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Last Updated on October 21, 2021
People are seeking generators more than ever. The past few years have included several storms and power outages and many realize just hard it can be when you don’t have power. That is especially true if the weather is exceptionally extreme either cold or hot.
Since outages can occur because of storms, many may ask can a generator run in the rain? The simple answer is no. While some generators may be weatherproof, none are designed to run in the rain.
However, you will be able to use your generator at any time in any type of weather if you plan and follow the guidelines listed below. Read on for more information.
Which Generators Can Endure Rain?
Looking at the big picture there are three groups of generators and the one you need depends on how you are going to use it.
- Portable generators don’t create a lot of power but are solid devices for things like camping and tailgating. They do provide emergency power if there is a blackout for things like phones and laptops.’
- Inverter generators are quiet, fuel-efficient, and convert AC power to Dc power. They are used for things like RV traveling and devices that are battery-operated.
- The generator you want in a serious power outage is a whole-house generator. Hardwired to your home, these machines can provide electricity automatically or manually in seconds after there is an interruption.
When you look at which generators can handle rain, you will be looking at all three categories of generators.
Some are more equipped to handle the rain better than others. Many types of generators exist and we’ll have to look at each one individually to answer the question.
- The small generators are safe to use in the rain because they are designed as all-weather machines. The problem is they only provide a little direct current so they aren’t of much use.
- Electrochemical generators also produce a direct current and are what is used in radios, televisions, and vehicles. They aren’t meant to get wet.
- Rotating machine generators use alternators to produce alternating current. They come as both small and large devices but can’t be used in the rain as it could cause electrocution or significant damage
- Electrostatic generators are also called portable and standby generators. They include propane-powered electric generators, which run off portable gasoline. Larger standby generators use diesel or natural gas.
- The standby generators have an insulated weatherproof housing so they can be used in the rain while propane-powered generators and inverter generators aren’t sufficiently insulated to handle the weather.
To know if a generator can be used in the rain, look to see if it’s a closed generator. These, like the standby generators, have heavy insulation and a weatherproof cover so water can’t get in during severe weather.
Will rain ruin a generator?
Yes, rain can ruin a generator if water gets into the windings. It can also cause a fire and electrocution, depending on the type of generator and where the water seeped into.
Can a portable generator get wet?
It is not recommended to use a portable generator in the rain because a wet environment can cause a lot of damage to the machine.
Portable generators do have a closed design and insulation so they are considered weatherproof but they aren’t totally weatherproof as some standby machines. The term “weatherproof” can mean the machine can withstand a few drizzles without a problem.
However, you could have a serious issue if it turns into a downpour. Most experts advise getting a generator cover if you are going to use a portable model.
Those who manufacture portable generators recommend not to use them in the rain and also state these types of machines shouldn’t be used in other similar conditions like snow and ice.
This is especially true if the machine’s wires aren’t run underground and enclosed in insulation materials for electrical wiring.
What Should You Do With a Generator When It Rains?
The best recommendations are to prepare ahead of time and get a cover for your generator. A permanent one is best but there are all types and varieties in a range of costs.
Here is a look at four types of possible enclosures that would work well to keep your generator dry and able to run effectively.
These can be as small as you need them to be and many shed companies have different styles and sizes. After all, all you need it for is to cover your generator.
This is a permanent solution as they will need to be a concrete slab poured and steel beams erected. The primary advantage of a steel enclosure is that you can get one that will endure harsh storms.
Some buildings come with guarantees to withstand hurricane-force winds. That will offer you peace of mind that your generator will be safe and secure for operation while storms rage.
Another advantage of a steel building is it is more secure than other types of enclosures. You can padlock it so would-be thieves can’t get to your generator. Generators are too expensive to leave exposed.
This is an option that is cheaper than a steel enclosure and could be semi-permanent. It usually comes with a floor bottom so you wouldn’t have to pour a slab. They will do the job of weatherproofing your generator but may not be able to fully withstand major storms.
You will also need to make sure a plastic shed can withstand any heat a generator emits. Another factor in any selection would be to make sure there is a way for fumes to escape the shed without water getting in.
These will work as an emergency option if you need to use a generator but the weather still isn’t great. The problem with a pop-up canopy is that it likely will not withstand a storm or high winds even if you anchor it. Winds can swoop underneath and your canopy suddenly becomes a balloon.
You will need a steel-reinforced canopy rather than an aluminum version if you go this route. They require more assembly. You will also need to secure it with weights and tie-downs with in-ground stakes on all four corners and probably the middle of each side too.
