Generator At Night: Good Idea or Bad


A lot of people who live off grid or who have an RV find themselves without the need for electricity throughout most of the day, but when night time comes, the need for electricity to power lights, perhaps a TV or computer to wind down almost becomes a necessity. 

A Generator seems to be a common, affordable solution to provide that power.  But, Is it ok to run a Generator at night?

It is safe to run a generator at night, but there are several things to keep in mind: safety, noise level, and fuel consumption.  There could be a malfunction with your generator while you are asleep, your neighbors might get annoyed, and depending on where it is located, emissions can be a hazard.

Some generators are better suited for operating at night than others, so if you’re looking to purchase a new generator, I have a recommendation.

But what if you already have a generator and it is really, really loud? I have some tips for helping you reduce the noise level so read on.


Related: The future is today and it comes in the form of the Jackery Solar Powered Generator. Virtually noiseless and emission free, the Jackery Solar Generator is perfect for those looking for the quietest generator to run at night.

Jackery Solar GeneratorOpens in a new tab.


How Loud Is Your Generator?

Most generators produce anywhere from 50-80 decibels of noise, depending on the make and model.

Generally, higher-quality generators don’t make as much noise, sitting around the 50-60 decibel range, which isn’t too loud; think a vacuum cleaner or a home washing machine on the final spin-cycle. Yes, it makes noise but it’s generally a steady hum.

Once you get up into the 80 decibel range, you’re looking at a noise level that can be bothersome, to you, your partner, even your neighbors. 

Running a generator that produces 80 decibels of noise at night could be a cause for complaint, much like someone blasting their sound system from across the yard. If this is you, try some of my tips for quieting your generator.

Diesel generators are louder than other gas-powered generators.

Ways To Make Your Generator More Quiet

Just pushing your generator further away from the house may not be the solution. Instead, look for ways to safely muffle the noise, based on an understanding of how sound travels.

  1. Check Your Exhaust Pipes

The exhaust on your generator should be pointing away from living areas and where people will be. This is just basic safety, but it also means that most of the noise generated by the exhaust is pointing away from people, too.

There are also specially-designed mufflers you can purchase and attach to your generator’s exhaust pipe in order to reduce noise levels even further. Check your generator’s make and model and see if you can purchase an appropriate muffler.

This is not the time to DIY something, the results could be fatal. If you’re interested in getting a muffler, you should purchase one from a reputable seller that is designed for your generator.

  1. Put A Mat Underneath Your Generator.

Obviously, you cannot block airflow around your generator (more about the dangers of carbon monoxide, below), but you can significantly reduce the amount of noise your generator creates by absorbing some of it. 

What you’re doing here is not muffling the noise of the generator’s exhaust, but reducing the vibrations created by the engine. 

If your generator is sitting in the driveway or atop concrete slab, then a quick fix is to put a large, rubber mat or a piece of plywood underneath the generator.

  1. A Loose Structure That Allows For Movement Of Air.

The idea here is to reflect sound back around the generator, thus reducing the noise-level. However, you don’t want something so secure around your generator that air isn’t able to move freely, either; lack of airflow could cause your generator to overheat.

A large box that sits behind your generator (but does not fully enclose it), or staggered walls around your generator could achieve this result by reflecting back some of the generator’s noise, but not stopping air flow.

  1. Muffling With Water

The easiest trick for reducing noise with a generator isn’t very complicated, but should be done with care.  A hose and a bucket of water are all that you need. 

Connect a hose to your generator’s exhaust and channel it into a bucket of water a few feet away from your generator. (I suggest filling a 5 gallon bucket half-way with water, not up to the brim. Don’t use a smaller bucket, only a 5-gallon or larger).

When you start your generator, the noise from the exhaust will make a gurgling noise in the bucket of water, but much quieter than the generator would produce on its own.

Don’t allow any children or animals to play near or around this bucket of water, because the generator’s exhaust fumes are still present.

Related: Is It Safe To Run A Refrigerator On A Generator?Opens in a new tab.

Can You Sleep With A Generator Running?

I wouldn’t suggest it. If you sleep with a generator running all night you will be risking several things: your health and damaging your generator.

The biggest risk with sleeping while a generator is running is carbon monoxide. This invisible, odorless gas is lethal. If you’re asleep, you won’t be able to know if something unexpected happens with your generator: if an animal knocks into it, it runs out of gas, etc. 

Of course, generators must only be operated outdoors (never inside of a garage or within an enclosed space), precisely because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Also, the generator will still be using fuel all night long, and if you’re sleeping you won’t be using most of the power that the generator is producing, anyway. In most cases, you would just be wasting fuel, when you could start the generator in the morning and do all the same things.

If your generator does accidentally run out of diesel or gas during the night? You’ve potentially damaged it.

How Much Gas Does A Generator Use?

The difference here is what type of fuel your generator uses; regular gas, diesel, or solar. You’ve also got to consider the load running off your generator.

There are solar-powered generators that don’t use any gas at all! Read more about them here.

Diesel generators typically use less fuel than gas-powered generators (about half a gallon per hour), but budget-wise, you may spend the same amount of money as you would for a gas-powered generator, since diesel is more expensive. 

While we are on the topic of noise level, let me remind you diesel generators are louder than gas ones. If you’ve realized the end price may be the same, perhaps noise level will help you make your decision between a gas or diesel generator.

Gas generators usually consume less than a full gallon of gas for each hour they run (around ¾ of a gallon). But, you’ve still got to consider the load on your generator: if you have a 5000 watt generator powering 4,600 watts, you’re going to burn more fuel than if you are running 1,500 watts off the same generator because you’re running a higher load. 

Given the scenario of running close to the maximum of your generator’s capacity, then you’ll require six gallons of gas for 8 hours of continual running. Push that to 12 consecutive hours, and you’ll need nine gallons of gas.

Related: Should You Let A Generator Run Out Of Gas?Opens in a new tab.

My Favorite Generator That Will Stay Quiet All Night Long

Now, with all of that said, if you really need to run a generator overnight, there is a perfect one just for you.  Introducing the Jackery Solar Generator.

It can be charged by the sun during the day and run during the night with zero emissions and very little sound.  It takes care of all of the issues that we are normally concerned with when using a gas powered generator!

Jackery Generators have models that range from 200 watts to 2000 watts.  They can be charged by plugging them into a wall outlet, car adapter, or solar panels.  If your house is already on solar, itʻs even easier to charge up these amazing generators.

While they do claim to be completely noiseless, these generators do make a noise that is loud as a powerful fan.  It wonʻt wake up the neighbors, but if you choose to use it bedside with device like a Cpap machine, prepare to bring earplugs.

If you have to go with a gas generator, the Honda EU2200i is one of the quietest on the market at 49 decibels.  Itʻs the generator I use, but I wouldnʻt want to run it all night with neighbors nearby, that would be inconsiderate.

Feel good about running a generator at night, feel even better if that generator is a Jackery.  But remember though, always put safety first.

Sean Jennings

Sean has been living simply Off-Grid in Hawai'i for over 18 years. He lives debt free on Hawai'i Island with his family and over 40 chickens. When he's not tinkering around the homestead, he's off exploring the shorelines for fish & surf.

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