Noise produced by backup power systems can be a serious problem if not addressed properly. Standby generators, motor-generator sets, and UPS systems produce noise that can disturb building occupants and irritate neighbors and/or landlords.

The noise associated with electrical generation usually is related to the drive mechanism, most commonly an internal combustion engine. The amplitude of the noise produced is directly related to the size of the engine-generator set.

First consider whether noise reduction is a necessity. Many building owners have elected to tolerate the noise produced by a standby power generator because its use is limited to emergency situations. During a crisis, when the normal source of power is unavailable, most people will tolerate noise associated with a standby generator.

If the decision is made that building occupants can live with the noise of the generator, care must be taken in scheduling the required testing and exercising of the unit. Whether testing occurs monthly or weekly, it should be done on a regular schedule.

If it has been determined that the noise should be controlled, or at least minimized, the easiest way to achieve this objective is to physically separate the machine from occupied areas. This may be easier said than done.

Because engine noise is predominantly low-frequency in character, walls and floor/ceiling construction used to contain the noise must be massive. Lightweight construction, even though it may involve several layers of resiliently mounted drywall, is ineffective in reducing low frequency noise.

Exhaust noise is a major component of engine noise but, fortunately, it is easier to control. When selecting an engine-generator set, select the highest- quality exhaust muffler available. Such units often are identified as “hospitalgrade” mufflers.

Engine-generator sets also produce significant vibration. The machine should be mounted securely to a slab-on-grade or an isolated basement floor, or it should be installed on vibration isolation mounts. Such mounts usually are specified by the manufacturer.

Because a UPS system or motor-generator set is a source of continuous power, it must run continuously. Noise must be adequately controlled. Physical separation is the easiest and most effective method of shielding occupied areas from noise. Enclosure of UPS equipment usually is required, but noise control is significantly easier than for an engine-generator because of the lower noise levels involved.

Nevertheless, the low-frequency 120 Hz fundamental of a UPS system is difficult to contain adequately; massive constructions may be necessary. Vibration control also is required for most UPS and m-g gear.

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