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.

DuroMax XP12000EH Generator-12000 Watt Gas or Propane...
4,536 Reviews
DuroMax XP12000EH Generator-12000 Watt Gas or Propane...
  • Powerful DuroMax Engine: the XP12000EH is powered by a DuroMax, 457cc OHV engine.
  • Dual fuel technology: the ability to run on propane or gasoline allows the freedom and flexibility of fuel choice.
  • Plenty of power: with 12,000 starting watts and 9, 500 running watts, This unit can handle heavy loads from lights and a refrigerator to a home air conditioner and high amperage power tools.
  • Maximum power: with DuroMax MX2 technology, get the maximum power from each of the 120 volt receptacle. Choose between operating the generator at both 120 V and 240 V Simultaneously, or at 120 only with full power.
  • Powering everyone anywhere: like all DuroMax generators, the XP12000EH is EPA and CARB approved For use in all 50 States.

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.

Honda 662220 EU2200i 2200 Watt Portable Inverter Generator
1,492 Reviews
Honda 662220 EU2200i 2200 Watt Portable Inverter Generator
  • This popular model can operate a wide variety of appliances, making it perfect for portable use at home, camping, on the job site, or much more. Reliable Power is now at your fingertips with Honda's Inverted Generators.
  • So quiet, your neighbors will thank you. The EU2200i operates at 48 to 57 dBA, which is less noise than a normal conversation. This makes it ideal for camping, supplemental RV power and any other activity that requires quiet operation.
  • Add a second EU2200i for additional power. Two identical models can be paralleled with an optional cable or cord for up to 4400 watts of power, or time-consuming applications.
  • Thanks to our exclusive Eco-Throttle System, the EU2200i offers great fuel efficiency. Runs 4.0 to 9.6 hours on a single tank, depending on the load. This makes it the ideal choice for overnight power, or long-time applications.
  • Honda's inverter technology means stable, clean power in a smaller, lighter package. The precision of Honda's inverter technology ensures our inverter generators produce power that is as reliable as the power you get from your outlets at home.

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.

Are we having quiet fun yet?

WEN 56203i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator...
2,770 Reviews
WEN 56203i Super Quiet 2000-Watt Portable Inverter Generator...
  • Ultralight body weighs in at a mere 39 pounds for easy transport and storage
  • Extremely quiet operation comparable to the sound of a normal conversation according to the US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Produces 2000 surge watts and 1700 rated watts of clean power for safe charging of sensitive electronics (phones, tablets, televisions, computers, etc.)
  • Fuel shutoff maximizes the generator’s lifespan by using up the remaining fuel in the carburetor before shutting down
  • Includes two three-prong 120V receptacles, one 12V DC receptacle, two 5V USB ports, and a two-year warranty

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.

A-iPower SUA2000iV 2000 Watt Portable Inverter Generator Gas...
1,493 Reviews
A-iPower SUA2000iV 2000 Watt Portable Inverter Generator Gas...
  • Produces 2,000 starting watts with 1,600 running watts of clean and safe power for sensitive electronics such as phones, televisions, laptops, and other electronics
  • Complete with A-iPower’s “Low idle” technology for an extended run time of 4 hours at 100% load and 7 hours at 50% load
  • Equipped with a low oil alert light and low oil automatic shutdown, helping keep your generator performing year after year
  • Powerful 79cc OHV 4-Stroke engine provides an abundant power supply yet runs at a super quiet operation of only 52 decibels
  • Light weight and compact at only 48 pounds, making your tailgate or camping experience as smooth as possible

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.