RV adventurers who like to camp off the grid away from RV parks and campgrounds that offer shore power connections often need to rely on a generator to support them for days of boondocking.
While electricity is all fine and good, a lot of boondocking enthusiasts still complain about the noise a generator makes when it is running.
If you are tired of yelling at your family members just to be heard when sitting around the campsite, then you might be wondering how can I make my RV generator quieter?
To really solve this problem, or at least lower the decibel level on your next RV adventure, we are going to have to take a closer look at how a generator works, as well as what makes one quieter than another, and some simple tips you might want to try to make an existing camping generator quieter.
Tips For Choosing The Quietest RV Generator
Let’s assume for a moment that you don’t have an RV generator or you are in the market for a new one.
In a scenario like this, it helps to look at some of the key features and components that go into RV generators to help narrow down your selection choices.
Diesel Generators Versus Gasoline Generators
The first choice is the type of fuel the generator is designed to run on. In the past, diesel generators had a reputation for being significantly louder than the equivalent size gasoline generator.
Thankfully diesel generators have undergone a fair amount of technological evolution in recent years. To the point where many diesel generators can be quieter than gasoline.
Though this tends to be the case with high-end diesel generators. If you are looking for a new generator on a tight budget, you should expect a cheaper generator to not have the sophisticated engineering and material build quality to adequately suppress the noise it makes.
Ultimately, if you are going to go diesel, you have to go big and be willing to spend more to get a comfortable noise level at camp.
It’s also worth noting that diesel generators tend to be more fuel-efficient. This will translate into fewer refills and refueling stops.
Though diesel does tend to cost a little more per gallon than gasoline and in some parts of the country, it isn’t as readily available as gasoline.
Two-Stroke Versus Four-Stroke Generators
When we parse the choices down in the realm of gasoline generators, you have two engine types to choose from.
Two-stroke and four-stroke engines have different noise levels as well as their own pros and cons.
When it comes to the noise they produce most of the best four-stroke RV generators will be quieter than a two-stroke RV generator of relatively the same size and performance. This is due in large part to the way the two engine types produce power.
Ultimately if quietness is your top priority, and budget concerns aren’t an issue, then a four-stroke generator will be the better route for your RV and campsite generator.
Tips For Making An RV Generator Quieter
Let’s say that you already have a generator or the generator you just bought is still too loud for your liking.
You might want to consider some of the following noise reduction tips and tricks to make your RV generator quieter while camping.
Tip 1: Think About Generator Position & Placement
The exhaust pipe tends to be the loudest part of any generator. When setting up your campsite consider putting your RV generator on the other side of the RV from the main congregating area of your campsite.
Then point the opening of the exhaust pipe away from camp. Just be mindful not to point it directly at a close by neighbor, or you might end up getting a visit.
If possible, you might want to try moving your generator farther away from the RV campsite .
This isn’t always feasible if your power cable is short. Also bear in mind that power delivery starts to fade if you go more than 50-feet from the generator.
So, you still can’t daisy-chain extension cords together and hope for the best. The happy medium tends to be 20 to 25 feet away from the campsite with a commercial-grade power cable.
This will still deliver consistent power while minimizing the noise that affects your campsite.
Though here again, if you are camping in a tight campground, you want to think about your neighbors.
Tip #2 Put The Generator On A Soft Yet Level Surface
Hard flat surfaces tend to reflect sound waves back into the air, to the point where something like a concrete slab can have the effect of amplifying the noise made by the RV generator.
Whereas loose surfaces buffer and sometimes even absorb them. Setting your campsite generator on a soft surface such as gravel or grass will help absorb the sound and dampen it.
Just make sure that if you are setting it up on a soft surface that it’s relatively level. If a generator is off balance it can affect performance, leading to other unwanted mechanical issues.
Tip #3 Set The Generator On An Anti-Vibration Mat
Anti-vibration mats are made from special polymers or rubber materials that absorb vibration from mechanical equipment or reduce the stress on feet for people who have to stand in place for long hours at a time.
They also help to buffer sound from things like RV generators. So, if you can’t set your RV generator up on a soft surface, you might want to consider placing it on an anti-vibration mat.
Tip #4 Set Up Sound Deflectors
Even something as simple as placing a board or the broadside of your RV between you and the RV’s exhaust pipe will go a long way toward deflecting the sound.
Here again, you want to think about any close-by neighbors.
There are several ways to set up sound deflectors around your RV generator. Something as simple as a few 4’ X 4’ plywood handy panels or two will certainly help.
Green or brown treated plywood is ideal as it won’t succumb to water and rain the way untreated lumber or drywall will.
It’s also less prone to mold issues, which can be an issue if you are storing the sound deflectors inside your RV when traveling.
