What Is The Quietest Generator?

by Jennifer Porterfield | Last Updated: November 1, 2021
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When we’re looking at the question of which is the quietest generator, there are a few factors to consider.

What Is The Quietest Generator?

In the first place, what do we mean by “quietest”? Are we talking about relative quietness – the quietest large industrial generator? The quietest large commercial generator? The quietest portable commercially available generator?

Heck, as a species, we’re even developing electric generators small enough to be woven into cloth and stitched into the human body.

Those could probably stake a fairly unimpeachable claim to being the quietest constructed generators in the world, whether we’re talking subjectively or objectively in terms of the number of micro-decibels they produce.   

Big Generators

If we’re looking at commercially available generators, say those producing 10,000 Watts of electrical power, you’re probably looking at the Duromax XP12000EH Dual Fuel.

That’s not by any means “quiet” in the traditional sense of a low decibel count – it still puts out around 74 dBa at a quarter load. For reference purposes, that’s louder than a standard vacuum cleaner in the same room as you.

You’d have quite the job trying to get that to pass as objectively quiet – but compared to other generators of its size and power, the Duromax is where it’s at in terms of quietness.

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Small Generators

If instead we’re looking for the quietest small, portable generator that’s commonly, commercially available, the objective truth at first looks fairly straightforward – Honda is in a two-horse race with itself.

Originally, the answer would have been the Honda 662220 EU2200i, which sold itself on the basis of having a decibel level “between 48 and 57 dBa.”

On the surface, that seems like it’s all fine and dandy – there’s your answer, the Honda EU2200i.

Except.

They always say the Devil is in the detail. And that’s very much the case here, because that 9 dBa range is fairly significant.

It’s the difference between a noise level just below conversations at home and just below conversations in a restaurant with ambient background noise. The noise experience, as you can imagine, is quite different.

More than that, the waters are muddied by the fact that the noise spectrum of a generator tends to be quoted as just the lower number, whereas what you actually have are overlapping spectra.

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Discrepancy And Confusion

In that fact lies a wealth of potential for discrepancy.

After all, the Wen 56203i has stated noise levels of “51 dBa.” That again is the lowest figure in its spectrum.

Comparing an individual generator on individual days, you might find that the Honda EU2200i generator you have has a lower threshold limit of 53 dBa, compared to your Wen 56203i, which has an operating low noise point of 51 dBa.

So in your subjective, anecdotal experience of comparison between the two generators, the Wen would be the quieter of the two, despite having a noise spectrum that starts at a higher point than that of the Honda.

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Overlapping Noise Strata

The question gets even more complicated when you realize that there are not just two manufacturers and models in the running.

There are in fact a whole host of small, portable generators whose sound spectra begin within the 9 dBa range of the Honda’s potential quietness.

Not the least of which, and just to show you how perverse this sort of measurement can be, is Honda, with the model that seems to be superseding the EU2200i in popularity and availability, the EU3000iS.

This model has been variously reported to have a noise stratum with a low point of 48 dBa and 49 dBa.

Again, getting a definitive answer as to which is correct is likely to prove impossible. If we take it as 48 dBa, we can say that the more up-to-date model ties with its predecessor on the absolute low point in the decibel threshold.

If we take it as 49 dBa, it’s distinct, with its own lowest point.

But that still means it starts its noise stratum at a lower point than contenders like the Wen, the Yamaha EF2000iSv2, which posts values beginning at 51.5 dBa, and the A-iPower SUA2000iV, which, starting its stratum at 52 dBa, might be considered to be out of the running.

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But which of course technically isn’t, because the Honda EU2200i has a high point in its noise stratum of 57 dBa, so technically, all comers whose stratum begins anywhere up to that point have to be considered as the “potential” quietest generators.

So, what we learn from this is that the quietest generator can be technically stated – the Honda EU2200i if you can get one, the Honda EU3000iS if you can’t.

But we also learn from this that the quietest generator is not one thing or two, but can be any generator that, on its day, can be quieter than any other.

Given that each competitor generator can have its day compared to others, the quest for the actual “quietest generator” may be a very moveable feast.

Maybe, as we’ve seen, there’s only ever notionally a single “quietest generator” – and that, to all intents and purposes, it’s the one you own (from within a group of sub-60 dBa contenders).

It would probably help us to make meaningful judgments if we re-framed the question slightly. If we judged the quietest generator by its loudest recorded noise level, rather than its quietest.

That way, we would have a real basis for comparison – a threshold, rather than a spectrum.

So we could say, for instance, that the peak loudness of the Honda EU3000iS is 58 dBa – and by comparing the loudest each generator can be, we would be able to assemble a chart of which is most likely to be the quietest on any given day.

As it happens, that’s still likely to be the Honda EU3000iS, because it’s no coincidence that the Honda generators are quiet – they have been engineered with sound-dampening technology specifically to make them quiet, as a commercial selling point.

Other manufacturers are catching on to this idea, and so, while Honda reigns quietly supreme for the moment, any such triumph is likely to be more like the first silenced shot in a technology war to make generators quieter and less obtrusive while still delivering enough power to make them meaningful and useful as generators.

But it’s also worth bearing in mind the size of the current battlefield – the difference between conversation at home and conversation in a restaurant.

As dampening techniques improve, it’s possible we’ll hear generators getting quieter and quieter, but, with its clever technology in play ahead of the curve, we’re happy to crown the Honda EU3000iS as the quietest generator.

For now.

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