There are a few things as relaxing as sitting around a campfire under the open skies and just enjoying nature at its best. That is until someone starts the generator and it sounds like a Saturday morning lawn mower.
Not only is the noise annoying to you and your fellow campers, nature doesn’t appreciate it either.
So what can you do? Well, obviously you could go without power but where is the fun in that? You could purchase a quiet generator, but what a manufacturer calls quiet and what you call quiet are often not the same thing. However, there are some steps you can take to make a generator quiet for camping.
If you are not mechanically inclined you should not attempt to quiet a generator. At the same time, taking the described steps require you to enclose the generator and as such it can be dangerous. You should never run a generator in an enclosed space, that you can inhabit or enter. If you are not familiar with the dangers associated with small engines and generators, your best bet is to try to purchase a quiet generator. Having a good night sleep is not worth risking your life if you don’t know what you are doing.
Build A Baffle Box
The only true way to quiet a generator, beyond trying to buy one that is already quiet, is to build a baffle box. A baffle box is an enclosure that goes around the outside of a generator that keeps the sound confined inside. They are effective at reducing the noise significantly, however, they have to be constructed carefully to prevent damage to the generator and to mitigate any potential hazards.
Building The Box
Building the box is relatively simple as often people use wood. However, wood can catch fire and since this box will contain the noise it will also contain the heat. The best boxes are made from thick, heat resistant, plexiglass panels that are connected by screwing in L-shaped brackets. This makes the box lighter than wood and the box is less likely to catch fire. Each one of the panels then has thick, fireproof, insulation attached to provide the sound dampening ability. It is important to secure the insulation to the plexiglass with heat tolerate adhesives and a wire covering that will prevent the insulation from coming into contact with the generator. You must make sure the measurements ensure the unit can fit over the generator and there is plenty of room for air to circulate along the sides and top of the generator.
Add Air Holes
Your generator, like a pet, can’t survive without air for long. In addition, the heat must be allowed to escape from the enclosure. Optimally, you cut holes in the top of the baffle box and fit these holes with battery powered fans to force air into the enclosure and have a row of holes on the bottom of the baffle box for the air to be forced out of. This is called a forced air baffle box and it helps to keep the unit running smoothly while removing any excess heat. You may also put the fan holes on the side with the heat exit holes on the top for efficiency but this tends to allow more sound to escape reducing the ability of the box to quiet the generator.
All generators have controls and these controls should be checked periodically during generator operation. For your baffle box, be sure to cut an access to these controls. You can place a thick rubber flap or an easily lifted plexiglass lid over this access point. This allows you to access the controls, make adjustments and respond if necessary without having to remove the box from the generator. Some generators have wireless remote access but even with those generators, having an access point that you can reach through is still generally considered a good idea.
Don’t Cheap Out
Some people will use cheap, inexpensive, vinyl tubs to cover their generator to make them quiet. As previously mentioned, some will use wood. Importantly, don’t cheap out and use materials that can create hazards for you or others. Use only heat resistant materials and make sure to test everything before you use it. Many use generators while they are asleep, so if this is going to happen you want to make sure your can rest safely without having to worry about your generator catching the enclosure on fire. Some other things to consider is making sure your generator is the type that is equipped with plenty of safety features like an automatic low oil shutdown, overload protection, and a spark arrestor. It should also be approved for use in campgrounds.
A baffle box is the most efficient way to reduce the noise, outside buying a super quiet generator and even then it is subjective on how quiet the generator really is. Just make sure to construct your baffle box with the right materials and making sure it is resistant to a lot of heat and you provide for plenty of air flow. Under no circumstance should you put your head in the enclosure along with the generator running, even if you have a side open. Whatever you do, do not attempt to fuel the generator with the baffle box on.
The heat can cause vapors to ignite. Remove the box and let the generator cool down before your refuel it and allow any vapors from spills to dissipate before putting the box back on. As long as you practice safety first, you can have electrical power and a quiet generator.