Just as the weather predicted, it’s started pouring, and your power has gone out to boot. You can restore power to most of the house with a generator, but you aren’t sure if outdoor use is smart in this weather. Can you use a generator in the rain?
Unless covered, generators can be ruined when exposed to rain. If you must run your generator, then use a pop-up canopy, plastic shed, or a steel enclosure, so it doesn’t get soaked.
In today’s article, we’ll explore the logistics of using a generator in the rain, including the workaround of a cover and the risk of foregoing one. You’re not going to want to miss it, so keep reading!
What Happens if your Run a Generator in the Rain?
Unless you’re camping or you have an exceptional power need beyond your norm, then there’s usually no reason for you to think about running your generator until a storm rolls through.
However, you know that your generator is electrical equipment, and thus, you have viable concerns about what could happen to it if the generator is in wet weather.
Without further do, let’s go over the risks.
If your generator is uncovered–which most portable generators are–then when it gets wet such as in a soaking rainstorm, all the components are exposed to the elements.
Rain and electricity, unsurprising to no one, do not mix.
The parts that comprise your generator are supposed to stay dry, and there are probably several warnings of such in the owner’s manual if you bothered to page through it.
If you use your generator in a scenario where it gets wet, especially for prolonged periods, then you can be certain you’re causing damage to the components of your generator.
It doesn’t matter whether you only spend several hundred dollars on your generator or several thousand. You’re relying on it quite heavily right now to provide power to your home, a duty that it will not be able to do for a sustained time if it gets wet.
The generator will stop working. It’s just a matter of when not if.
It might be repairable in its state, but that’s not something you’d be able to do while it’s still storming outside and you’re without power.
You’d have to sit in the dark–possibly in the heat, but likely in the cold–wait out the storm and then deal with the additional responsibility and annoyance of getting your generator repaired.
That is if it’s even worth repairing in the first place. Depending on what you spent on the generator and how well it works, you might decide to just junk it and buy a better one.
Let’s say you have a higher-end generator now that you use to power your house when the entire street goes dark due to a storm.
As high-end as the generator may be, the premise is the same.
If the generator is uncovered–meaning it lacks its natural cover or you didn’t bother erecting a cover for it–it’s going to get wet.
The wetter it gets, especially over the span of several hours or even overnight while you wait for the power to be restored, the greater the chances of the generator simply not surviving the storm.
You might have gotten power back to your house through your generator and feel like you can finally rest easy.
Then, when you’re sleeping cozy in your bed, you hear it. The entire house is quiet and dark. The generator hum has stopped.
The next morning, when daylight is on your side, you finagle with the generator, plugging it into the outlet after outlet after outlet.
It’s not the outlet that’s the problem, of course. The rainwater soaked the electrical components of your generator.
This time, there’s no fixing it. It’s a goner. If you spent several thousand dollars on a nice generator, then you’re out that money.
We saved what is by far the biggest and most important risk for last.
While it’s very unfortunate when a generator breaks or fries, a generator is replaceable, human life is not.
If you’re sitting outside in the rain trying to figure out why your generator is underperforming and get too close to it, you could incur electrical shocks.
Now, we can’t say how serious the shocks will be, but that doesn’t matter. Being shocked by a wet electrical device can lead to injury and possibly even death. You can never be too careful.
You would have to get in your car in the pouring rain and rush to get emergency help, which is risky in serious storms.
How do I Protect my Portable Generator From Rain While Running?
Now that you know the risks of running your generator uncovered, you should never put yourself or your family in that kind of danger.
It’s not enough for your generator to be partially covered by an awning or in your open garage, as the rain can blow in sideways.
Instead, you need one of these means of protection so you can use your generator outside.
Some generators come with a built-in cover, as we touched on before. If that’s the type of generator you own, then it’s safe enough to use outside.
You still don’t want to soak it for hours if you can help it, but the generator can withstand the rain.
If yours didn’t come with its own protective cover, you can always buy an aftermarket version.
Before the rains ever come, you should take a flexible measuring tape to calculate the width, length, and height of your generator make and model.
Then you can buy a cover that fits it.
According to Porch Shield, the cover should fit most generators that run on 5,000 to 10,000 watts.
The waterproof cover is built from hardy 600-denier polyester and has a water-resistant laminated undercoating for double the protection.
The Adamoss generator cover is made for the Predator 3500 and the iGen4500 if you have either of those two household generators.
It can also fit other generators that are at least 20 inches tall by 18 inches wide by 24 inches long.
This cover is too made of 600-denier polyester, and it’s completely waterproof. Adept at protecting your generator from UV rays, wind, dust, and snow, the double-stitched seams of the cover won’t tear.
Also included is an elastic drawstring for a secure fit.
The PatioGem generator cover is yet another great option. You can select from four sizes, with the largest available size 38 inches by 28 inches by 30 inches.
The cover is compatible with most generator makes and models that are 5,000 to 10,000 watts, including generators from Pulsar, Duromax, Champion, Powerhorse, Generac, Briggs & Stratton, and Honda.
The triple-layered construction ensures excellent waterproofing, while an included hem cord and buckle straps make the cover windproof as well.
