As we rely more and more on electronic devices, portable generators are becoming an increasing need in our lives. For backup power, remote locations or camping, having portable power is swiftly shifting from luxury to necessity. The noise these machines create can be intimidating and obtrusive, but we are looking into the changing generator market and searching for quiet generators for personal use.
The Importance of Generators
Having a generator for emergency or backup power is a good step in the direction of being prepared for whatever comes your way. The need for power on demand is not limited to the emergency situations of bad weather or disasters. Sometimes we want power in remote places.
Looking for some additional resources for portable generators? Check out these curated articles for more information:
- Portable Generator Accessories to Ensure Machine Longevity
- Portable Generator Transfer Switch: A 2020 Guide
- Generator Enclosures – Running a Generator in the Rain and Snow
See the chart below for our recommendations, then below for our individual generator reviews and buyer’s guide for quiet generator options. At the end of each review is a link leading to a more complete breakdown of that particular quiet generator.
How To Select Quiet Generators
The output capability of the generator will generally place it in one of three categories. The larger backup generators are 5,000 to 10,000 watts, and can supply power to an entire home. Comparatively, the mid-sized, heavy duty generators still produce 2,500 to 5,000 watts, and are good for construction job sites or running heavy appliances.
The generators we will be looking at today are categorized as personal use, up to 2500 watts. Most are inverter generators, which are notoriously than open, large gas-only models.
A good-quality generator can provide you that power in almost any situation, but that power often comes at a cost. Aside from the material costs such as fuel and maintenance, any generator supplying power will come with the unfortunate operational byproduct of noise.
Why Even Quiet Generators Are Loud
The nature of an internal gas combustion engine means heat and noise will be produced along with that critical power you crave. A loud generator may be placed further away from your activities to mitigate the noise but that is not always practical. Aside from the practical concern of security, tailgating parking lots fill up fast, and that noisy generator will break up the serene quiet of any camping experience, no matter how far away you place the engine.
However, all is not lost. There has been a significant makeover to the standard portable generator. The growing popularity of inverter generators comes with plenty of benefits, one of them being, the inverter generator is much quieter than its conventional siblings.
Conventional vs Inverter Generators
The inverter generator has an electronic control board that manages the generating system’s efficiency. This smart addition allows the generator to regulate the engine performance according to the electrical load drawn from the system.
This “demand according to need” process means the engine is constantly fluctuating its RPMs, revving up at peak power demand and slowing down during lax power draw.
Conventional generators run at a single speed in order to generate consistent power. You’ve witnessed this when you add a new device to your generator and the engine momentarily lags before coming back up to speed and you see the lights dim. This is only an indication of how that engine runs.
It is always running at full speed for maximum available output whether you are charging your FitBit or running a refrigerator. The disparity of need is enormous and is wasted in the name of conventional generator systems.
Conventional Generators: Loud Compared To Quiet Generators
This can’t be helped on conventional generators because of how they generate power. Simplified, the engine turns an alternator which is a magnet surrounded by copper coils, the movement induces electricity onto the wire. The generator system is built and calibrated to run at a very specific speed to produce usable power at specified voltage and amperage.
When the engine speeds up or slows down, the rotating magnet changes speed and the power output is affected. You get that “brownout” when the engine is bogged down. These brownouts and surges are indications of “dirty” power and are particularly bad for electronic devices that use sensitive microprocessors. There are methods to quiet generators, but the best option if your budget allows is to buy an inverter generator.
Benefits of Inverter Generators and Clean Power
“Clean” power is regulated to be much more consistent with the power you get at your home and is much safer for your electronics. Inverter generators operate by taking the power from the alternator and feeding through a rectifier that changes Alternating Current (AC) into cleaner and more stable Direct Current (DC). This power is then converted back to AC through an inverter, where this class of generators get their name.
The use of the rectifier and inverter system grants your generator powerful advantages over the conventional, strictly mechanical, generator.
The aforementioned cleaner power is better for your electronics. The electronic conditioning of power requires fewer copper coils and the generator is lighter weight.
Inverter generators are more efficient than conventional generators for two reasons. They can use a smaller engine to generate the same amount of power, and they regulate the engine’s speed according to need therefore eliminating the need to run full speed at all times. This efficiency directly converts to longer run times and less fuel consumption.
The Best Quiet Generators for Personal Use
This smaller engine is also much quieter. Attenuating the power through the electronics allows for the smaller engine and the flexible engine speed according to needs means the small engine won’t be running at full speed when you are not using the maximum power output.
The compact size of this entire assembly is enclosed in a case. The enclosure is made from sound attenuating materials and insulated with sound absorbing qualities. Inverter generators are also incorporating the latest upgrades in muffler technologies in an attempt to cut down as much of the excess noise as possible.
The result is the quietest possible generator available on the market today. Lighter weight, fuel efficient, cleaner output, and much quieter than the conventional alternatives. Focusing on the sound output for use in general areas where noise can be an issue, here are the quietest generators for personal use.
The Eastern Tools and Equipment model NI2000i is a great generator with solid performance reviews and plenty of standard and additional options in the 2000w class market.
This machine offers a running wattage of 1600 and a start/surge at 2000W. This is standard for this class of generator. The small frame comes in heavier than some of the others in this review at 64 pounds. However, the frame is solidly built and sturdy.
