With our modern dependency on electrical power, when an outage happening it can range from inconvenient to life-threatening. Thus, every home should have a portable or standby generator for electrical power when the utility suffers a failure.
The only problem with having a generator is the noise. By their very nature generators can generate a large amount of noise even those considered “quiet” by manufacturer standards. While there are ways to reduce this noise, it is not something that should be taken lightly as generators can suffer damage or can injure someone if handled improperly.
Word To The Wise
The best way to quiet a generator is to apply a soundproofing enclosure around the generator. However, this is not as simple as it sounds. For one, generators produce a generous amount of fumes and all manufacturers warn not to use a generator in an enclosed space. To use an enclosure for a generator, it has to be small enough to fit over the generator but not restrict the generator in any way and it has to keep you out for the most part. The best way is to build one that fits over the generator but does not touch the generator and will still allow air to flow in and out. Some companies do offer alternatives such as unique mufflers but honestly, these very rarely perform as advertised. The point being, know what you are getting into before trying to quiet your generator.
Whatever material you chose to construct an enclosure from must be fire resistant. Generators will produce plenty of heat while running and if the heat is not removed it can destroy the generator and catch the enclosure ablaze. Additionally, don’t use a conductive material like metal. While fire resistant, it is not electrical resistant and if a problem does occur it can become energized and thus can injure or kill a person who touches it. Fire-resistant fiberglass or plexiglass are the best options.
Insulate The Enclosure
The enclosure should allow a minimum of six inches from the generator itself. This means the distance from the insulation to the generator. You want to insulate the enclosure to function as an additional fire protective layer and add more sound dampening. The insulation should be a high quality, fire resistant, heat resistant material and you can use industrial glue to attach it to the inside of your enclosure. You can build your enclosure without insulation but considering you have to have airflow, it will become apparent why you want the additional sound dampening from the insulation.
Cut Air Holes
Obviously, your generator needs to remove heat but it also has to breathe. Your generator needs fresh, clean air to continue to function. Therefore, your enclosure should have a row of air holes near the bottom and the top to allow the fumes and heat to escape and allow fresh air in. The best enclosures often have a battery powered or generator powered DC fans on the top of the enclosure that forces air into the box and out the bottom row of air holes. Combined with the sound dampening of the insulation, this allows for a generous airflow thus allowing the heat to come out the bottom holes without increasing the sound generation.
Safety First, Quality Second, Cost Third
When constructing your generator enclosure, as mentioned, don’t skimp on the materials. The better materials, and the right design, the happier you will be and the safer you will be. You don’t have to be a mechanical genius to build an enclosure but you do want to get it right the first time. This also means you want to be able to safely run your generator or use it without having to stand over it.
The Generator Counts
Having an enclosure works well to quiet a generator but it helps if the generator produces less noise. Getting a quiet generator from the outset is generally a good idea as you have less noise to get rid of. At the same time, if you plan on enclosing a generator, there are some features to consider. One is an automatic low oil shutdown. Some have warning lights but it is better to have one that will automatically shut off in the case of low oil to protect the unit. Also, consider one with a wireless remote and electric starting. Other features like overload protection, circuit breakers for each circuit and load throttling are additional features for a generator that would work well in an enclosure setting.
Look At Other Enclosures
Another good idea is to look at other people’s endeavors to reduce generator noise. There are even some companies that will sell enclosures but that is really your choice. However, getting an idea of what works and doesn’t work for other generators helps give you an overall idea about how well they work at reducing noise and how safe they really are.
Quieting a noisy generator can range from challenging to easy, depending on numerous factors and each situation is different. What is important is that you practice safety first. Don’t get into an enclosure with a generator and make sure your generator can get plenty of airflow and heat can be removed.
When building and designing your enclosure, always err on the side of caution. Having a quiet generator is great but don’t risk you or your friends and families lives.