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Got a noisy generator? You could be in trouble with the City of Cape Town

The municipality has received nearly 200 generator noise complaints and winter hasn’t even arrived yet

The City of Cape Town says it received nearly 200 generator noise complaints though the winter season has not yet started. Stock photo.
The City of Cape Town says it received nearly 200 generator noise complaints though the winter season has not yet started. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF

Businesses and residents using generators during load shedding could find themselves in trouble with the City of Cape Town, especially if they fail to make changes after exceeding the municipality’s noise limits.  

The municipality has found itself in the middle of residential battles after receiving nearly 200 generator noise complaints, though the cold winter season has not yet started. 

Many people have turned to generators to keep the lights on during load shedding, but the noise is annoying some residents. 

Community services and health MMC Patricia van der Ross said though generators made life easier, there were problems with their use in or near residential areas.

“Apart from ensuring they are installed and operating correctly, generators can be quite loud and emit odours. These are all things that need to be considered and managed,” she said.  

The department said it received 197 generator noise complaints from February 2022 to February 2023. This was a sharp increase when compared to 60 complaints received during the same period the previous year. 

Van der Ross said the department was investigating the complaints.

“While our noise control staff are mandated to investigate complaints and implement corrective measures, we also want to increase awareness and education among the public and help develop an environment that takes cognisance of everyone’s rights.”

How loud is too loud?

According to the municipality’s generator guidelines, when using a stand-alone diesel generator noise levels should not exceed 5dBAs.  

“Officials will investigate the complaints and advise on action to ensure compliance. This could include alterations to the exhaust system on the appliance, among other things. 

“In the event of continued noncompliance, further legal action will be taken,” the municipality said. 

Engineers should design and install exhaust systems to ensure no nuisance conditions arise. 

As the municipality has invested millions in projects to minimise load shedding, it encouraged businesses and residents to use alternative energy solutions such as solar power to avoid generator noise — those who can afford to do so. 

Lawyer Marina Costas, previously writing on the impact of generators on complexes, advised complex unit trustees to choose generators with the lowest noise levels.

“It should be stored where it will cause the least amount of nuisance to homeowners in the complex and where the fumes will not affect people.” 

Speaking to TimesLIVE previously, Daphney Mavayela, manager of Mabona Funerals in Soweto, said though they had solar panels these did not produce enough power for the business, adding they turned to generators to prevent bodies decomposing.

Mavayela said the panels produced power they could only use to run the office. 

Business owners who spoke to TimesLIVE raised concerns they could not afford solar panels while others said they feared the panels being stolen by criminals.


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