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How Loud Is a Generator in Decibels (dB)? With Noise Comparison Chart


Whether you’re pulling out the old generator after a storm or using it for a project, it probably occurs to you that they’re really loud. Some are much quieter than others, though. How loud are generators, exactly?

It depends, but generally between 70 dB and 90 dB from 20–­­­­30 feet away. Your typical residential generator weighs in at around 70 dB, while industrial generators for heavyweight applications might go up to 90 dB or more. It depends primarily on how much power the generator can output. The more power output, the more noise it will make.

As you may expect, most residential generators are fine to run in residential areas, while more heavy-duty generators could be too loud and get you a noise complaint. Always use a generator with appropriate power and noise output for your area.

Finally, diesel-powered generators are going to be louder than gasoline-powered generators. Most residential generators don’t use diesel, but it’s well worth noting anyway.

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How Is Sound Volume Measured?

Volume is measured in decibels. Decibels work a bit differently than other forms of measurement in that it’s logarithmic instead of linear. What exactly does that mean for you?

The easiest way to explain it is that every 10 decibels has a 10 times increase in volume. For example, 20 dB is 10 times louder than a noise that measures 10 dB. And 90 dB is also 10 times quieter than 100 dB. This makes it easy to explain the volume of any given noise without a huge scale of measurement, considering how loud some noises are.

portable solar generator
Image Credit: CL Shebley, Shutterstock

Inverter Generators: Are They Quieter Than Normal Generators?

Yes, inverter generators are quieter than ordinary generators. Inverter generators use an alternator and power inverter to maximize efficiency. This mechanical design means the engine doesn’t have to run at full throttle all the time, so it’s quieter than regular generators.

Most inverter generators produce about 50 dB to 60 dB, whereas traditional generators are about 70 dB. This makes the inverter generator 10 times quieter than the regular one. Unfortunately, they’re also usually more expensive to buy for this same reason.

Some inverter generators have other noise-canceling features that help further reduce the noise pollution they produce. A few examples include:

  • Sound-absorbing enclosures
  • Cold air attenuation to reduce the noise of the engine
  • Rubber material

Where Should I Put My Generator?

When in use, many people put their generator as far away from living spaces as possible while staying fairly close to a power panel. Portable generators have a little leeway, but you still want them away from your living spaces. You should always consider your neighbors, too, who might be bothered by the noise of your generator. It may be worth asking an electrician where they would suggest placing your generator.

You can also place sound-absorbing materials around the area your generator is in. For instance, concrete barriers or sandbags make great noise insulators.

Portable Generator CARB compliant
Image credit: N-sky, Shutterstock

How Do Generators Compare to Other Noises?

Generators are pretty loud, but where do they land on a list with other noises? Surprisingly, they’re fairly high up on the list. Let’s check it out.

Noise Comparison Table:

Sound source Volume in decibels (dB)
Normal, light breathing 10 dB
Buzzing mosquito 20 dB
Whisper 25 dB
Normal conversation 40 dB to 60 dB
Washing machine 50 dB
Generator 70 dB to 90 dB
Vacuum cleaner 75 dB
Hearing damage threshold 85 dB
Lawnmower 100 dB
Jet engine at 100’ away 110 dB to 140 dB
Chainsaw at 10’ away 110 dB
Stun grenade 170 dB to 180 dB

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Generators are loud, but new advances in technology have yielded quieter generators. They still rank relatively high compared to some average noises, but you can find inverter generators or use sound barriers to help minimize the noise they make.

Featured Image Credit: Virrage Images, Shutterstock


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