What Is a Generator Muffler, and Do You Need One?
A muffler for a portable generator makes a big difference in keeping your generator as quiet as possible, which is great for you and your friends and family – at home, at work sites or when you’re camping – as well as for your neighbors, your coworkers and other campers.
But what is a generator muffler, and do you really need one? Doesn’t any gas-powered generator already have a generator?
All good questions, and so let’s look at them a bit more closely.
What Is a Generator Muffler?
A muffler for a generator is just like a muffler for a car, truck or motorcycle – a chamber that fits onto the exhaust system, using space, flow and perforated surfaces to make engine noise much lower.
And yes, any generator you buy will already have a muffler in place, and in fact new generators have been getting better and better in this respect – any modern generator will include a super quiet muffler, and noise levels for them are really quite low.
How Loud is a Portable Generator?
How low? Well, the new generators I have tried and tested are often in the 55-60 decibel range. This is about the same sound level as normal conversation – much lower than we might expect from a gas powered engine, which is essentially what a portable generator is.
Larger generators are a bit louder, but even a high power portable generator for a big class-A RV or for home use – one with a 50 ampere electric system and outlet – will only create around 75 decibels of sound – and again especially new ones – which is also much lower than we might expect from that size of engine.
You might want to check out my article on the Quietest Generators for RVs!
In either case, if it is outside of your house or RV – never ever put one inside your RV or house, of course! – you probably won’t even notice your generator is on, and even when I am outside and near my generator I often forget it is there and running.
So, Why Do You Need a Muffler for your Generator?
Well, honestly, if you have a new or pretty recent portable generator, you don’t need to add a muffler, as your generator is probably already pretty darned quiet – in fact, as quiet as it’s going to get.
And if you have an older generator, and do need to reduce the noise, adding a muffler to an exhaust system can be a real hassle, even dangerous, can damage your generator and might not make that much difference.
I know, I know, Mr Negative here, especially when so many sites out there talk about adding a super quiet muffler for your generator, devising some kind of muffler silencer, building muffler boxes for noisy generators, or even adding / retrofitting an automotive muffler to your generator’s exhaust system.
And yeah, these things are possible, but there are a few points those articles don’t always mention.
- If you have a new generator, its own muffler has been designed and engineered specifically for that generator’s engine, to make it as quiet as it can possibly be, while still allowing the engine to work optimally and the generation of electricity to be as effective and efficient as possible. Adding any additional muffler systems to a new or newish generator will not make much difference, or any difference, and will most likely make your generator less efficient – you even run the risk of increasing output of pollution, decreasing fuel economy and possibly making your generator louder, if the retrofit isn’t done perfectly.
- If you have an old generator, which has high noise levels, the noise is not your worst problem, because that generator is probably also emitting too much exhaust and pollution, is likely using a lot more gasoline than it should, and won’t be nearly as effective at generating power. You might be able to somehow reduce the noise, but your generator is still going to have issues, and it is always recommended to replace it with a new generator – which will be much quieter, more efficient and effective, and more environmentally friendly
- Trying to weld a muffler onto any generator may well damage the generator, and is not recommended – unless you are really truly a master welder (and even then, well…). And again, it might seriously compromise the effectiveness of the gas engine and the generator
- Building a box or putting any kind of cover over a generator can overheat the generator, cause damage to it and even be a fire hazard, and is not recommended. Anyway, wooden boxes can echo and resonate, and often make more noise than they muffle, and aren’t always really practical for portable or RV usage
What Can You Do to Decrease Generator Noise?
Since I’m a bit skeptical / practical about the problems with trying to add some kind of super quiet muffler to generators, even old, noisy ones, I can at least give you some ideas about how to keep your generator as quiet as possible.
- Distance – if possible, set up your generator as far from your house or RV as possible (without, of course, moving it closer to your neighbors!) – even a few feet can make a big difference in noise levels
- Stability – set your generator up on a flat, stable surface to prevent vibration, and noise levels may decrease at least a bit
- Orientation – this is as simple as pointing the exhaust away from your RV, home or work area, which can make a noticeable difference in noise levels
- Maintenance – there’s not a lot of maintenance involved with a single cylinder gas engine, but definitely make sure to regularly change the oil, and start and run your generator periodically when it’s not getting regular use
But again, if you really need a quiet generator, your best course of action is almost certainly to let your old unit, beloved though it may be, putter off to generator heaven, and purchase a new generator – they are super-quiet, very effective and a joy to use, and they are much more environmentally friendly.