Natural disasters often bring with them high winds, flooding and rain. If you are relying on a portable generator for backup power it pays to be aware of the safety implications of using your generator in wet weather.
Here we will go over the following:
- Should I run a generator in the rain?
- What are the dangers?
- How to run a generator safely
- Can I run a generator in the rain if it is covered?
- How to build a generator cover
Can I Run a Generator In The Rain?
No, never run a generator in the rain or wet unless you have a high quality generator tent or shelter. You are in danger of electrocution or serious damage to your generator if you operate a portable generator during wet weather.
The Dangers Of Running A Generator In The Rain
Wet weather makes it challenging to run a generator safely unless you have it in a well-ventilated enclosure. Some of the specific concerns associated with running a generator in unfavorable weather conditions include:
This can occur after a storm, as well as during, and touching a wet generator while it’s running could be fatal.
You can reduce the risk of electrocution by ensuring your generator is properly grounded. The best way of doing this is by installing a portable ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Read more about how to ground a portable generator.
It’s not only the generator that could deliver a nasty shock either. If you’re standing in a puddle while operating the generator, even the best GFCI will do little to soften the blow.
For your own safety, and to protect the generator, only operate it standing on dry ground, and preferably, with the generator safely stored under some kind of canopy.
#2 Generator Malfunction
If water enters any part of the generator, it could ruin certain components and cause irreparable damage to the generator, leaving you on the market for a replacement dual fuel generator and facing outlay costs of $500 or more.
#3 Fire Hazards
Even if you’ve been smart enough to cover your generator, you could still be in danger. Without sufficient ventilation, generators won’t get enough airflow to work effectively and may even catch fire.
Similarly, storing fuel too close to the generator or overloading are also potential fire hazards. Having the a car fire extinguisher nearby can help reduce the damage, but it won’t do much in terms of eliminating risk.
Although you can leave a portable generator in the rain if you’re not using it, exposure to the elements will mean more maintenance and more potential problems in the long run, which is why we recommend either buying or building a cover for your backup generator.
3 Tips On How To Run A Generator Safely
Generators use fuel to produce a powerful voltage, making them potentially dangerous machines, especially when there’s lots of water around. To prevent damage to your generator and yourself, keep the following generator safety tips in mind:
#1 Don’t Run Your Generator In The Rain Or Near Water
Although pure water doesn’t conduct electricity at all because it’s free of electrons, naturally occurring water, like rain, or the water in your pool or sprinkler system contains sediments and minerals that ionize the water molecules, enabling them to conduct electricity.
If you even touch one of the electrical components of your generator with wet hands, you could get a nasty electrical shock. Imagine how much worse it is if your generator’s sitting in a puddle of water while the rain hammers down on both you and it.
#2 Keep Your Generator Outside And Far From Your Home
When the storm clouds gather overhead, it’s tempting to move your generator inside. The trouble is, running a generator inside even the most well-ventilated area is highly dangerous.
According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, even the more safety-minded among us unknowingly put ourselves in danger simply by placing our generators too close to or inside the home.
As generators burn fuel, they emit toxins, including monoxide. Inhaling these fumes causes you to lose consciousness and, subsequently, suffocate.
If your generator is already situated closer than 10 feet from your house, you’re already exposed to possible carbon monoxide poisoning and should get a CO detector to assess the emission levels.
#3 Never Plug Your Generator Into A Wall Outlet
In your desperation to watch the next installment of your favorite Netflix series, you may be tempted to plug your generator into a wall outlet so that you can power up your laptop.
This method is extremely dangerous and can cause “back feeding.” This process can permanently damage your electrical system and deliver a potentially fatal jolt of electricity to anyone who touches the generator cord or who may be working on the main power lines.
Can I Run My Generator in The Rain If It’s Covered?
Bargain-basement generator covers won’t help you much when it comes to running a generator safely in the rain.
The cheapest offerings are only designed to protect a generator from the elements while it’s not operating.
If you want a cover that makes it safe to operate your generator in bad weather, you’ll need to fork out a little more than the cost of a basic waterproof generator cover.
The best generator covers, like the one from IGAN, can protect your generator from rain, wind, and snow both when it’s dormant and when running.
Our Top Pick: GenTent 10k Generator Tent Running Cover
According to the manufacturers, this is the “only ENGINEERED product on the market that keeps generators safe to use in rain and severe weather,” and has been tab tested for:
- 70mph winds
- 12” rain per day
- 18” snow load
Designed for optimum airflow, this generator tent should keep your machine running at peak performance, even in hurricane conditions.
The waterproof fabric cover is made from -25℃ cold-crack rated fabric complete with welded, watertight seams. In other words – it’s been built to last.
Such a high-quality piece of equipment doesn’t come cheap, however, but shelling out a hundred dollars or so on a decent generator cover could extend the life of your machine by years, saving you money in the long run.
Best For Portable Frame Generators: IGAN Generator Tent Running Cover
Made from waterproof tarpaulin, this heavy-duty cover comes with a stainless steel frame that fits neatly onto the top of most 3500w-12000w portable generators.
This robust construction prevents the cover from collapsing under heavy rain or snow and provides greater stability in high winds.
Best For Enclosed Inverters: IGAN Small Inverter Generator Tent Cover
Its design ensures the machine remains protected from the elements while giving it sufficient natural airflow to operate effectively while preventing overheating.
With a heavy-duty tarpaulin cover reinforced with a strong metal frame and fiberglass support rods, it’s designed to withstand the most inclement weather.
Although this product receives consistently positive reviews, it should be noted that it is designed only to protect fully enclosed inverter generators, rather than framed portable generators.
With a low price tag and a 3-year warranty, this is a great place to start if you don’t want to build your own generator shelter.
How To Build Your Own Generator Shelter
If you’ve got a few DIY skills and some timber lying around, building your own generator shelter could work out cheaper than buying one and may even last longer.
It will mean your generator is less portable than it would be with a cover from GenTent or IGAN, but it could also mean better protection as you can build it according to your unique requirements and with a knowledge of the prevailing weather direction.
A good option, if you’ve got the time and materials to complete it, is to construct a simple shelter like the one in the video below.
This will withstand some wind and rain but may not be robust enough to outlast a hurricane.
While converting a plastic storage shed is one option, a plywood shelter is more robust and requires few skills, tools, or materials to complete, as you’ll see from the tutorial below:
Another benefit of this type of shelter is that doubles up as one of the best ways to silence your generator, meaning it gives you peace and quiet, as well as peace of mind.
When building a generator shelter, make sure you bear the following requirements in mind:
Airflow – without sufficient airflow, a generator will struggle to operate and may even overheat, causing a fire hazard
Ventilation – toxic exhaust fumes are dangerous so, you must ensure your creation has plenty of vents to allow the fumes to dissipate.
Heat – make sure your shelter is large enough that you can include a heat shield of some description to stop the shelter from melting or catching fire.
Access – if you want to run your generator in the rain, you’ll need access to the fuel tank and other moving parts. Make sure your shelter is big enough to allow easy access without exposing its sensitive parts to the elements.
When bad weather causes a power outage, the first thing you want to do is get your backup generator going. If it’s still raining cats and dogs outside, however, this can be extremely dangerous and potentially fatal.
Rather than running the risk of being electrocuted or breaking your generator, either build or buy yourself an effective cover.
Some generator tents have been proven to withstand winds of up to 70mph, but you don’t need to shell out $100 or more to get that level of protection – some sheets of plywood and a little DIY flair could create a robust shelter for less than half the price.