Volt Magazine's Quiet Generator Guide

A Guide to Finding a Quiet Generator

Generators are classified in what is called DBA which is the sound measurement the device makes.  When it comes to campgrounds you will want a generator no louder than 60 dba.  DB stands for decibels and the A stands for the scale that the pitch or sound is on.  The human ear is most sensitive to the A scale – and thus generators are measured in the DBA scale. In this guide, we will attempt to help you understand the factors you need to take into consideration when buying a generator.   On this page – we cover in brief the key factors and in using the site menu, you can dwell deeper into the various elements of buying a quiet generator. When you are doing research on which quiet generator you are looking to buy – in the specifications you will see a measurement that will tell you the DBA’s of the generator.    A heavy duty high power generator will drown out conversation and run at 80 plus DBA’s where a 1500 watt quiet generator will run in the mid 50′s. To put this in perspective with what is a quiet generator, compare the following sounds below.

DBA Level
Humans Talking 60-65 db
Telephone Dial Tone 80 db
Power Saw 110 db
Jet Engine Taking Off 140 db
Shot Gun Blast 150 db

Finding the Appropriate Generator for Camping With

quiet generators for campingMore and more campgrounds are starting to impose rules as to how loud generators can be – nothing is worse than having a neighbor pull in beside your beautiful peaceful mountain camp spot and they fire up their commercial grade generator to power their RV air conditioner. As you can see in the chart above – normal conversation takes place at 60 to 65 db – which means any generator over 60 dba is going to over power people talking and become an annoyance.   Depending on how much you remember for High School Science class, sound multiples as it gets louder as well, which means that a generator that is 65 db is nearly twice as loud as a generator that runs at 55 db despite it being only 10 db more in sound measurement.

What Determines a Quiet Generator

The sound or loudness that a generator runs at is effected by several factors.   The primary measurement is the size of the engine which typically is in direct relation to the amount of power it is required to generate.   For example a 3500 watt generator will always run much louder than a 1500 generator of the same brand. The two other main factors that affect the sound output is the muffler and whether the engine is encased.  You will notice that the vast majority of generators considered quiet are enclosed in a heavy plastic case which works as a sound closet for the noise of the running engine.

In the chart below you’ll see examples of inverter generators and the various sound levels / power out put levels compared to the price of each brand.

Inverter Generator
Sound Output
Yamaha EF2000iS 2,000 Watt 79cc OHV 4-Stroke Gas Powered Portable Inverter Generator (CARB Compliant) 2000w 989.10 51.5 dba
Champion Power Equipment 73536i 2,000 Watt 4-Stroke Gas Powered Portable Inverter Generator (CARB Compliant) 2000w 568.51 53 dba
Generac 5793 iX2000 2,000 Watt 126cc 4-Stroke OHV Gas Powered Portable Inverter Generator 2000w 516.96 64 dba
Honeywell 2000-6066 2,000 Watt 126cc 4-Stroke OHV Portable Gas Powered Inverter Generator 2000w 559.00 51.5 dba
ETQ IN2500I 2,500 Watt 125cc 4-Stoke Gas Powered Portable Inverter Generator 2500w 1335.00 60 dba

Understanding What an Invertor Generator Is and How It Works

Invertor generators work by creating DC power ( like your car uses ) and then converting it to AC household power. The advantage if this is that it not only creates much more stable power without spikes or peaks – but it allows the generator to work a lot less to generate a constant state of electricity as it in the most simply terms is electricity on demand. A traditional generator works by producing power non stop whether it is used or not. In this short video – we explain the difference in how these two types generators operate.

Determining What Kind of Generator Suits Your Needs

When you are selecting a generator your first concern should be what type of power needs do you have and once that is determined, then seek out the quietest generator for your budget. Begin by thinking about what you are planning on powering – and how much power will typically be used at any given time.  For example,  an RV air conditioner draws a lot more power than a small television – and if you are running them at the same time, then you need to add the two together, along with any other electrical devices you may also want to run simultaneously. The following chart shows the typical power use of popular devices.

Approximate Continual Power Use
Start Up Load
Load Amps
13500 BTU RV Air Conditioner 1500 watts 3500 watts 15 Amps
1000 watt Microwave 1600 watts 3000 watts 15 Amps
Toaster 800 watts 800 watts 6 amps
Clock Radio 50 watts 50 watts 1 amp
30″ LCD Television 125 watts 125 watts 1.65 amps

It’s important when calculating your power use that you take into account that power requirements vary by the type of device or appliance.  Items such as microwaves and air conditioners require far more power to get them started than they do to run once going.   This surge can overload a generator that is under-equipped to handle the power load. As you can see in the chart above – a standard 13,500 btu air conditioner uses about 1500 watts continual power but upon start up draws well over 3000 watts meaning a 2000 watt generator may be able to power the unit – but won’t likely have the juice to start it up properly unless your generator is rated to handle the surge in power start up requires. Sensitive Power Devices Another element to consider is the types of devices you are running.  Computers, televisions and other similar electronics are far more sensitive to fluctuations in power supply and can be damaged by a sudden surge / drop in electricity.  The use of power including amps, watts and waveform can be a complicated subject and outside of the range of this article.   When ever you plug in your sensitive power devices you should use a power bar with a circuit breaker button on it which will prevent any sudden surge from damaging your device. The best generators for electronics are inverter generators.  These power plants work by creating DC power, storing it and then when required convert the current to AC power.  The result is a much cleaner surge free power source.

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