When you’re up at the cabin, enjoying the beauty and serenity of nature, there’s little that can ruin it more than the constant hum of a noisy generator.
Some people recommend all sorts of products to muffle the exhaust on your generator. While a lot of noise comes out the exhaust, we still find that you get a lot of noise from the engine block itself. Muffling the exhaust won’t get rid of that noise. That’s why the best solution for quieting your generator when you’re at your at your cabin is to deal with the entire generator. These 7 tips will help you quiet your generator on any budget with varying levels of difficulty, cost, and effectiveness.
There are basically 3 ways to make a sound quieter.
- You can get farther from the source of the sound. Sound waves dissipate over distance in a real-world environment, so the farther you are from the source of the sound, the quieter it will be.
- Deflect the sound. Sound waves are directional. So if you can bounce the sound waves in different directions, then less of it will get to you at your cabin.
- Absorb the sound. Sound waves can be absorbed by various materials. If you can get some of the sound to be absorbed, you’ll have to hear a lot less of it.
The following 7 tips use these will help you use these 3 basic principles to make your generator quieter. Our goal is to help you quiet the noise without creating a dangerous situation. Which is why we have the following disclaimer.
Generators, like other combustion engines, can be very dangerous. Never run a generator in an enclosed building where people will be. You can get significant buildup of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide that can be very lethal. The exhaust outlet and the engine block itself get very hot while your generator is running. Never put a flammable material next to your generator while it’s running. Especially near the exhaust outlet.
Keep the Sound Source (Generator) Away from You
Tip 1. Run the Generator Farther from your Cabin
The easiest way to decrease the sound volume of your generator at your cabin is to run the generator farther from your cabin. There are tradeoffs to this of course. Turning the generator on and off is a bit more of a chore since you have to walk farther to get to it.
The benefit though, is pretty huge. You can drop 20-30 decibels off the sound just by putting it farther away from your cabin. If this is all you’re doing, I also recommend that you point the exhaust side of your generator away from your cabin. This will drop a bit more off the noise level.
That’s why I recommend that you have a spot 100 ft or so from your cabin that you can easily walk to for your generator. Make a bit of a path so you’re not crawling over boulders and through brush to get to it.
You’ll also want a high-quality power cord that’s designed for a generator that can reach your cabin. Regular extension cords aren’t designed to carry that much current over long distances. So if you’re pulling 30 Amps through a regular outdoor extension cord, you’ll actually burn it up.
If you’re connecting your generator right into electrical system, you’ll likely want a heavy duty 4-prong cord like this one on Amazon that can connect to your generator and your power box.
Otherwise you might like a couple 15 Amp power cords like this one on Amazon that you can run up to your cabin. You would just plug any electrical devices right into these cords. Or course, I recommend a system where your generator ties right into the cabin electrical. But if you bought or built a cabin with no wiring, then the second option is what you’ll need.
Deflect the Sound
Deflecting the sound is actually the science behind the muffler on your car. If you can get the sound that would go toward your cabin to deflect or bounce off a surface and go another direction, then you’ll hear less noise at your cabin.
Additionally, if you can get the sound waves to bounce back and forth a few times, you can actually get some of the sound waves to actually cancel each other out altogether. This is what your muffler does. So the sound waves do eventually come out through your exhaust pipe. But by that time a lot of sound waves have actually canceled each other out.
Tip 2. Build a Wall or Use an Existing Berm
The simplest long-term solution for this is to use a berm or hill or even build a small wall that you can use to block the sound from the generator. A single wall of dirt or block will absorb some sound and deflect a lot of it away from your cabin. If you place your generator a ways from your cabin and on the other site of a single little wall, the noise level at your cabin will go way down.
Tip 3. Make a Simple Deflector Setup for Temporary Use
For the short-term you can set up a makeshift deflector system with some wood panels that will take another 10 decibels off the noise level of your generator. And in case you don’t know, the decibel system for noise levels is on what’s called a logarithmic scale. So an increase of 10 decibels means the noise is actually 10 times louder. So this method can actually reduce the amount of noise from your generator by 10 times.
I actually found this setup on YouTube. The guy in the video below shows you exactly how to set it up. No building skills required. And if you want to do this for the long-term, I would just keep the necessary boards on hand and set it up every time you go up to your cabin.
The most important thing you should take from this video comes toward the end. Use a non-flammable material for the board that leans against the exhaust side of your generator. The air coming out of the exhaust is very hot and could catch wood on fire. Sheetrock, like he used in the video, is not flammable and is a great material to use for this purpose.