These come in a variety of options. These are weatherproof canopies that go solely over the generator. They attach to the generator so they can’t blow off. Many of these are customized for your generator and are easy to use.
They are also called running covers for open frame generators and come as a universal kit. These types of covers are the least expensive option of all types of covers for your generator.
Do you need to cover a generator in the rain?
It is highly recommended to cover a generator in the rain with a few exceptions of the larger standby generators that are insulated and fully closed with weatherproofing materials.
The simplest solution is to get a weatherproof canopy that covers just your generator. They come in a kit, are easy to assemble, and aren’t expensive.
How do you cover a generator in the rain?
The best advice is to plan ahead how to cover your generator before it rains. This is particularly true if you plan on a permanent structure. However, a custom-made tent, a canopy, or other enclosure is a good way to cover your generator at the last minute.
These types of products are generally inexpensive and easy to set up. They are also lightweight and easy to store. Most are made with an open area around the bottom so air can circulate well. That is important when running a generator.
How do you run a generator in the rain?
Generally, you can run a generator in the rain the same as you would any other time as long as it’s protected from water. There are certain guidelines you should follow.
Electrical wiring should be properly insulated. It’s best – and safest – to run it underground rather than out in the open.
Make sure whatever structure you use has proper ventilation. There needs to be a side window, vents, or open spaces somewhere to allow for generator fumes to be released.
Always make sure the generator is a bit away from the house. Many people make the big mistake of putting it up against the house, thinking that makes it more useful. In reality, it creates a fire hazard.
Can you use a tarp to cover a generator?
No, a tarp can’t touch the generator as that creates a safety hazard. However, you can elevate the tarp with poles to create a canopy over the generator. The main problem with that is making sure the tarp won’t blow over, leaving your generator exposed or falling onto your generator. That could start a fire.
Remember, any canopy is a temporary structure and isn’t meant to be a permanent solution.
The important aspect is to keep the electrical outlets on the generator from being exposed to water or moisture.
Can you run a generator in snow?
It is advised to not use your generator in snow or wet conditions. Always keep your generator grounded.
The generator can work efficiently and cool the engine when the air intake is clear. However, if your generator is coated with snow, the intake will be unable to function properly, causing your engine to overheat and your generator to fail. Clear snow and ice from your generator on a regular basis to avoid this.
Can you run a generator in a storm?
Genertors can be used in a storm providing they are a safe distance (approx. 20 meters) outside your home. They should be kept far away from any open doors, vents or windows.
Can I use a generator indoors?
Generally, no. It is incredibly unsafe to use a generator indoors even it if is someplace not directly in the home like a garage.
There is one type of generator that can be used inside and those are battery generators. Battery generators don’t produce fumes so they are safe, although they typically don’t offer the power that comes with other generators.
Most generators run off things like diesel, gasoline, and propane. All of these produce fumes that can kill people if the carbon monoxide settles in an enclosed space. People can become sick or die from carbon monoxide poisoning.
A generator should always be at least 20 feet from a house or places where humans gather. Never put hook them up in a storage room or garage.
How do I know what size generator I need?
There are some math calculations involved in looking at wattage and space size to determine what size generator would fit your needs. It can be a hassle to do all the math but knowing exactly what you need will help you target the type of generator that will work. In the end, that will save time and stress.
However, generally, the average house needs between 5,000 and 7,000 watts to keep essential items powered. Generators have a wide wattage range starting at 800 watts and going to as high as 500,000.
To know what size of generator you need, you will need need to find the wattage needed for your appliances or devices you plan to keep going during a blackout. If you are looking at your whole house, your electric bill should have your monthly wattage on it to help clue you in, although you will need to narrow it down further.
To save some time and energy on the math, a list of average wattages for basic appliances, HVAC, and other systems can be found online.
Multiply the wattage, known as the running wattage by three. This is the starting wattage.
Now, add the running wattage again and that is the total wattage you need the generator to produce.
You may be surprised at just how much wattage you need. For instance, a 9,000-watt generator can run either a microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher, and stove or the central air conditioning, an iron, and a washing machine.
It can’t run all in both combinations at the same time.
Getting a generator is a big decision but it’s one that can keep your family comfortable even if the power goes out. In this day of freak snowstorms and ongoing tropical storms, a generator may make your family be more prepared. This can be a costly decision too since some generators can be expensive.
It only makes sense to consider how you are going to protect your investment in the generator. Planning how to keep it dry will keep it running for many years and that should bring you peace of mind.