Thursday, March 23, 2023


RVelectricity: Please don’t bring a noisy generator to the quiet outdoors

Dear Readers,
Last week while driving around in my (loaner) Ford F-150 Hybrid truck, I stopped by a dry camping area just to see what was happening. I was astonished to hear not just one, but TWO noisy contractor generators churning away. No, I didn’t have my calibrated SPL (sound pressure level) meter with me, but I know when something is loud (I’m a rock musician and engineer, remember…). This was just plain obnoxious.

Why all the noise about the noise?

Well, when I go out to camp, and especially when boondocking, I go for the peace and quiet. I don’t want to listen to a bunch of noisy generators running all day long. If I did, I would just sign up to work a rock festival for a weekend and my need for noise would be fulfilled. Nope, I’m there for the calm solitude of the woods. The loudest thing I want to hear is a babbling brook and the call of the wildlife.

I’ve written about noisy generators many times before

I don’t have to reinvent the wheel to tell you about this since I’ve published so much on this topic already. But if you’re a new reader, then this will help you understand why some generators are so noisy and some are barely audible. Here’s a very short list of reading that will help educate you on generator noise.

The ABC’s of Generator Noise

Part 1 of Generator Noise (with all the math)

What about that F-150 truck generator?

I just finished road testing the Ford F-150 PowerBoost truck with the built-in generator. I have to admit that it’s quieter than a Honda inverter generator measuring around 51 dB SPL at 23 feet. Plus, at low-wattage loads, the 3.5L gasoline engine doesn’t run at all for minutes at a time.

But when the 1.5 kWh battery runs down, the gasoline engine starts up for a few minutes to recharge the traction battery, which then powers the inverter generator for a few more minutes. It’s a thing of beauty. Here’s how I tested the built-in generator while driving. Yes, that’s essentially a big electric heater that can be set to various wattages.

And, yes, the F-150 PowerBoost can also tow a travel trailer

Here’s a video of me driving the F-150 Hybrid back from Goshen, IN, to lovely Funkstown, MD, home of my Funkworks Lab. Just click on the picture to watch the short video.

While I didn’t have the proper breakaway cables to power the RV itself while driving, I did strap down my 10kW load bank in the bed of the truck and did a few towing experiments at 3,000 and 7,000 watts of load, as you can see in the previous picture. And yes, it has enough power to run your air conditioner in the trailer while towing, and even power two separate travel trailers at the same time while boondocking. But more on that in a future article.

Are there alternatives to an expensive Honda inverter generator?

Yes, there are. While I haven’t personally tested one yet, the Predator generators from Harbor Freight are listed as very quiet, and seem to be getting good reviews from actual users. And they’re priced less than 1/2 of a Honda generator. Still, I personally have four Honda generators in my garage simply because I never want to have to buy any more generators, so I think these will last for my lifetime. The jury is still out on the longevity of the Predator generators, but I think if properly maintained they should give you years of dependable service. But we shall see…

Let’s play safe out there….

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign.



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1 year ago

By a strange chain of combining and up-swappings, I’ve owned ALL of the following this year (not all bought this year) :

8KW open Generac dynamo (24yo, still starts 1st pull, but >loud<)

4KW open Champion (8yo, 1st pull, maybe 65db – NOT obnoxious noise IMHO)

4KW Predator – great but I liked WEN better

2KW twin Predators – great but I didn't WANT multiples, so part of swapping

2KW Generac 2000ix (times three!) – least impressive inverters but I was ultimately paid to take them)

4KW WEN – fantastic all around, and where I ended up, along with good cash from the above chain…

I also borrowed a friend's Honda 2K pair for some comparison tests with Predators and 2000ix's…

– ALL generators made PERFECTLY clean power
– ANY inverter was quieter
– new Predators beat mildly used Hondas for quiet, and look just as solid if maintained
– WEN 4K beat the HELL out Honda twins on fuel and noise
– WEN beat twin Predators more modestly

Jeff Mattingly
1 year ago
Reply to  Wolfe

After installing and talking to the folks at SoftStart the Predator 2k was not able to maintain power as the A/C compressor continues to build pressure and draw more power. The Honda 2k hasn’t had any hiccups what so ever. Expensive learning experiance. 20% restocking fee for the Pred at Harbor Freight and the propane conversion kit was not entirely compatible with the Honda.

1 year ago

I’m with you! I HATE generators – noise, pollution, and just plain obnoxious and really unnecessary.

