Which quiet portable generators are best?

Generators are notoriously loud, dirty and heavy, all features that generally mean they aren’t ideal for taking on the go or setting up close to a location where you or other people will be spending any significant amount of time. Thankfully, these days, there are many models that weigh less than 30 pounds and that make little to no noise.

If you have high power needs, you’ll want to go with a traditional gas-powered generator like the Honda EU1000i Inverter Generator. This model can handle demanding appliances, yet is still reasonably quiet and portable, topping out at 59 decibels under max load and weighing just 27 pounds. For smaller devices like laptops, phones and other low-power applications, a solar generator may be all you need. These compact devices can weigh as little as 10 pounds and make essentially no noise.

What to know before you buy a quiet portable generator

Solar vs. gas

Generators can be powered by one of three fuel types: solar energy, gasoline or propane. When it comes to portable models, gas and solar are the two best options. Without a doubt, solar models stand out above gasoline generators when it comes to noise because they’re almost completely silent. However, solar generators can’t compete with gas models when it comes to output. Also, unlike with solar generators, you can easily refill the fuel tank on gas models anytime you want to continue powering your devices all day or all night long. You’ll have to decide which aspects of a generator are most important for your needs. 

Output

Every generator has a maximum output that dictates how many or what kind of devices and appliances it can power. This is rated in watts, and the more watts a generator can output, the more demanding appliances it can power. You can get an idea of how much power you need by looking at the ratings on the devices and appliances you plan on connecting to your generator. It should be noted that the advertised rating on most generators is the peak power output. The continuous running power output may be anywhere from 10%-20% less.

Runtime

The runtime of both solar and gas generators is dependent on their load. On solar generators, this is specified as watt-hours. If you have a 500 watt-hour solar generator and wanted to run a 40-watt light bulb, you could do so for 12.5 hours before you would run out of juice.

 

On gas generators, the estimated runtime is listed by the manufacturer in the product description. It’s nearly always advertised at a quarter load. For example, you may see a 2,000 peak-watt generator with 1,600 running watts stated as having a 10-hour runtime at a quarter load. This means it could run for 10 hours while powering a 400-watt device before running out of gas.

What to look for in a quality quiet portable generator

Outlets and ports

Portable generators can have any mix of outlets and ports. These include two- and three-prong outlets, 12-volt DC ports and Type-A and Type-C USB ports. The more outlets and ports a generator has, the more devices you can power at one time. You’ll still need to keep in mind the maximum output of a generator, as this will also play a role in how many devices and appliances you can power simultaneously.

Eco-mode

Generators with an eco-mode can automatically adjust their engine speed based on the load. This can significantly increase the runtime from a single tank of gas because the generator will be running more efficiently and only producing the amount of power it needs.

Fuel gauge

Both gas and solar power generators can be equipped with a fuel gauge. In the former, it may be an analog gauge or digital display, while in the latter it’s always in the form of a digital display. If you purchase a gas-powered generator that doesn’t have a fuel gauge, you’ll need to remove the fuel cap and slosh the tank around a little bit while peering inside to get an idea of how much gas is left.

Low-oil pressure indicator

Running a gas-powered generator with low oil pressure can cause severe and sometimes irreparable damage to its engine. Purchasing a model that features a low-oil indicator can reduce the chances of this happening.

Parallel connector ports

If you want a small and lightweight generator for portable use but sometimes know that you’ll need more output than a portable model can offer, consider purchasing two generators that feature parallel connector ports. This allows you to take just one along for portable use when you don’t have very high power needs, and then bring both when you have greater energy needs and connect them in parallel to power-demanding appliances.

How much can you expect to spend on a quiet portable generator

If purchasing a solar portable generator, expect to spend $100-$1,000, depending on your power needs. You’ll spend additional money on solar panels too. For a portable gas-powered generator, you can expect to spend $300-$2,000.

Quiet portable generator FAQ

Is it safe to use a generator indoors?

A. Gas and propane generators should never be used indoors because they release noxious fumes that can cause you to get sick or even potentially die if you inhale too much. Conversely, solar generators don’t release any fumes and can be used indoors or outdoors.

Can I power sensitive electronics like phones and laptops from a generator?

A. You can use a generator to charge sensitive electronics as long as it’s an inverter generator. These produce stable sine waves so you don’t have to worry about harming your device.

What’s the best quiet portable generator to buy?

Top quiet portable generator

Honda EU1000i Inverter Generator

Honda EU1000i Inverter Generator

What you need to know: Those looking for a quiet and lightweight gas-powered model will be hard-pressed to do better than the EU1000i.

What you’ll love: It can run for 8 hours on half a gallon of gas and tops out at just 59 decibels when running at full load. It stands up to harsh elements well.

What you should consider: It carries a high price tag for a generator that only produces 1,000 watts of power.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Top quiet portable generator for the money

Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Generator

Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Generator

What you need to know: It may not be the most powerful option, but the Yeti 150 is impressively compact and easy to take on the go.

What you’ll love: It can be recharged via solar panels, a 12-volt car outlet or standard AC power. Also, its square shape and retractable handle means it packs well into overstuffed vehicles.

What you should consider: It’s best for charging small devices like laptops and phones and wouldn’t be suitable for appliances or high-wattage light bulbs.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Worth checking out

Jackery Explorer 1000 Solar Generator

Jackery Explorer 1000 Solar Generator

What you need to know: Offering a high capacity for a solar model, the Jackery is ideal for those trying to go green but who still have high power needs.

What you’ll love: It makes absolutely no noise, so you could easily use it inside your tent without being disturbed. Plus, it has several outlets and ports for hooking up multiple devices at the same time.

What you should consider: There are some complaints of the company offering poor customer support.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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