves staking your blankets over the generator, just as you would cover a tent with a tarp.
The most important thing is to ensure the blanket doesn’t cover or touch the walls of the generator. There should be sufficient space between the two to allow air circulation and free flow. It prevents heat build-up and combustion.
Making a hole on the exhaust side is also recommended to allow the exhaust fumes to escape and avoid heat build-up.
How to Know if your Generator is Overheating
Identifying an overheating generator is quite easy.
The biggest sign is the generator runs louder than normal. The generator’s fan may also run faster than normal to cool down the heating generator.
It’s important to check on the generator regularly, and in case you notice it’s running noisy, then it might just be a sign it’s overheating.
Also, I would recommend implementing the sound deadening tips after running your generator for quite a while.
It’s an important measure that gives you the idea of how your generator sounds before it overheats.
A major cause of overheating in a generator is the culmination of exhaust gases. Therefore, it helps if you leave the exhaust vents open. The fan shouldn’t also be in contact with any object. A few inches of air space are sufficient.
Alternatives of Noisy Generators
If you feel the tips of making a generator quiet are a bit of a hassle, you could choose to give up on the generator and find alternative means of camping power.
The good news is there’re a couple of alternatives that will relieve you from the need of having a generator.
1) Powered campsite
Unless you’re boondocking or prefer dry camping, you can choose campsites connected to a power grid.
Powered campsites are particularly a great option for beginners because it gives them access to all the comforts of their home.
However, you’ll need a really long extension cable to reach your electrical outlets, which isn’t a big deal compared to quieting a generator.
2) Car camping
Your car battery can be a power source for some of your essential electronic gadgets.
But just like camping on a powered campsite, you should ensure you’ve a long extension cord.
But more importantly, the cable should be compatible with the adapters and your power outlets.
3) Consider power packs
Battery power banks are a great source of power to keep you going on your camping trip.
Some are even solar-powered, so you charge them by the day and use them on your electronics at night.
Unfortunately, power packs don’t offer a lot of energy and are only suitable for short camping trips.
4) Go old school
The final method is as traditional as possible, and it involves setting up a camping fire.
It’s a great option, especially if you want to get up close with nature. But you’ll have to sacrifice a few creature comforts because the fire can’t charge your phone or light a TV.
How to Make a Generator Quiet for Camping Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Q: Can I install a silencer on a camping generator?
A: Yes, you can install an automotive silencer or a motorbike silencer on your generator. It should serve as a secondary muffler.
I’d suggest a motorbike silencer between the two because it works on a 2-cylinder engine, which has a similar design cue to that of a generator.
Q: How many decibels does a quiet generator have?
A: All generators make some noise, but some are comparatively quieter than others.
The inverter generators, considered quiet, have a decibel rating of 50-65 dB, measured from 23 feet.
Q: Is it possible to extend the exhaust on my generator?
A: Yes, it’s possible to extend exhaust on your generator by attaching a custom exhaust extension pipe
Q: Why are inverter generators quiet?
A: An inverter generator operates using varying load capacity, which can speed or slow depending on the load.
Conventional generators work at full engine capacity, regardless of the load.
Keeping a generator silent is quite easy if you follow our tips on how to make a generator quiet for camping.
The tips get even more effective if you combine a couple of them. Of course, some can only be used independently, but you’ll realize great results for those that can be combined.
A word of caution is that you need to keep the exhaust vent free, and the fan shouldn’t be obstructed.