Tip 4. For Long-Term Use, Build a Generator Enclosure
While I like how effective the temporary setup above works to quiet a generator, I’m a big fan of more permanent solutions.
So what I’m doing is building an enclosure for my generator. If you want something really permanent, you can use cinder block for this enclosure. Blocks will absorb and deflect more sound than wood sheathing. But if you also follow steps 5 and 6 then a wood enclosure will do just fine.
The idea here is to build a very small building. One that would be too small to climb inside. This building can be rectangular and should be large enough for your generator and should leave some extra space on all 4 sides and above for good airflow. You should leave extra space on the side where the exhaust comes out and make sure that side is made of nonflammable materials and materials that won’t melt.
Good airflow is important, as generators get hot. If you enclose this small building completely then heat will build up and there won’t be enough oxygen for your generator to keep running. So on each end of this rectangular building I recommend leaving a vent hole. I would make an L-shaped cover for them that will deflect the sound away from your cabin. One vent hole will be an inlet for air, and the other will be the outlet for exhaust. In fact, I would align the vent hole on that end of the building with the exhaust outlet for your generator.
On the inlet side, you can improve the airflow by adding a small fan. A fan motor will pull very little electricity and can even run on a batter if you don’t want to use up one of the outlets from the generator. But in this kind of setup, good airflow is really important.
On a long side of the building, on the side where the generator panel is, cut an door opening that you can use to access the generator. I would make this big enough to be able to actually get the generator out and back in. This is also how you’ll access the generator to turn it on and off, fill it with gas, etc. Another option is to make the roof hinged so the whole top can actually open up. This will allow you to easily refill the gas tank and lift the generator out when needed.
Absorb the sound
Deflecting sound can only do so much. You can deflect it away from your cabin, and even cancel some sound waves out. But a fair amount of that noise will still get out and go somewhere. For more tranquility at your cabin, I recommend some sound absorption as well.
Tip 5. Leave a Dirt Floor in your Enclosure
If you build an enclosure, or even if you go with the wall or temporary board method, make sure that underneath your generator you leave the ground uncovered. A wood or concrete floor will deflect the sound upward. But a dirt floor will absorb more of the sound.
This is the easiest tip of all. Leave the floor alone. A level dirt floor is perfect for deadening the sound from your generator.
Tip 6. Add Sound Absorbing Foam to the Inside Walls of Your Enclosure
If you build an enclosure, adding some sound absorbing material, like acoustic foam, will deaden the sound substantially. In fact, you could get away with leaving the side of the enclosure that faces away from your cabin completely open if you’re concerned about having your generator in an enclosed space. Just enclose 4 sides and the top of your generator and add sound deadening acoustic foam to each wall and you’ll hear very little if anything at your cabin.
Just make sure that on the exhaust side of your generator the hot exhaust isn’t blowing against a flammable or meltable foam. Most acoustic foams are made of materials that will melt, so the exhaust side of your generator needs plenty of space and airflow to keep from melting your foam.
But if you add a fan and vents and leave plenty of space around your generator, these tips will allow you to thoroughly enjoy the tranquility of the outdoors at your cabin without giving up the convenience of electricity.
Run the Generator Less Often
This last tip seems may seem obvious. In this case it’s not about making the generator quieter when it’s running. The idea is to run it less often. Here’s how you can do that.
Tip 7. Add a Battery System to your Cabin
By installing a home battery system to your cabin, you can run your generator far less and then store the power for use only when you need it. A 3,000 Watt generator could generate enough power for most cabins without central air conditioning in less than 6 hours per day. A larger, 7,000 Watt generator could do it in under 3.
With our 7,000 Watt generator, I can just turn it on when I go inside for dinner time and go turn it off by 9:00 and have enough power to run the cabin for another day!
I can do that because of our home battery setup that we also use with some solar panels. But home batteries don’t just have to be for solar power. They can be charged up with a generator too. Whether you use a generator to supplement solar, or you use it for all of your cabin electricity, a home battery can add a lot of convenience.
In fact, if you opt to run your generator for only a few hours per day, you can pick a time when everyone will be indoors. That way they won’t really hear the generator. Just make sure it’s not right next to the cabin and maybe has a dirt barrier between it and the cabin. If you do that, you likely won’t even hear it and you can enjoy the rest of the time at your cabin without any generator noise.
For more information on using a battery system with your generator, you can read my article about it here.