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Are Generators Loud: Generators Decibel Comparison Chart

When we talk about the loudness of generators, it's essential to start with a basic understanding of how sound is measured, particularly in decibels (dB).

A decibel is a unit of measurement that quantifies sound intensity. The decibel scale is logarithmic, meaning each increase in 10 dB represents a tenfold increase in sound intensity. This scale helps us quantify how loud a generator is in a way that can be easily understood and compared.

Published: December 18, 2023.

Understanding Decibel Ratings in Generators

Generators, indispensable for power generation during outages or in off-grid locations, vary widely in their noise output.

This variation is influenced by factors like design, size, and the power output of the generator.

For context, a normal conversation typically measures around 60 dB, typical vacuum cleaner noise is around 70 dB, a lawnmower might be around 90 dB, while chain saw noise is around 110 dB. The human pain threshold is around 140 dB, and that is very loud.

Understanding these ratings is crucial for consumers, especially those in residential areas or workplaces, where excessive noise could be disruptive or even harmful.

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The Science of Sound: How Generator Noise is Measured

Measuring the noise levels of generators involves more than just determining the decibel output. The distance at which the noise is measured, and the environment around the generator also play significant roles in how sound is perceived.

For instance, noise levels measured right next to the generator will be significantly higher than those measured at a distance. And if there are any obstacles between the generator and the measuring point in the form of trees, shrubs, etc., the noise can be significantly lower.

Additionally, the type of noise can affect how we perceive loudness.

Generator noise often includes low-frequency sounds, which can be less noticeable than high-frequency sounds at the same decibel level. However, these low-frequency noises can be more disturbing over long periods, particularly in residential settings.

Understanding these nuances is key to accurately assessing the impact of a generator’s noise.

Analyzing and Interpreting the Generator Decibel Chart

A decibel comparison chart is an invaluable tool for understanding and comparing the noise levels of different generators. This chart typically lists various generator models along with their respective decibel ratings, often measured at a standard distance (like 7 meters).

When interpreting this chart, it's important to consider not just the decibel numbers but also the context of use. A difference of just a few decibels can be significant in a quiet residential area, while it might be negligible in an industrial setting.

Also, it is not the same if the power generator is going to provide 15-25% of its nominal wattage or it will be pushed to its limits.

Types of Generators and Their Average Decibel Levels

Generators are broadly categorized into portable, inverter, and standby generators, each with distinct noise profiles:

  • Portable Generators: These are the most common type for individual use, and their noise levels can vary significantly. On average, portable generators produce around 70-80 dB, which is comparable to the noise level of a vacuum cleaner or a busy street. The following chart lists some of the most popular 50 Amps portable generators with their most important features and specifications, noise included:

 

Model

Running Watts (W)

Starting Watts (W)

Runtime (h)

Noise (dB)

Receptacle

Review

DuroMax XP12000EH

Gas: 9500 W
Propane: 8075 W

Gas: 12000 W
Propane: 10200 W

gas: 10 hours @50%

propane: 5 hours @50%
(5-gallon propane tank)

74 dB, 23 ft

AC: 120/240V 50A (14-50R), 120/240V 30A (L14-30R), 120V 30A (L5-30R), 2x 120V 20A (5-20R)

-

Champion 100111

12000 W

15000 W

9 hours @50%

78 dB

AC: 120/240V 50A (14-50R), 120/240V 30A Locking (L14-30R), 120V 30A Locking (L5-30R), 2x GFCI 120V 20A Duplex (5-20R)

-

Champion 100161

7500 W

9375 W

8 hours @50%

74 dB, 23 ft

AC: 120/240V 50A (14-50R), 120/240V 30A (L14-30R), 120V 30A (TT-30R), 2x GFCI 120V 20A Duplex (5-20R)

-

A-iPower SUA12000E

9000 W

12000 W

9h @50%

78 dB

AC: 120/240V 50A (14-50R), 120/240V 30A (L14-30R), 4x GFCI 120V 20A (5-20R)

-

Pulsar PG10000B16

Gas: 8000 W
Propane: 7000W

Gas: 10000W
Propane: 9000W

12 hours @50%

68 dB, 23 ft

AC: 120/240V 50A (14-50R), 120/240V 30A (L14-30R), 4x 120V 20A (5-20R); DC: 12V 8.3A

-

  • Inverter Generators: Known for being quieter, inverter generators typically operate in the range of 50-60 dB, making them suitable for camping or RV use where lower noise levels are preferred. Some inverter models with fully enclosed construction feature noise levels even below 50 dB (measured @25% load and 6-7m distance). The following chart lists some of the most popular inverter portable generators with their most important features and specifications, noise included:

 

Model

Running Watts

Starting Watts

Runtime Noise

Receptacle

Review

A-iPower SUA2300i

1800W

2300W

6.5h @50% 52 dB @25%
58 dB @50%

AC: 120V 20A 5-20R, 120V 30A L5-30R; DC: 12V 8.3A, USB 5V

-

Champion 2000W Model #100402

2000/1800W

1600/1440W

11h @25% 53 dB @25%

AC: 20A 120V 5-20R Duplex; DC: 12V 8A

-

Champion 2000W Model #100692

1700W

2000W

11.5h @25% 53 dB @25%

AC: 20A 120V 5-20R Duplex; DC: 12V 

-

Energizer eZV2000P

1600W

2000W

11h @25% 50 dB @25%
56 dB @75%
60 dB @100%

AC: 20A 120V 5-20R Duplex; DC: 12V 5A

-

Generac iQ3500

3000W

3500W

8.9h @50%
14.1 @25%
45* dB

AC: 120V 20A Duplex 5-20R, 120V 30A L5-30R; DC: two USB ports (5V/2.1A, 5V/1A)

