Shhh… Listen Up, The Best Quiet Portable Generator Is…
If you have ever wanted the ability to take electricity with you wherever you go, you have looked into portable generators. These amazing appliances allow you the ease and convenience of not having to leave the luxuries of everyday life just because you go outside.
But with these portable electrical generators, comes a major problem: the noise! Sure, you want to have power in your RV, when going camping, or to back up your home when the power goes out, but who can stand to have a jet engine running a few feet away!?
That’s where the quiet, portable generators come in! Companies have long since tried to address this issue of quiet, efficient, and yet powerful portable energy. Until recently that has not been really possible. But in the last decade or so, new technology has made portable energy quieter than ever!
In this article, we’ll give you everything you need to know about these quiet, portable generators and help you determine which one is best for your needs.
To do this, we’ll cover the two essential questions that need to be answered before you can find the right generator for you: 1. How quiet do I want the generator? 2. How much power do I need? To answer the first question, we’ll look at how sound is measured to give you an idea of just how much noise you can expect from even the quietest generators. Then we’ll look at how the generators work, how much power they can produce, and how much power you should expect to need given what you’ll be using it for.
How Quiet Can Portable Generators Get?
Before we can explain the sound levels of various generators, you first have to understand how sound is measured. You might see various “dB” ratings on generators, but what does this measure, exactly?
A “dB” is a decibel. Decibels are the unit of measurement for quantifying the loudness or softness of sounds. There are, however, several reasons that these ratings can be problematic.
First, a decibel level is a comparative measurement. What these means is that 1 dB is not always 1 dB. A decibel measures how loud or soft something is compared to something else. What that something else is can vary. So, while one manufacturer can say their unit is 50 dB, and another that theirs is 55 dB, the two generators might actually be about the same level because they are being compared to two different things. For this reason, we’ll use the most common decibel rating system that puts a single decibel right at the threshold of sound (that is, the quietest thing a human ear can hear).
The second reason that decibel ratings can be tricky is that sound has a different volumes at different distances. We all know that as you get closer to something, the noise gets louder. So, how do we consistently measure decibels if distance away from the generator affects the outcome? Two generators could have the same decibel rating, but one is actually louder than the other because the two measurements were taken from two different distances.
For example, if we stood two feet away from a generator and measured is to be 75 dB, then backed up to 10 feet, the measurement would drop to 60 dB. And if we backed up another 10 feet it would drop to 54 dB. So, when measuring sound, we have to measure from a consistent distance, otherwise, the readings are meaningless.
The third reason that decibels are tricky is that the difference between decibels is not a matter of degrees, but a matter of magnitudes. In other words, the difference between 40 dB and 50 dB is not a matter of 10% (each decibel is not a percentage point higher than the previous).
Instead, what decibels measure is the comparative loudness against the “zero” setting on the scale. So, something is 10 times louder than zero at 10 dB, but it is 100 times louder at 20 dB, and 1,000 times louder at 30 dB. So the different between 20 dB and 30 dB is more than twice as loud, not 10% more.
So, if one generator is 55 dB and another 60 dB, that can be a considerable difference.
A Typical Sound Scale
To help you figure all this out here is a typical scale of common noises that you are probably familiar with and their standard decibel rating.
• 0 = the faintest sound that a normal person could possibly hear
• 10 = steady breathing
• 20 = the rustling of leaves
• 30 = a whisper
• 40 = a stream or running refrigerator
• 50 = a quiet office or normal conversation
• 60 = laughter
• 70 = hair dryer or vacuum cleaner
• 80 = garbage disposal
• 90 = lawn mower
• 100 = garbage truck
• 125 = a chainsaw
The Decibels of Quiet Generators
OK, so now to the pressing question: where do generators fall on this scale? The first thing to keep in mind is that these are estimates and will vary depending on your location and other environmental factors. Also, keep in mind that most quiet generators have two modes: the power-up, full throttle mode, and an economy, running mode. Measurements of generators are given in their loudest setting, so most will run quieter than the rating given.
Another thing to think about is that there is a trade-off between how quiet the generator is and how much power it can produce. If you want the quietest possible generator, you won’t get as many running watts. And if you want a lot of power, you will have more noise.
