Quiet inverter generator in front of the food truck

Running a food truck is an operation that requires a lot of power and traveling from one location to another, and you won’t always be able to find a reliable power source. The generator is one of the essential pieces of equipment for a food truck or a food trailer. Picking the right one is not easy in the sea of different models that can either be too pricey, or turn out to be too noisy, or just do not meet the energy needs of your food operation.

Hopefully, this article answers your questions about food truck generators and gets you on the path to picking the right one for your food truck.

What is a portable generator?

A portable generator is a fuel-powered device that produces electricity by converting the mechanical energy of the engine into electrical energy. The engine drives an alternator, which produces electricity. Generators come in different sizes, from small units that can power an RV to large ones used at construction sites.

Do food trucks need generators?

If you run a food truck, chances are you will need a generator at some point. While some food trucks are permanently parked in one spot, most travel to different locations. This means that you may not always have access to an outlet or a power source. A generator can provide the power you need to run your appliances and keep your food fresh and warm.

Why do you need a silent generator for your food truck?

Noise is a big concern when it comes to food truck generators. A generator that is too loud can be a nuisance to your customers and neighbors. It is absolutely necessary for your customers to be able to hear you when you are taking their orders. A silent generator will also allow you to keep the music on and create a more pleasant atmosphere. Too much noise can also be a safety hazard, as it can make it difficult to hear other sounds.

Top 6 Quiet Food Truck Generators

The perfect generator for mobile food business is one that can power all the appliances you need, with minimal noise levels and a big tank that will allow it to work for hours, while also being portable and not taking a huge amount of space. There is no perfect generator that has all of that, but these ones have most of it. Here are our picks for best food truck generators:

1. Westinghouse iGEN4500 Quiet Inverter Generator

Westinghouse iGEN 4500 is an RV-style quiet inverter generator. The 3.4 gallon fuel tank is bigger than what most inverter generators have. That allows for a 12 hour run time on 50% load. Westinghouse iGen Series inverter generators produce clean, stable power (<3% THD) ideal for sensitive electronics such as computers, televisions, and mobile phones.

It has a nice information display that indicates the load percentage, fuel level and the remaining runtime estimate, based on the current load. You can also read total runtime hours, which is handy for maintenance. It’s also got an electric start, including the remote, as well as the backup manual start.

The feedback on this model is mostly positive.  It has a lot going for it: low noise level, decent amount of power and a compact design with wheels. The telescopic handle makes it easy to drag the unit behind you. For more detailed look into IGen4500, read our full review.

Pros:

  • Remote start feature.
  • EPA, USFS, and CARB compliant
  • Stable power
  • Very quiet.

Cons:

  • There are some minor issues mostly with build quality.
  • Poor customer service from Westinghouse
westinghouse igen4500 silent generator
Buy iGen4500

2. Generac 7127 iQ3500 – The Quietest 3500W Generator

The Generac 7127 iQ3500 is one of the quietest generators on the market. It produces 3,500W of power and has a noise level of only 55dB, measured at 20 feet away. That’s quieter than most generators and about as loud as a normal conversation.

Generac is known for making high-quality generators, and the 7127 iQ3500 is no exception. It’s a great choice for a food truck because it can provide enough power for all your needs without being too loud. It is very simple to set up and start. To switch the generator, all you need to do is to turn the orange dial and push the red button or pull the start cord and you are good to go.

Generac 7127 iQ3500 features the POWERRUSH™ Advanced technology that provides 50% more starting power. This means that you can power more devices within a matter of seconds after you switch on the generator, without much effort.

Pros:

  • Super Quiet
  • Simple to set up and start
  • POWERRUSH™ Advanced technology provides 50% more starting power
  • Half the price of the Honda model with similar features

Cons:

  • More expensive than some other models
  • No return on this product
Buy Generac iQ3500

3. DuroMax XP12000EH – 12000W Gas or Propane Powered

DuroMax XP12000EH is a dual fuel portable generator that can handle high Amp appliances.   DuroMax generators are know for offering high performance, lots of power and durability for much lower price than some high-end brands, like the Honda EU7000iS. Build quality of this model is excellent. The interfaces on the side for monitoring and operating the generator are well-marked, easy to read and use.

It can run on both gasoline and propane, though it is more efficient running on gas. With 12kW starting and 9500W running power, DuroMax XP12000EH offer the power of a standby units in a portable package. Due to its power, build quality and versatility, this generator is the best bang for the buck.

Pros:

  • Can handle large wattage loads.
  • Duel fuel capability
  • Amazing set of features for the price.

Cons:

  • It is quite heavy, which might be an issue for some.
  • It doesn’t have an oil filter, so you have to change oil frequently.
duromax xp12000
Buy DuroMax XP12000EH

4. Briggs & Stratton Q6500 Quiet Power Series

Briggs & Stratton Q6500 is one of the most powerful inexpensive inverter generators available at the moment. It can spurt out 6500 W of peak power and it can supposedly run continuously for up to 14 hours.

