The best quiet portable generator
Generators are often known for being loud, dirty and heavy machines. However, these days there are many quiet and easily portable models that dispel those notions.
If you plan on running appliances or electronics throughout the night, a gas generator like the Honda EU1000i is going to be the best choice. This model in particular stands out for its reliability and ideal balance of portability and power. Below, find out more about portable generators and how to choose the most quiet option for your needs.
What to know before you buy a quiet portable generator
Gas generators vs. solar generators
Gas and solar generators stand out as the best two options for portable applications. Of these, gas wins in the power-generation department, while solar wins for quiet operation. You’ll have to determine which of these is most important to you before making a purchase decision.
Portable gas generators can be used to power small AC units, toasters and other high-draw appliances. However, even the quietest ones are loud enough that you’ll want to place them at least 20 feet away if possible. Another big benefit of gas generators is that you can run them all night long if necessary by simply refilling the tank.
Solar generators don’t make any noise during operation, so you could comfortably place one inside of a tent right next to you to power a fan while sleeping. However, most are not suitable for demanding applications. This is because they store a limited amount of power and do not recharge as quickly as high-draw appliances can deplete them. Also, once they run out of stored energy, you won’t have any power left until the next morning when the sun comes up.
If considering a gas-powered generator, it is important to pay close attention to the decibel rating, as this will tell you how loud a particular model gets. You should note that the rating given is at a certain load, most often 25%. This means that if running the generator at 50% or 75% of capacity, it will get louder than the stated decibels. Gas-powered generators rated at less than 60 decibels at 25% load can be classified as quiet.
When buying a generator, the output is one of the most important aspects to consider. The last thing you want is to wind up with a model that doesn’t offer enough power for your needs. Gas-powered generators have two output ratings: peak and continuous. The stated wattage you see in product listings is nearly always peak power, and continuous running power is somewhere between 10% and 25% less than that. Continuous running power will also be listed somewhere in the product specifications.
For solar generators, there is a peak output and a watt-hours rating. The peak output refers to the highest amount of power they can output, while the watt-hours rating refers to the amount of stored energy in the battery. For example, the Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000 has a 1,002 watt-hour rating and a 2,000-watt peak output. This means it could potentially run an appliance that uses 2,000 watts for up to 30 minutes before its power would be depleted.
Quiet portable generator features
The number and type of outlets determine how many and what kind of appliances and electronics you can connect to a generator. The most common outlets are standard AC outlets and USB Type-A ports. Some models may also have USB Type-C ports, 12-volt DC outlets, grounded three-prong AC outlets, NEMA L14-30 twist lock outlets and others.
Some gas-powered portable generators have an eco-mode that enables them to automatically adjust the engine speed to match the power demands. This extends the run time and also allows for quieter operation when the energy demands are low. On some models, this is referred to as an eco-throttle.
Fuel gauges make it easy to estimate how much run time is left before the generator needs to be refilled with gas, or in the case of solar generators, recharged.
Running an engine without oil can lead to serious damage. To reduce the chances of this happening, some gas-powered generators have a low-oil indicator that alerts you if the oil levels are too low for safe operation.
Parallel connector ports
Generators can only be so large and powerful before they are no longer considered portable. Because of this, there may be times when a single portable generator doesn’t produce enough power for your needs. To solve this problem, many manufacturers equip their models with parallel connector ports that allow you to daisy chain two generators together to double the output.
Quiet portable generator cost
Solar generators cost between $150 and $1,000 and will usually have between 200 and 1,000-watt hours of power. Portable gas generators cost between $300 and $2,500 and will range between a 1,000- and 3,000-watt output. After that point, they become too large and heavy to be considered easily portable.
Quiet portable generator FAQ
Can I use a generator indoors?
A. Gas generators should never be used indoors because they release carbon monoxide, which can be lethal if continuously inhaled. Instead, place your gas generator outside in a well-ventilated area and run an extension cord inside to your devices and appliances. Conversely, solar generators don’t release any fumes and can be used indoors.
Can I run a laptop from a generator?
A. If you plan on running a laptop or other sensitive electronics from a gas generator, it is important to choose an inverter generator. These produce a stable sine wave rather than one with peaks and troughs that could potentially damage a laptop when the power spikes. All solar generators produce a stable sine wave.
Which quiet portable generator should I get?
Best of the best quiet portable generator
Our take: The Honda EU1000i is one of the quietest gas-powered generators and it offers the perfect balance of portability and power for most users.
What we like: It is a top choice for liveaboard sailors because of its ability to withstand harsh salty air, and it is equipped with wheels for added convenience. Plus, it can be daisy-chained to a second unit if you need more power.
What we dislike: It is expensive for the output.
Best bang for your buck quiet portable generator
Our take: If you place a higher priority on portability and quiet operation than output, this 150-watt Goal Zero Yeti model is for you.
What we like: It only weighs 12 pounds, so pretty much anyone can easily carry it with one hand, and the helpful fuel gauge tells you at a glance how much battery is left.
What we dislike: It is only suitable for small devices like phones and laptops.
Honorable mention quiet portable generator
Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 1000: available at Amazon
Our take: The Jackery Explorer 1000 is one of the few solar generators powerful enough for mini fridges and blenders.
What we like: It has a durable construction that makes it ideal for camping and other rugged outdoor adventures, and it operates completely silently.
What we dislike: It lacks a three-prong grounded outlet.
Brett Dvoretz is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.