You can improvise by leaning them together like a house of cards and toe screwing or toe nailing fasteners will hold it in place.
Though if you have the time, and a little more budget, you could just as easily make some wooden “Feet” for your handy panels will let them stand up confidently.
When setting up sound deflectors like this make sure not to block the air intake, air filter, or the end of the exhaust pipe.
This could affect the engine’s performance and lead to possibly dangerous overheating issues.
Now that you have your generator placed on a soft surface, far away from your campsite, the next best thing you can do to quiet it further is to use sound deflectors.
Tip #5 Construction A Generator Baffle Box
If you are handy with the tools and materials close at hand, you might want to take the sound deflector concept to the next level by building a baffle box.
This is a little more of a production, but you are essentially creating a semi-sealed box that baffles and absorbs the sound produced by the RV generator.
Though there is some more construction to it than the sound deflector strategy.
Materials for building your own generator baffle box are as follows:
Construction a cube that is reinforced with two interior L-brackets.
Step 1: Cut the studs in half into 48-inch sections.
Step 2: Use the L-brackets to connect the handy panels to the studs. Using foam sealer or wood glue at each joint. (This will give you panels for the sidewalls and the top)
Step 3: Connect all but one of the panels together with wood screws.
Step 4: Attach the hinges and the gate latch to the remaining panel.
Step 5: Attach the door panel to the standing baffle box. (This will serve as the door)
Step 6: Use the hole saw to make holes near the air intake and the exhaust pipe.
Take your time testing this baffle box before you trust it to run on its own. The first few times you run the RV generator inside it, check it frequently with an infrared thermometer to make sure the RV generator isn’t at risk of overheating.
If you do have heat concerns, you’ll need to make more holes near the exhaust pipe or add a small 12 Volt fan to improve airflow.
Tip #6 Upgrade The Generator’s Muffler
Just like on your car or pickup truck the muffler plays a key role in dampening the noise produced by the internal combustion engine.
Most generators come with a basic small muffler near the end of the exhaust pipe.
Though this is the sort of thing that is difficult to do on your own. First off you need to source a compatible muffler, which isn’t always easy to do.
Then you have to learn how to safely modify the generator, and learn to properly weld the new muffler on. So, it’s definitely the sort of thing you want to recruit a professional for.
A certified small engine mechanic will be able to find the best muffler upgrade. They can then remove your old generator muffler and install a better one.
Depending on the make, model, and type this could reduce the noise the generator makes by around 10 to 15 decibels.
Tip #7 Improvise A Water Muffler
Water is an incompressible fluid that does an impressive job of absorbing sound waves.
One way to dampen the noise of your muffler’s exhaust system is to add a section of hose to the end of the exhaust pipe and run the exhaust coming out into a five-gallon bucket of water.
When done right, this can reduce it can reduce the noise of the RV generator’s muffler by as much as 5 to 10 decibels
Though you will need to make sure the generator is above the top of the water line in the bucket or you run the high risk of water flowing back into the generator causing massive mechanical problems.
Building Your Own Water Muffler
The good news is, you don’t need a lot of tools and equipment to build a water muffler.
There are two variations on a water muffler. Whichever one you choose, you need to make sure that the diameter of the hose is very close to or larger than the diameter of the exhaust pipe coming out of the RV generator.
This will ensure proper exhaust flow. You also need to make sure that the top of the water line is lower than the bottom of the RV generator’s exhaust pipe, to prevent water backing up into the generator’s vulnerable interior.
The easiest is to simply use hose clamps to connect a section of heavy-duty hose to the end of the generator’s muffler.
Then run the hose into the bucket of water. So that the end of the house is at least 5 to 7 inches under the water level.
The problem with this method is that the hose can sometimes kink, which reduces the necessary volume of exhaust coming out of the generator’s exhaust pipe. This can lead to major mechanical problems.
The more complicated method is to drill a hole the same diameter as the hose in the lower third of the bucket.
Then run the hose through it and seal it with copious amounts of waterproof, construction-grade bathroom caulk.
While you have little risk of kinks, you do run the risk of leaks developing in the bucket with this approach.
Right off the bat, investing in an RV generator that is already engineered for quiet running will go a long way toward keeping the decibel levels at camp low.
If you already have a generator that is a little too loud for your liking, there are a few things you can do to reduce the noise level.
Ultimately, it might be a combination of these tips that can help keep your RV generator quiet.
If you have the room and some treated handy panels nearby, then improvising some sound deflectors 20 feet away from your campsite and setting it on a soft surface might be the best way to quiet the sound your RV generator produces.
If you have the budget and you are a little bit handy, you might want to build a baffle box to enclose your RV generator. This will make it quieter and you can then position it away from your campsite.