Generator Noise and Decibel Levels

Standby GeneratorsGenerators can be the noisiest thing on the planet.  But when you are without power, they are worth gold. A home standby generator or whole house generator comes in different sizes, from 7 KW to 20 KW in air cooled and 22 KW and higher in liquid cooled. You can also purchase portable generators.  A standby generator for your whole house can run on propane or natural gas.  The difference in size and type depend upon your needs and where you will use it.

Standby generators are installed in a permanent position and usually installed with an automatic transfer switch. The transfer switch will transfer from utility to load when you lose power from your local utility power company. 30 seconds after you lose power, you will be on generator power. When your generator starts, it will power your lights or whatever you were using before you lost utility power.  It will take a few moments before your central unit will start.  When you have a full load, the noise level of your generator will increase.  The noise level is called the decibel level or dBs

Wikipedia refers to dB as the” intensity relative to a specified or implied reference level.” It is used in a wide variety of measurements like electronics or acoustics. A washing machine may have 70 dB and a vacuum cleaner may have 90 dbs.  A standby generator will have in the range of 62-68 dBs depending upon the kind of generator you have. The noise is from the exhaust noise and engine noise.

It is an important factor when you live in a neighborhood that requires low dB for noise sensitivity.  I just heard on the news that towns in California are restricting leaf blowers because the dBs are so high.  They are trying to restrict the level of noise.  The manufacturers are trying to perfect another type of blower where the noise wouldn’t be so high.  Neighborhoods are starting to restrict leaf blowers because they can’t stand the noise.  They believe it is interrupting their way of life.  They purchased a house in a quiet neighborhood only to have their neighbors using leaf blowers.  So they want to try and keep the noise out.

I also heard that campgrounds also restrict some generators because of their noise level. If you have a built in generator into your camping generator, some of them are not as noisy due to the fact that they are built into housing that absorbs sound.  Some campgrounds require the residents not to have so much noise like having to run on a generator all night.  Most people don’t have to run on generator all night at a campground.  They can plug into existing power instead of running on generator power.

A portable generator means you have to take it out of storage, fill it with fuel and plug it in.  A standby is permanently installed.  The portables have much higher dBs than the home standby generators.  The home standby generators can have dBs in the range of 62 to 68 dBs. A portable generator can run closer to 90 dBs.  They have started building a new invertor generator that doesn’t have loud rpm.  You can get those up to 6500 watts which is a very good generator.  But the problem is that at 6500 watts, it is not enough power to run your central unit.  Portable generators need fuel, gasoline or diesel.

If you want to get all the efficiencies that you need in a compact unit that doesn’t make a lot of noise and doesn’t burn a lot of fuel, then you want a standby generator.  Its fuel comes from natural gas, a source that is readily available or propane that is also readily available and can be stored for indefinite periods of time.  Propane can be stored forever as long as the tank has no leaks.  Propane tanks do not have any problems like getting moisture in the fuel.

Therefore, when you get into one type of generator verses another type of generator, you can get into another set of problems.  One is noise level.  Two is gasoline verses natural gas.  Third is having to make sure its running, pulling it out and cranking it up to see if it is going to run when you need it in an emergency.  The home standby generator automatically starts up to exercise itself once a week. That ensures that you have more of a chance of having a standby generator when you need it. Generator noise and decibel levels should be considered before you make your purchase.  What do you use in an emergency power outage?

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Generator Noise and Decibel Levels — 4 Comments

  1. Don Ulin on said:

    Thanks for that useful information. I don’t have any neighbors; so my concern is my own peace and quiet. How far away can I put the generator from the main panel before its effectiveness is compromised? AND, can a standby generator be used for days or weeks or even months? Or is there a point at which you’d have to get something more substantial?

    • Robert on said:

      First, you can place it as far as you want but wiring will get expensive because of voltage drop. More money in wire size to upgrade. Closer is better for costs. Distance is all about voltage drop.

      Secondly, standby generators can be used for days, weeks of even months. But the lifetime warranty usage of a standby is around 2000 to 3000 hours. Standby generators can last longer but depends upon maintenance. Also, there is a difference between air cooled standby generators and liquid cooled standby generators.

      Finally, I’m sure sure what you mean by “getting something more substantial.” you would need to be more specific.

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