Depending on the specific model and the overall power of the generator, quiet portable generators operate between 50 dB and 65 dB. When considering which generator is right for you, it is best to keep in mind the 3 factors we discussed about what these decibel ratings mean.
So now that you know the basics of the sound for quiet generators, let’s take a look at the power side of the equation.
How Do Inverter Generators Work?
The quietest generators on the market today are known as “inverter generators.” These generators work by using a special microprocessor that filters the power through several conversions.
First, an alternator is used to produce AC power. This high voltage power is then converter into DC (direct current) power so that it can be cleaned up (this refers to the quality of the sine wave produced by the alternator).
Then, this DC power is cleaned and inverted (hence, they are “inverter generations”) back into AC power which is much cleaner and safer for delicate electronics like computers and televisions. You need that clean AC power for these devices because the low-quality of some electricity can actually damage them.
What Other Differences Are There between Standard and Quiet Generators?
Companies equip these inverter generators with special noise dampening features that give them their quiet operation. If you compare the typical “quiet generator” with a standard, portable generator you will see that these latter types have an “open frame’ where the engine and all its components are exposed. While these often come with mufflers, they cannot completely reduce the noise. Inverter generations have a closed frame, surrounded by special materials that quiet the noise.
Another major difference between these two types of generators is that quiet generators are often light enough to carry while standard generators are housed in a steel frame with wheels and handles to move them. This means the quiet generators are much smaller and therefore much more portable. You can easily slide a quiet generator into a storage compartment in an RV while a standard generator would take up a lot of room.
How Much Power Do I Need?
This is the second major category when choosing a portable generator. Remember, the more powerful the generator is, the more noise it’s going to make.
It is actually quite easy to determine how many watts you will need for your generator. This allows you to find just the right size without having to worry about going overboard or having too little power.
To calculate how big of a generator you need, you must add up all the different things that you want to run off of your generator. Your appliance should all have a wattage rating listed somewhere on the device or in the owner’s manual. If you cannot find the wattage for your particular appliance, it should be listed somewhere on their website.
Once you know how many watts each of your devices needs in order to run, simply add the total together and this gives you your “running watts” needed to power those devices.
There is another important figure that you have to pay attention to: surge watts. Some appliances, like an air conditioner or a coffee maker or a refrigerator, needs a surge of power to get started. If you’ve ever had your lights dim a bit when the AC kicked on, that’s why.
When adding up the total number of wattage that you’ll need, you need to add the surge watts for a device (if it has any) instead of its running watts. This way all your devices will run smoothly even when the AC unit kicks in.
So, if your refrigerator has 350 running watts, but 500 surge watts, you add 500 to the total (not 350).
Here’s a quick example to illustrate how to do this. Here are all the appliances I want to operate in my RV along with their wattage:
• 1 Cell phone charger: 10 running watts, 0 surge watts
• 1 Laptop Computer: 75 running watts, 0 surge watts
• 1 TV/DVD Combo: 300 running watts, 0 surge watts
• 1 Microwave oven: 750 running watts, 800 surge watts
Let’s say that all I want to run for this camping trip. Totaling up the surge watts of the microwave and the running watts of everything else, I know I’ll need a portable generator that has at least 1,135 running watts and 1,285 surge watts.
Alternatively, I could get a generator that has 750 running watts and 800 surge watts and just shut everything else off when I use the microwave. But if I want to use them all at the same time, then 1,135W/1,285W is what I need.
What Other Features Should I Look for in a Quiet Portable Generator?
Besides decibel levels and power, you should also consider a generator’s run-time. This refers to how long you can run the generator (usually at 50% or 25% capacity) on a full tank of gas. Some generators have larger gas tanks or are more fuel efficient and will, therefore, have longer run times.
Another thing to keep in mind is the number and variety of outlets offered on the generator. If you only want to power a single device (like a power tool on a job sight), then you need to make sure that the generator has a compatible outlet.
If you want to use these quiet generators as a backup for power outages in your home, you should consider whether the generator has a twist-lock connector that can plug directly into your home’s circuit breaker. You may need to purchase an addition transfer kit switch for your home’s breaker box, but this will make it extremely convenient in the event of a power outage to just plug in the portable generator and have all your home’s appliances functioning.
This alleviates the need to run individual extension cords to each of your appliances. But make sure that the generator can handle the load.
