By Bob Beacham | Updated Dec 20, 2021 12:27 AM
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Generators can provide emergency electricity in the event of a blackout, run power tools on the job site, and deliver affordable energy for necessities when you’re camping or RVing.
The quietest generators are usually inverter generators which have a computer-controlled inverter, are compact, have small, efficient motors, advanced mufflers, and great fuel-efficiency. While a traditional generator runs at the same speed, an inverter generator self-regulates and the power delivery is more consistent.
It can be difficult to pick the best quiet generator to have on standby. The following recommendations will help clarify their capabilities, so you can be confident in making the right choice.
A variety of important factors go into selecting the best quiet generator for your backup power needs. The info below will help narrow down a unit that provides enough power, portability, and operates at a low decibel.
Wattage should be the most critical factor as you shop. Generators come in different wattage ratings and the higher the wattage rating, the higher the power output. Higher wattages usually mean larger, more expensive units, but quiet generators are usually compact and small, providing moderate power output for laptops, smartphones, and other small devices.
Those in the 1,000- to 1,600- watt range are great for camping and job site use, but not for home backup. For that you need a minimum 2,000 watts (which will run an oven or large refrigerator) although you’ll want 3,000 watts or more to run several items concurrently. Every electrical device has a label with the watts rating on it which may help when deciding which generator to buy.
Quiet inverter generators typically use gasoline as a fuel source, and dual fuel generators can run on propane as well. This is a big advantage, as it allows you to choose the fuel you use based on your needs, such as power output requirements, fuel availability in your area, and the fuel type that you have on hand.
Inverter generators have an isolated gasoline tank with a fuel capacity that ranges from as small as 2 gallons to more than 10 gallons. The larger the fuel tank is on the generator, the longer it will be able to provide gasoline-based power, but the size of the generator itself also increases.
Fuel capacity has no bearing on how much propane you can use with the generator; propane gas is stored under pressure in canisters, which attach to the generator with a hose and pressure regulator for direct fuel consumption.
Quiet inverter generators are roughly half as noisy compared to large or open-framed models, often in the 50 to 60 dB range. To better understand generator noise output, consider these common sounds and their equivalent operating dB level:
The quietest generators also use sensors to detect how much power they need to expend, throttling down for smaller loads and producing lower noise levels. Your neighbors, either at home or a campground, will appreciate that you purchased a quiet inverter generator over a noisy, open-framed model.
Physical size and weight will also be a factor for some shoppers to consider. Since these units are meant to provide power where you need it, small inverter generators are usually top-handled or side-handled units that can be picked up with one hand and carried with ease, as they’re typically lightweight at about 40 to 50 pounds.
Heavier units weighing up to 100 pounds come with wheel kits to make portability easier. Both constructions are compact enough to bring to the campsite, stow in the car, or keep in the garage when you need the backup power.
The quietest portable generators can be equipped with features that make their operation as convenient as possible. These include:
The following products, selected according to the shopping considerations above, represent some of the best quiet generators on the market. Whatever your needs may be, there’s likely to be a generator on this list that’ll hit the mark.
Generators have two ratings: one for startup watts (most electrical devices produce an initial surge) and one for running watts. The latter is usually significantly lower—a drop of as much as 25 percent in real-world performance—but the efficiency of the Honda unit is underlined by a mere 10 percent difference. That makes the EU3000iS with its 2800 running wattage equally useful at home or on the go.
It runs at between 49 and 58 decibels, which is quiet enough for campsite use. You’ll get anywhere from seven hours to as much as 20 hours on one 3.4-gallon tank of gas. Though this model doesn’t score well with fuel consumption, starting is easy, and the motor has both overload protection and low oil alert. There’s no dedicated USB port, but you can always run the required charger off one of the 120V household sockets.
If you’re looking for quiet power on the go but don’t care to spend a fortune, consider this portable inverter generator from A-iPower. For a low-cost quiet generator, it’s certainly not under-specified. With two 120V outlets and a 5V USB port, this generator produces clean, safe, quiet power for computers, tablets, and other personal electronics. A low-idle mode increases fuel efficiency, and there are the usual overload and low oil alerts.
With a start-up rating of 2,000 watts, the A-ipower’s true running figure is 1600 watts. That’s perhaps less than you’d want for home backup, but it’s more than acceptable for powering personal devices on a camping trip. At 50 pounds it’s not particularly heavy, and at 52 decibels it won’t drown out your campfire conversations.
Many inverter generators are great for mobile power but struggle with home backup or RV use, where traditional models dominate. With a running output of 3,700 watts, the Briggs & Stratton P4500 offers a cleaner, quieter alternative. At 61 decibels it’s a bit louder than some other inverter generators, but it still meets most camping and residential restrictions.
As you might expect, there are numerous outlets, including four 120V/20A, a dedicated 30A RV supply, and two USB ports. Smart technology means the motor adjusts to demands, and a carbon monoxide detector shuts the generator off if concentrations get dangerously high in an enclosed area.
Electric start makes the Briggs & Stratton easy to live with, and there’s an LCD readout for important functions.
The Westinghouse 1,000-watt iGen1200 is a fine example of a low-cost portable inverter generator for those with modest demands. In addition to its minimal weight, a 52 decibel sound level makes this portable model among the quietest generators in its class.