Review

Honda EU2000i

1600W

2000W

8h @25% 50 dB @25%

AC: 20A 120V Duplex; DC: 12V

-

Honda EU2200i

1800W

2200W

3.2h @100%
8.1h @25%
48 dB @25%
57 dB @100%

AC: 20A 120V Duplex; DC: 12V 100W (8.3 Amps)

Review

Honda EU3000IS

2800W

3000W

20h @25% 50 dB @25%

AC: 120V 20A Duplex, 120V 30A L5-30R

-

WEN 56203i

1700W

2000W

10.8h @25%

7h @25%

51 dB @25%

AC: 2x NEMA 5-20R; DC: 12V (8.3A), 2x USB 5V (1A, 2.1A)

Review

WEN 56235i

1900W

2350W

10.5h @25% 51 dB @25%

AC: 15A 120V NEMA 5-20R Duplex; DC: 12V, USB 5V (2.1A, 1A)

-

Westinghouse iGen2600

2200W

2600W

10h @25% 52 dB @25%

AC: 20A 120V Duplex; DC: 12V, 2x USB 5V

Review

Westinghouse iGen4500

3700W

4500W

18h @25% 52 dB @25%

AC: 120V 20A 5-20R Duplex, 120V 30A TT-30R; 2x USB 5.0V (2.1, 1.0 A)

Review

Yamaha EF2000iSv2

1600W

2000W

10.5h @25% 51.5 dB @25%

AC: 120V Duplex; DC: 12V 8A

-

Yamaha EF2400iSHC

2000W

2400W

8.6h @25% 53 dB @25%

AC: 120V Duplex; DC: 12V 8A

-

Note: Amazon affiliate links ('Model' Column) open in the new windows, feel free to check them for the most up-to-date offers and prices.

  • Standby Generators: Installed permanently, these generators kick in automatically during a power outage. Their noise levels are usually between 60-70 dB but can be higher depending on the size, load, and design. Soundproofing measures are often employed in residential areas to mitigate their impact.

Each generator type serves different needs, and their noise levels are a crucial factor in deciding which is suitable for a given environment. This understanding helps users make informed decisions, balancing power requirements with acceptable noise levels.

Impact of Noise on Health and Environment

The impact of generator noise extends beyond mere annoyance. Prolonged exposure to high decibel levels can have significant health implications.

Studies have shown that consistent exposure to noise above 70 dB can lead to increased stress, cardiovascular problems, sleep disturbances, etc. In environments where generators are in continuous use, such as construction sites or areas with frequent power outages, these health risks are particularly concerning.

Beyond human health, generator noise can also affect wildlife and the environment. Animals rely on sound for communication, navigation, and hunting.

Excessive noise pollution can disrupt these natural behaviors, leading to broader ecological imbalances. In residential areas, the constant noise of generators can diminish the quality of life, leading to conflicts within communities and potential legal disputes.

For such environments, fully enclosed inverter power generators are highly recommended.

Industry Standards for Generator Noise Levels

Recognizing the impact of generator noise, various industry standards and regulations have been established to control noise emissions. These standards vary by country and region but generally aim to protect public health and environmental well-being.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set guidelines for permissible noise levels for generators used in residential areas.

Similarly, the European Union has directives that mandate noise level disclosures and limits for outdoor equipment, including generators. Manufacturers are often required to design their products to minimize noise output, incorporating technologies like sound-attenuating enclosures and mufflers.

Compliance with these regulations is not just about adhering to legal requirements; it also plays a crucial role in the marketability of generators, as consumers increasingly prioritize quieter operations in their purchasing decisions.

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Technological Advances in Reducing Generator Noise

The quest for quieter generators has led to significant technological advancements. One of the key innovations is the development of advanced muffler systems, which are designed to reduce exhaust noise significantly. These mufflers are not just about dampening sound; they are engineered to alter sound waves and diminish their impact.

Another breakthrough involves the use of sound-absorbing materials in generator housings. Manufacturers are utilizing composite materials and specialized insulation to encase generators, effectively trapping and reducing noise before it escapes into the environment.

Inverter technology represents a major leap forward in noise reduction. Unlike traditional generators, inverter generators produce electricity more efficiently and with less noise. They adjust the engine speed to the power demand, which not only conserves fuel but also minimizes noise output.

Additionally, the integration of smart technologies allows for better control and optimization of generator operations, indirectly contributing to noise reduction by ensuring generators only run at full capacity when necessary.

Practical Tips for Minimizing Generator Noise

While technological advancements play a key role, there are also practical steps users can take to minimize generator noise:

  • Strategic Placement: Positioning the generator as far away as possible from living or working areas can significantly reduce perceived noise. Directional positioning, with the exhaust facing away from sensitive areas, also helps.
  • Use of Sound Barriers: Constructing physical barriers like walls or fences around the generator can effectively block and redirect sound waves.
  • Regular Maintenance: Keeping the generator well-maintained ensures it operates efficiently and quietly. This includes regular checks and replacements of mufflers and sound-dampening materials.
  • Choosing the Right Size: Using a generator that's appropriately sized for the required power output can reduce unnecessary noise, as smaller generators generally produce less noise.
  • Anti-Vibration Mounts: Installing anti-vibration mounts can reduce the noise generated by the physical operation of the generator.

For more about this topic, feel free to check our How To Make Generator Quiet article.


As the need for portable power continues to grow, so does the importance of reducing generator noise. The advancements in technology and practical strategies for noise management are promising steps toward quieter and more environmentally friendly generators.

Looking ahead, we can expect continued innovations in this field, with the goal remaining clear: to achieve power generation without compromising on peace, comfort, and environmental harmony.

One of the solutions are solar generators/power stations with large, eco-friendly lithium batteries, which can be used even indoors, although such units have their own limitations.