If not a generator cover, another option you can choose to safeguard your generator is a pop-up canopy.
This Amazon’s Basics canopy is 10 feet by 10 feet. The canopy roof is made of 300-denier CPAI-84 flame-retarding fabric and is completed with a silver coating.
Underneath that is a PU material for UV safeguarding as well as heat-sealed seams and taped stitching to make the canopy waterproof.
The steel tubes that hold up the canopy roof feature a cross-tube design and PA feet, so they should stay sturdy even during a windy storm.
The MASTERCANOPY EZ pop-up canopy is another suitable choice for protecting your generator.
You can select from four sizes: 6.6 inches by 6.6 inches, eight inches by eight inches, 10 inches by 10 inches, or 12 inches by 12 inches.
Designed to assemble in about a minute, you can lift the MASTERCANOPY to three different heights so that you can be sure your generator will not get wet no matter what kind of storm you’re contending with.
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy a plastic shed anyway, then safeguarding your generator from the rain could be just the excuse you need.
It will get the job done to ensure you can enjoy power even during the roughest stretches of weather.
Although a little expensive, the Suncast Tremont storage shed is built from plastic and heavy-duty resin, so it’s sure to last. It measures eight feet by 10 feet.
The polypropylene resin panels will increase both stability and strength, while the heavy-duty floor can handle weighty equipment as well as all sorts of weather. The shed doors even lock!
If you’re looking for a more utilitarian solution, the Rubbermaid weather-resistant storage shed does the job.
This smaller shed is five feet by six feet and should be sizable enough for most generator models. The floor is impact-resistant, while the walls feature double layers of resin for exceptional durability.
Steel Generator Enclosure or DIY Enclosure
If none of the above are available, a steel enclosure is yet another suitable alternative to keeping your generator protected from the rain.
Steel enclosures can range from steel sheds to much smaller enclosures that match the size of your generator almost perfectly.
That said, you do not want the generator to fit too snugly inside the enclosure. If it does, then it might overheat and start a fire.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
Ensure your generator has a built-in GFCI or use an external GFCI device. This safety mechanism protects against electrical shock in the event of water contact or other electrical faults.
Can I Cover my Generator with a Tarp While Running?
Covering a generator with a tarp while it is running is not recommended. Generators require proper ventilation to prevent overheating and ensure the safe operation of the engine.
When covered with a tarp, the generator may not receive sufficient airflow, leading to an increase in temperature and potential damage to the equipment.
Additionally, covering a running generator with a tarp can create a fire hazard. Generators produce heat and exhaust gases during operation, and if these gases are trapped under the tarp, they can accumulate and pose a risk of combustion.
It is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety instructions provided with your generator. These instructions usually recommend keeping the generator in a well-ventilated area, away from combustible materials, and ensuring proper clearance around the unit for air circulation.
If you need to protect your generator from the elements, consider using a generator cover specifically designed for that purpose. These covers are designed to provide protection while allowing for proper ventilation.
Always make sure to turn off the generator and allow it to cool down before covering it with any type of protective material.
Remember, safety should always be the top priority when operating any machinery or equipment, including generators.
Will a Generator Restore Power to My Whole House in an Outage?
If the power is out and your provider is telling you that it could be upwards of eight or 10 hours before they can restore it, you do not want to go that long in the dark.
Of course, using a generator for partial power is better than nothing, but you want more power than that if you can get it.
Well, how much power you’ll have in your home when you run a generator depends on if yours is a portable or a whole-house backup generator.
As the name implies, a whole-house generator is built to restore power to every single room in the home even if your household power supply is not working.
These generators are hard-wired into the electrical system. The generator detects when your household power goes out and will begin running immediately.
This way, you don’t have to stress about your house getting too hot or cold, your food in the freezer melting, or the food in the refrigerator spoiling.
Portable generators are not hard-wired. If they have sufficient wattage to renew power to your home, they can do that, but we’re talking about one very hefty, expensive generator.
What Else Do I Need to Ensure my Generator Works in the Rain?
Extension cords with proper rating: Use extension cords specifically designed for outdoor use and suitable for wet conditions. Look for cords labeled as “water-resistant,” “waterproof,” or “industrial-grade.” Ensure they have a proper gauge to handle the generator’s power output without overheating.
Outdoor-rated electrical connections: Use outdoor-rated electrical outlets, plugs, and connectors to ensure they can withstand moisture and provide a secure connection. Avoid using indoor-rated electrical equipment in wet conditions.
Dry storage for fuel: Store your fuel in a dry and secure location, such as a shed or covered area, to prevent water contamination. Water in the fuel can cause engine damage and affect the generator’s performance.
Adequate ventilation: Ensure the generator has ample space around it to allow for proper ventilation. Do not enclose it in a tight or confined space, as this can lead to overheating or the accumulation of exhaust gases.
Always prioritize your safety when using a generator in wet conditions. If the rain becomes heavy or conditions worsen, it’s best to turn off the generator and wait until the weather improves before resuming operation. Remember to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety instructions for your specific generator model.