You wouldn’t expect electronic ignition on a budget generator like this, but the 54 cubic centimeter motor is a breeze to start anyway. The 0.8-gallon tank gives enough fuel to run for up to nine hours, and its low fuel consumption makes it CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliant—the most stringent standard in the U.S.
Despite its compact size, the Westinghouse is not short of outlets, with two 120V/20A household sockets and two USBs that provide a clean, consistent power supply to your electronic gadgets. Low oil and overload warnings are also provided.
Although today’s modern quiet portable generators are much less intimidating than older equipment, their operation isn’t always as straightforward as it could be. For users who choose this portable inverter generator from Generac, that’s not the case.
Push-button starting means generating power couldn’t be easier, and a multifunction LCD screen shares information on the generator’s fuel level, watts output, and—particularly useful—the run time remaining before refueling. This generator includes two standard household main outlets, an RV connection, and two USB ports.
At 109 pounds it’s not lightweight, but at 3,000 watts running power, it’s a small price to pay for the performance and versatility it offers. Generac doesn’t publish decibel levels for its portable generators, but it does promise to run 40 percent more quietly than its Honda competitors.
The introduction of clean air legislation started in California in the late 1960s, and CARB standards have now been adopted in 16 states. Basically, if a manufacturer’s machinery doesn’t comply—and many high-performance generators do not—they cannot be sold in those regions.
The competitively priced WEN is CARB and EPA compliant while providing an impressive 1,800 watts of running output. It’s a very quiet generator at only 53 decibels, and it weighs just 48.5 pounds. There are also two 120V household outlets, one 12V DC outlet, one USB, and the usual overload and oil pressure warning lights.
Champion’s inverter generator is an ideal option for quiet campsites or homes with neighbors close by because it produces just 53 dB of sound while in operation. That’s about the same as the hum of a refrigerator. It also produces 2,000 starting watts and running 1,600 watts, providing enough power for a few small devices.
A 1.1-gallon tank allows it to run continuously for up to 11 hours. On a 20-pound propane tank, it will run for 24 hours straight. It produces 1,600 watts of running power and 2,000 watts of peak power on gasoline or 1,440 and 1,800 watts on propane. This 48-pound generator includes two 120-volt standard household outlets and one 12-volt DC outlet.
While a generator with the flexibility to cope with changing power demands isn’t uncommon, few match the P2200’s durability and quiet, reliable performance.
The standout feature with the P2200 is that by using a cable (sold separately) you can attach another compatible model, thus doubling the power available. You double the outlets, too. This allows you to start with a single, relatively affordable unit and add extra if your needs increase—and possibly for less money than if you bought a 3400W model at the outset.
The P2200 offers 1700 running watts and is rated at 59 decibels. It’s not the lightest at 55 pounds, but the clever H-handle allows two people to carry it. Two 120V household sockets and a 12V DC outlet that doubles as two USB ports offer plenty of versatility.
During emergencies, camping trips, or when Rving, there are a wide variety of quiet portable generators to choose from. For high 2,800-watt power output, multiple outlet types included, and quiet 49-58 decibel operation, the gas-powered Honda EU3000iS is capable of running for 7-20 hours on one full tank and comes with a low oil alert and shutoff. Though not fuel efficient, it is reliable and effective.
As a strong contender for when you don’t have ample gasoline around, the dual fuel Champion Power Equipment generator runs at 53 decibels and can run for up to 24 hours on a 1.1-gallon gas tank.
The quietest portable generators can help keep your devices charged, RV’s AC units cool, and small appliances running without making too much noise. While sleeping at a campsite or when in ear-shot of residential areas, quiet generators operate on 49-61 decibel volume levels.
Many of the quiet portable generators available have sufficient wattage to power devices, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 watts provided. Select models are powered by gasoline only, while others also offer the versatility of dual fuel capabilities. Parallel connection is also available in a few generators, though the kits or cords are often sold separately. Convenience is also prioritized with carbon monoxide detectors, easy-to-use electric starts, built-in handles, or LED/LCD screens for monitoring.
Since many of these models are inverter generators, portability is also an important factor. Most are lightweight and have compact designs, while others may be too heavy for some to carry. Finally, each of the above quiet generators comes with a variety of outlets including household sockets, USB ports, RV outlets, or even DC outlets.
Looking for more information about the quietest portable generators available? Consider the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this particular type of generator.
Since many generators on the market operate at loud volumes, a generator can qualify as a quiet option if it runs at under 60 dB.
Inverter generators don’t use alternators, like typical open-framed models might and which require the engine to work harder and produce more heat. For that reason, inverter generator engines run more quietly. In addition, manufacturers can close them inside plastic housing for even better noise control without overheating.
Just like your car, a generator’s engine requires periodic maintenance. This includes routine oil changes (after 20 hours of use for a brand-new generator and every 100 hours of use afterward), cleaning the air filter after 100 hours of operation, and ensuring that you run it for 20 or 30 minutes at least once every three months.
It isn’t recommended to run a generator continuously. Models that rely on gas should not run after their standard runtime which can be determined by their weight, tank size, and power consumption.
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