Briggs & Stratton Q6500 is a ‘no-frills’ generator. There is no electric start, only good, old pull-start. There are no LCD displays showing performance metrics. It does have same number of outlets as more expensive generator though – four 120V-20A outlets, two USB outlets and a 120V-240V locking outlet.  It is equipped with CO Guard carbon monoxide shutdown technology, which shuts the generator down when harmful levels of carbon monoxide are detected. It weighs much less compared to other 6500 Watt gensets, is much more neighbor-friendly with relatively low noise level and looks quite handsome indeed.

All the specs aside, there are quite a lot poor reviews of this particular generator on Amazon. We had no issues testing this model, but there are obviously people out there that were greatly disappointed by it. If you think that this would be the perfect generator for your food truck, we suggest to do some additional research, just for peace of mind.

Pros:

  • It is cheap, but compares well with much more expensive generators in many aspects.
  • It is quiet.

Cons:

  • There is no electric start.
  • It vibrates a lot, even to the point of moving around.
  • It has mostly positive reviews, but there are several negative ones pointing out some very serious issues.
  • Not CARB compliant, so not allowed in California
  • Carburetor cannot handle ethanol treated gas.
briggs&stratton q6500
Buy Briggs & Stratton Q6500

5. Hudson Motors 3300W Inverter Generator

Hudson Motors 3300W generator is a lightweight, portable, easy to operate power source for trailers, campers, and mobile kitchens. It is not the quietest generator, but you will be able to have a conversation with you customers. The noise level according to specs are 62dB, but during our testing we have measured up to 83dB.

That being said, this generator does not have insane amount of power. It is not suitable for a food trailer with lots of power-hungry appliances. For a concession stand though, or a food cart, this can be easy, portable, affordable solution.

Pros:

  • Very lightweight and portable – it weighs only 48 lbs
  • Affordable
  • Parallel ready – you can combine two Hudson generators for added power

Cons:

  • Louder than specified
  • Lack of power
  • Hudson Motors is a questionable company
hudson motors 3300w generator
Buy Hudson Motors Generator

6. Pulsar G12KBN Dual Fuel 12000W

Pulsar G12KBN is very powerful generator, powered by a 457cc 4-stroke engine, with 12kW of peak power and a running wattage of 9500W. It can run both on gasoline and propane. When propane-powered, it has 8550 rated watts and 10800 peak watts. Large 8 gallon tank will give you 12 hours of run time on 50% capacity.

Starting mechanisms include a conventional pull-start mechanism and a convenient and easy-to-use electric starter with battery included. The panel houses 7 outlets, including 4 120V outlets, so there are enough channels to power your appliances. Security-wise, this model is equipped with automatic low oil shut-off and an overload protection (circuit breaker). It is CARB-compliant, which means it is permitted in all of the 50 states, including California.

Pros:

  • Dual fuel system
  • Switching between fuel sources mid-use
  • Electric start
  • CARB-compliant.

Cons:

  • It is loud.
  • Though it is not heavy compared to the similar models, at over 200 lbs it is not exactly portable.
pulsar g12kbn generator
Buy Pulsar G12KBN

Types of portable generators

The two main types of generators are inverter generators and conventional generators.

Conventional vs. Inverter Generator

All generators need to burn fuel to power a motor, attached to an alternator that produces power. Conventional, open-frame generators use a mechanical alternator to produce AC power, while inverter generators produce DC power and use a digital electronic alternator to convert it to AC power.

Advantages of conventional generators:

  • They tend to have a higher power output.
  • They are capable of extended run times.
  • They are cheaper than inverter models.
  • They are less complicated and easier to maintain.

Advantages of inverter generators:

  • They are usually smaller and lighter.
  • They are more fuel-efficient.
  • They are quieter, with less vibration.
  • Can run on variable engine speeds depending on specific electrical demands.
  • Produce a cleaner, steadier flow of power with a THD of less than 5%.
  • They usually have parallel capability to pair with other identically sized units to double the power capacity.

Generators are also different based on the type of fuel they use. The most common types are gasoline, diesel, and propane:

  • Gasoline generators are the most popular type. They are less expensive than diesel or propane models and easier to find. However, they can be noisy and produce fumes that some people may find unpleasant.
  • Diesel generators are more expensive than gasoline models, but they are more efficient and tend to last longer. They are also quieter and produce fewer fumes.
  • Propane or natural gas generators are a good choice if you want to avoid fumes altogether. They are quiet and efficient, but they can be more expensive than gasoline or diesel models.

Why are inverter generators quieter than conventional ones?

The main reason why inverter generators are so much quieter than their conventional counterparts is that they have a smaller engine that runs at a slower speed. The engine only speeds up when more power is needed. This makes them more fuel-efficient and reduces the noise. To put it simply, inverter generators are only as loud as they have to be at the moment.

Thanks to the smaller engine, inverter generators are also enclosed, which further reduces the noise level.

Where are silent generators used?

Wherever noise is a concern, quiet generators are a necessity. This includes camping sites, RV parks, tailgating parties, construction sites, and of course, food trucks and concession trailers.

How to make a generator quiet?