Kit Frost
1 year ago
Reply to  Pammy

What I dislike is that many generator users place theirs at the back of their campsite, closer to neighbors, so they don’t have to hear it. Where are the CG police when we need them?

Dawn H.
1 year ago

We have managed to locate some camgrounds that offer “quiet loops” / no generators allowed. We love having that option. We find that most of these sites are better suited to smaller RVs/TTs, or car/tent campers. We generally have no problem finding enough sun to use a solar panel to charge the battery during the daytime, but carry a small charging station, just in case. We have a TV inside, but use it as a post-it board. We have been camping for many years, only using the TT for the past four years. We find we just don’t need or use much in the way of power. Our solar system makes no noise at all, is clean, and efficient. We have one generator, but have only ever used it at home after hurricanes.

martin a
1 year ago

When you are in an area of running generators you should consider where is the exhaust going if they are close to you, and is your CO alarm working?

Thomas D
1 year ago

Locally, a food truck bought a 3500 Preditor and uses it about 12hours a day. Since April. Thats more than 1200 hours. Thats good performance by anyone’s standard. Keep the oil changed he said.

1 year ago

We recently bought a Honda 2200 watt inverter generator to use with assorted electric yard tools, and as a partial backup in case of power failure. We considered the Harbor Freight Predator because of their good reputation and low price. The deciding factor was buying the Honda from a dealer, with warranty, with a service department if needed. We could have bought the Predator or the Honda nearby. Two local dealers offered the Honda, but they weren’t in stock. The dealer we chose is an hour away. But for us it was worth the extra money for more peace of mind knowing we have a real service department available. Our RV has a 4k Onan. We ran the Honda next to the Onan and couldn’t hear it running over the noise of the Onan. And, the Honda will run the AC in the RV. One other thing, if the price of the Honda scares you, just get your Onan serviced. Turns a new Honda into a bargain.

1 year ago
Reply to  Dan

I find it funny you’re worrying about service to a product you hope, from its reputation, will never need servicing. Just like buying a fridge or any other appliance, you expect it to last 20 years but the manufacturer only warrants it for 3 years. Why do we have more faith in something when the builder does not?

1 year ago
Reply to  Dan

The thing about Honda is… you’re never going to need service, with the possible exception of the starter rope.

Mike Sokol
1 year ago
Reply to  chris

I have a 30+ year old Honda EX1000 generator my dad gave me that I’ve only had to clean the carburetor out once when my dad forgot to dump out the gasoline for a few years and it dried up into a sludge. I took the carb apart to clean out the varnish, changed the oil, and it started on the second pull.

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago

While several years ago, I would not touch anything from Harbor Freight that had an electrical cord hanging off it, they have definitely upped their game. They now sell higher end stuff (higher than their cheapo stuff anyway). I have a noisy one speed Champion generator that I bought years ago. I have since downgraded that to home power if the power goes out and noise is no issue. I bit the bullet and bought a Predator 3500 from HF. This thing is marvelous. Quiet, and almost half the price of a Honda (arguably the benchmark for generators). As long as I change oil regularly (more often than a Honda!), this genset does the job.

Jesse Crouse
1 year ago

Just when you “really need” that quiet generator it fails. Just saying any of my Honda inverter generators- 2 2000″s, a 3,000, and 7000 for home use have never failed. The name implies quality and longevity. “You get’s what you pay for”.

Donald N Wright
1 year ago

I wish I could find a “no generator” campground. trouble is we have quiet little generators and there are the favorite generators, smokey, loud, diesels for folks who close their windows as they stink out the campground.

1 year ago

And their favorite time to run these things for hours on end? Early evening, wrecking the peace of people who want to sit outside and enjoy the sunset. The real hardcore run them late into the evening, for their can’t-miss TV shows. Why don’t they just stay at home?

1 year ago
Reply to  wanderer

What grinds my craw is people using a generator to watch TV. Get a freakin’ inverter for cripes sake!!

1 year ago
Reply to  wanderer

Exactly – why are they in beautiful nature at all! Stay home if you need TV that badly

Wayne c
1 year ago

I hate the smell of the exhaust. A lot has been said about the noise generators make but even the “quiet” generators stink if you’re downwind. There is one campground in Death Valley that doesn’t allow generators. I have noticed on a few occasions when a generator was started it got the attention of everyone who goes there for the quiet. The generator ran less than 5 minutes before the offender got the message. I’m a big fan of solar panels.

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