The manufacturer rates their run time at half load capacity. Comparably, many others measure at quarter load. For this reason, a direct comparison can only be extrapolated. However, the one gallon fuel tank will run the unit for six hours at half capacity.
Boasting a moderately quiet 52dB, this model is certainly much quieter than the conventional generators of this size and is on the low side of even the better inverter generators in its class. 50dB is rated as the volume of a “private office” so, this 52dB model should impress.
California compliant, this unit can safely be deployed in any state park you are camping in. The control panel offers standard AC plugs, a battery charging port and a 5v USB port for charging your portable electronics. The unit can be connected and run alongside another in “parallel” operation for more demanding needs.
Briggs and Stratton is an old reliable name in the engine industry. Their innovations over the last hundred years has secured this company name’s legendary status among small engine world. When you purchase a lawnmower or other small engine driven machine, one of Briggs and Stratton’s 9 million/year engines may be driving it.
The 30473 operates at the standard wattage levels of 2000W start and 1600 under continuous run conditions. This industry standard is more than capable of supplying your campsite or tailgating party needs. Weighing in at only 50 pounds, this compact unit is easily moved and carried around by a single person.
The one gallon fuel tank runs the generator for 8 hours at a quarter load. The “PowerSmart” mode switch is the key to better fuel efficiency and quieter operation.
Measured at 59dB, the Briggs and Stratton 30473 is quiet enough to have a conversation while it hums away behind you. Normal speech is ranked at 60dB. This generator is actually quieter than you and your friend talking about the big game.
This model is not capable of running in parallel mode. However, its upgraded big brother, the Briggs and Stratton 30651 2200W model is. If you're looking for quiet generators, this option is stellar.
Note: The Briggs and Stratton 30473 has since been upgraded and renamed to the Briggs & Stratton P2200 Powersmart. The Powersmart is the quiet generator that appears in our table at the top of this guide. The original Briggs and Stratton 30473 is currently unavailable, but can be found here.
This 2000W inverter generator actually runs at 2000W. 2200W start/surge and 2000W continuous run, the Generac iX2000 is the only generator in the 2000W class that offers you 2000 watts for regular use. Many others run at 1600W and surge to 2000W but this unit has the advantage with a more robust output.
Lightweight in design, this model weighs just under 50 pounds. The small footprint is under two feet long, one foot wide and just 18” tall. This unit is easily carried about from garage to patio to tailgate and is truly portable.
The one gallon fuel tank will keep you running power for 4.7 hours at a half load capacity. This is a great ratio compared to other inverter generators on the market. This model is not California CARB compliant, though. So, you do not want to purchase this generator is you live or plan to operate this unit in that state.
Customers report this generator as a very quiet alternative to a noisy conventional generator. The manufacturer website does not publicize the decibel rating. This is commonly due to the fact that decibels can be measured in various ways. So, they won’t commit to any one rating, but consumers report this model operates just over 60dB. This volume level is quiet enough to talk over, making it one of the best quiet generators on the market today.
The block design is no accident, the Champion 73536i was built for expansion. Rugged and stable, the second unit can be stacked on top of it and cabled to run in parallel. This allows you the capability to generate more power when necessary. It can do so without requiring you to run the larger setup when you don’t need it.
The steel fuel tank holds one gallon of gasoline and will run the generator at quarter load for 9.5 hours. This model runs at 1700W, peaking at 2000W while most others in this class size output 1600W. The lightweight cube can be easily carried about with one hand as it weighs in at 48 pounds.
53dB is about as quiet as a hearing the refrigerator running, or a dishwasher running from the next room over. It's incredibly quiet, and one of the best quiet generators out there. The difference between 50dB and 60dB is generally associated with “library conversation” versus “normal conversation”. So, this 53dB Champion 73536i ranks in as one of the quieter inverter generators available today.
Note: This is the older model. Champion has developed a new model, which is available here. Full review from Generator Expert to follow. We have used the new version for our table.
The Yamaha name is recognized for quality and this generator is no exception. Saving the best for last, the EF2000 model is most likely going to be the favorite on your list when doing your personal generator shopping.
This generator offers 1600W continuous and 2000W surge like most others in the class, but at an incredibly low 51.5dB. It is conceivable you could run this inverter generator while reading in your local library. Running in ECON mode, this quiet little powerhouse is hardly noticeable among quiet the sounds of a small private office.
Also, the engine noise all but disappears beneath the sounds of the average conversation. If you are looking for the quietest generator for personal use, you have found it in the Yamaha EF2000iSv2. It is one of the best quiet generators around.
“Twin-Tech” parallel operation offers the ability to increase your current draw as necessary or run independently for smaller loads. Loading this generator in and out of where you need it is simple as it weighs in at just 44lbs. The 1.1 gallon fuel tank runs for 10.4 hours at a quarter load. This model offers a simple fuel gauge, something missing from many of its competitors.
The fuel petcock is another nice feature as it allows you to cut off the fuel and run the generator until it the carburetor is dry for safe and clean storage. CARB compliant for California, light, and quiet, the Yamaha EF2000iSv2 is a perfect choice for a quiet personal generator.
Wrapping Things Up: Quiet Generators
Understanding the difference between conventional generators and the newer technology of the inverter generator is essential to knowing which generator is right for your needs.
If lower decibel rating is a key element for you, an inverter generator is the only way to go. Their smaller engines, economy mode operations, compact size and enclosed cases make them the best quiet generators for personal use.
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