If you already have a generator and want to make it quieter, there are a few things you can do:

  • Install sound-dampening material: This will help to absorb the noise and reduce the overall noise level.
  • Install a muffler: This is an easy way to reduce the noise from the engine. You can either buy one specifically for your generator or make one yourself.
  • Move the generator further away: The further away the generator is, the less noise it will make. If possible, put it in a shed or garage.
  • Only use it when necessary: Only turn on the generator when you need to. This will minimize the amount of time it is running and making noise.

You can find these explained, and few additional ones in this awesome video on how to soundproof your food truck generator:

Which is the quietest power generator?

Smaller generators are generally quieter than large ones. The lowest measured noise level that a generator produces is 49dB. This is the noise level of the Honda EU3000IS that generates 2,800W running wattage, on a 25% load. For comparison, 49dB is no louder than a refrigerator.

However, food trucks need lots of power,  so a generator that can only produce 2,800W is not going to be enough. The next size up, the Honda EU7000IS, produces 6,500W running wattage and has a noise level of 58dB, comparable to a conversation. This is still relatively quiet for a generator and would be a good choice for a food truck.

Other considerations for buying food truck generators

To help you find the best generator for your food truck, we’ve looked at the number of features that set the best-performing generators apart. From fuel type, power output, to runtime and operating costs, these are the things that you should look into when looking for the right truck for your restaurant on wheels.

Ease of Installation

Hooking up a portable generator to a food truck is generally easy to do, but there are several things to take into consideration, mostly for safety reasons. Check the voltage before installing it. Usually, it’s 120 or 240. Also, you need to make sure it’s grounded properly.

Due to safety concerns, we recommend you have the generator and the food truck wiring installed by a professional. There is mechanical and electrical work that requires a bit of experience and technical knowledge.

EPA Compliance

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a U.S. government agency responsible for protecting human and environmental health. The EPA creates regulations to promote and enforce federal laws related to health and the environment, such as the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In recent times, the EPA expanded their scope to include the regulation of carbon emission from power plants, automobiles, small engines, and other sources of air pollution, which includes generators.

The EPA compliant food truck generators might initially be more expensive than alternatives, durability and fuel efficiency typically improve. These savings can help offset added expenses over the lifetime of the equipment.

FAQ

How much does a food truck generator cost?

As well as being one of the essentials, generator is also one of the most expensive items on the mobile kitchen equipment list. More powerful generators are typically more expensive and can easily break the $1000 mark. Generators from praised companies like Honda can cost several thousands of dollars. The cheapest generator on our list costs around $600, but it is on the smaller size. From our experience generators that cost more up front, and up being well worth it in the long run.

There is also a matter of cost of running a generator. This is not so easy to estimate, as there are a lot of variables. Running costs depend on the price of fuel, how large your generator is and how hard you run it.

How big of a generator do I need?

Being noiseless is important, but the generator you get has to be able to power up all the appliances that you have. To figure out the right size you need to do some math. Consider all the electrical devices you’ll be using and then some. As a rule of thumb, a 20% of extra power never hurts.

Understanding how your equipment will function when powered by a generator is important to keep the orders running and keep customers happy. Some appliances need a higher starting wattage, or more power to start up, compared to their running wattage. You need to know the kind of load your generator will be powering so you can calculate how much power (and the size of generator) you will need.

There are two kinds of loads:

Resistive loads – require the same amount of power to start up and run. These are appliances usually involved in heating or produces heat like light bulbs, coffee makers, toasters, and microwave ovens.

Reactive loads – require additional power to start but consumes less once it is running. These are appliances that contain an electric motor like refrigerators, bean grinders, blenders, and air conditioners.

Next, you should calculate the power requirements of all the appliances you will be using at the same time. You can determine the power required by an appliance by checking the bottom or side for a stamp, its nameplate, or the specs sheet. If the load is reactive, calculate using starting wattage, which is typically 3 times the running wattage.

Power requirements of appliances are usually listed in amps so you would need to convert it in watts, but it is easy if you know that:

Watts = Volts x Amps

Amps = Watts / Volts

Here is a list of common appliances and their energy consumption:

  • Reach-in Refrigerator 200-300W
  • Undercounter freezer 400-800W
  • Espresso machine 1700W
  • Panini press 1500-1800W
  • Half-size convection oven 1600-1000W
  • Hot food holding cabinet 1200-1500W
  • Food processor 600-800W
  • Electric deep fryer 1800-3000W

Generally speaking, 4000W generator should be the minimal size to consider for optimum efficiency and effectiveness. If you intend to run multiple appliances at once look in the range of 4000-7000 watts. Never go by the wattage in a generator’s name – these are starting watts. Go through the full specs list and check the continuous power.

What is the best place to mount a generator on a food truck?

Generators can be mounted on the roof, tongue, rear and front bumpers and inside the truck. The best place would be different for everyone. If you would like to keep the line of your truck clean, there are plenty of options that keep the generator hidden, but still accessible, like built-in compartment boxes and cages, underfloor mounting tray, or slide tray kits for your compartments.

Make sure to check with your local Department of Transportation to see whether there are any regulations for mounting equipment on food trucks. If there are no particular regulations, you have to ask yourself few questions. What looks good? Will the noise bother my customers or staff? Can I refill the fuel, and access the maintenance points? Then, make the decision based on your anwers.