Generators are a necessary piece of equipment anywhere you want power away from the mains supply, but they're not always the most convenient things. One of the biggest problems with operating a portable generator is the sheer volume of their operating noise.
While this doesn't matter much for some generator hire applications — construction sites and unmanned machinery being two examples — it can be a big negative when using a generator for things like outdoor events and anywhere with members of the public.
Although to some extent noise is just part and parcel of using a generator, and something that needs to be tolerated, there are a few ways to reduce the level of the sound, helping to make the environment around it a little more peaceful.
Before you try anything else, give some thought to where you're placing the generator. One of the most effective, yet startlingly simple, ways to reduce generator noise is to just move it further away from where people are gathered. This is often overlooked when setting up. If there's any way you can move the generator into a better position, do so, and it might be worth investing in some longer leads if this gives you more freedom.
Lining a wooden box with insulating or soundproofing foam gives great protection against excessive noise simply by placing the generator inside it. Make sure there's ample room around the sides so it doesn't overheat, and keep the top open to allow airflow.
A considerable amount of noise comes from a generator's exhaust pipe, and this can be muffled by placing the end in a large bucket of water. Keep an eye on the water level and top up as needed, as the heat will cause it to evaporate.
Level it out
You might be surprised to learn that the tilt of a generator has an impact on its noise production, but it's actually quite a large, significant factor. Use a spirit level to make sure it's as evenly-placed as possible, and adjust it by propping it up at the edges or corners if it's on uneven ground.
The right kind of surface
A generator on a hard, rigid surface will produce more noise, as it will vibrate against it. It's usually unnecessary to set the generator on anything like this, so just put it on the ground instead. You can further reduce the vibrations by placing it on a soft cushion or thick, folded cloth.