Now that you have all the information to decide how much power and how quiet you’d like your generator, here is a look at some of the top quiet portable generators.
What Are the Best Quiet Generators under $1,000?
If budget is your main concern and you don’t need a bunch of wattages, here are some of the best affordable generators.
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Yamaha EF1000iS, 900 Running Watts/1000 Starting Watts
This Yamaha model is lightweight at only 27.9 lbs. and will run continuously on a quarter load for around 12 hours. It has a fairly small fuel tank at only .66 gallons, but if you aren’t running it full throttle constantly, it should last you plenty of time
Field testing shows that from around 10 feet away, it operators anywhere from 55 dB to 60 dB depending on whether it is at full throttle or not. It comes with two, 120-volt outlets and a DC outlet for charging batteries. This model is fully CARB compliant so that it can be used in all 50 states.
If you’re looking for basic, quiet portable generator to run a few appliances, this model can get the job done.
Westinghouse WH2000iXLT, 1800 Running Watts/2200 Starting Watts
This Westinghouse model is bit heavier than the Yamaha at 43 lbs. but puts out about twice the wattage. It comes with a 1.3-gallon gas tank and can operate an impressive 17 hours on a quarter load or 13 hours on a half load.
The noise level of this model runs anywhere from 52 dB to 59 dB, so it is comparable to the Yamaha model. It is also fully CARB compliant.
This unit will produce clean power, so it will not harm your sensitive electronics. It also only comes with 2 120-volt outlets, so this is not the best choice if you need something to wire into your house with a transfer switch. But if you need a bit more power, and don’t mind the extra weight, this model is a great choice.
Honda EU2000I 2000 Watt Super Quiet Inverter Generator
This Honda model is one of the highest rated and reviewed models under $1,000. It is rated at the same decibel levels as the other two models (53 dB to 59 dB), and will run for around 8 hours (on a quarter load) on a full tank of gas (.95 gallons). It only comes with 2, 120-volt outlets so this model is good for those wanting to use a limited number of appliances.
If you really need more power, this unit can be bought as a kit with another unit to run parallel. This will double your output and keep the same great portability and versatility. (http://amzn.com/B01AJ5B34C)
What Is the Best Quiet Generator for an RV?
Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 PowerSmart Series Portable 3000-Watt Inverter Generator
If you’re looking for a powerful, quiet portable generator then this Briggs and Stratton model should be on the top of your list. It comes with 2,600 running watts and 3,000 surge watts. It comes with a good variety of outlets including 2 120-volt outlets, a USB outlet, a DC outlet for charging batteries, and a 120-volt/30-amp outlet to hook up directly to your RV.
It weighs around 50 lbs. but comes with wheels and an extendable handle so you can wheel it like a piece of luggage. This makes the Briggs and Stratton more portable than the other models—anyone can maneuver this generator.
It has a generous 1.5-gallon tank which will allow for 10 hours of operation on a quarter load. With a 2-year limited warranty, this unit is perfect for the RV camper or tailgater who needs to take some power with them.
What Is the Most Powerful Quiet Generator?
Yamaha EF6300iSDE, 5500 Running Watts/6300 Starting Watts
If it’s muscle you’re going for, it doesn’t get much more powerful than this for a quiet generator. This model from Yamaha will run most AC units and your delicate computer electronics at the same time. It comes with standard 120-volt outlets and a 30-amp outlet for your RV. But in addition to these, the Yamaha also has a 240-volt/30-amp twist lock outlet that you can connect directly to your home’s breaker box (with an adapter kit).
It has an electric start for easy operation (or a recoil cord if that should fail). At almost 200 lbs., it’s quite large but comes on 4 wheels with handles for easy portability. Anyone should be able to roll this unit into place alone, or carry to where it needs to go with a helper.
It will run a little louder than the other models, at around 58 dB to 64 dB. But this is still quiet enough to have a normal conversation from a few feet away. On a quarter load of power, this unit will run for an impressive 19 hours.
With a built-in warning system to let you know when the oil or power gets low, this Yamaha should keep your house, worksite, or campsite up and running for many hours!
You do not have to give up peace and quiet for a little power. With these quiet, portable generators you’ll be able to take the comfort of home with you on the road, power your house during outages, tailgate at your favorite sporting event, or keep the job site up and running.