Every day we hear about new power outages, rolling blackouts, and increased utility costs. This is prompting a lot of people to start thinking differently about how they’re preparing for an emergency situation.
The other day I pulled my old gas generator out of the basement to get it running. When I opened the garage door and saw a downpour outside, I thought to myself, “can I run a generator in the rain”?
Maybe not a complete downpour, but what about a light drizzle?
How am I prepared for a blackout that could last days if not weeks if I don’t even have a place to run my generator safely when it rains?
Can you run a generator in the rain or do you need a better solution? Is it worth resorting to possibly endangering my family by running the generator in the garage?
This guide will help break down some of the questions and concerns you may have about running a generator when it’s raining.
Will Rain Ruin a Generator?
First of all, will the rain ruin the generator? There’s no exact yes or no answer to this but chances are, yes, the wet conditions will ruin your generator.
If it doesn’t ruin the generator, you might have to worry about electric shock or electrocution when you go to unplug something. You cannot run a generator in the rain without the proper tent, cover, or enclosure. The rain will definitely damage your generator.
Can a Whole House Generator Run in the Rain?
The ultimate solution to this concern is a whole house backup generator. You don’t have to worry about whether or not generators can get wet if your home has a whole house generator installed.
These units are made with protective generator covers that keep them safe no matter what. They can withstand intense wind, rain, snow, sleet, and whatever else gets thrown at them.
Keep in mind that they’re also tied into whatever fuel source you have to heat and cool your home. If you have natural gas, they’ll run on that so you won’t have to worry about running to the gas station for fuel.
You can also get whole house generators with emergency fuel sources like propane. You can then keep a few propane tanks with you in case of an emergency where the natural gas line isn’t working.
Can a Portable Generator Run in the Rain?
Most of us have portable generators, but can you use a generator in the rain? If you don’t have some type of cover or generator enclosure for it, no, you should never use it in heavy rain or any type of adverse weather.
If you look at the manual that came with your generator it will clearly state that it’s not designed to be used during rain or wet weather. If it’s raining out and you are out of power, do not risk hurting yourself or damaging your generator to the point of no return.
There are various things that can go wrong when running a generator in the rain. Water affects various areas of the generator, let’s break some of them down:
The air inlet of your generator is there to provide airflow to create the combustion process. There is a filter on the inlet to prevent other things from getting inside but that doesn’t stop water.
If water fills the air inlet and mixes with gas it will stall the engine and can prevent it from starting in the future.
Similar to the previous issue, if water gets into the exhaust it will impact the combustion process. It doesn’t take much for this to happen and prevent the engine from operating.
Getting water on the spark plugs will prevent the plug from working and can ultimately destroy it for good.
Can a Portable Generator Be Used Indoors?
Operating any type of portable generator indoors is always a bad decision. Even generators that are labeled for apartment use or in small spaces are still not designed to be used in a confined area. There are a few reasons for this.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and invisible gas that is incredibly toxic and dangerous. When you run the generator indoors, it’s throwing off this gas and when it’s in a confined space, it’s very easy for the air to become engulfed and cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Keep in mind that opening the garage door does not permit you to run the generator inside the garage. There’s no guarantee that the buildup will go out the door and won’t head towards your house instead. If there is even a light wind outside it could blow the gas further into your house.
Even running a generator near a window can be a problem for your health. It’s advised that you keep generators at least 20 feet from your house to reduce the risk of poisoning.
Another issue while not nearly as important as the previous is the noise factor. If you’re running a generator anywhere near your home or even close to being indoor, it could be quite loud and annoying.
Can I Store a Generator Outside?
The answer to this question really depends on where you’re storing it. If you’re not running the generator, you can certainly store it outside but it needs to still be kept in an enclosure where it will not get wet.
If you just happened to throw a solar generator outside and left it somewhere on your property for a few months, chances are it got rained on if it’s not covered.
I would highly recommend against trying to use it because it could explode or electrocute you. The fragile electrical components will become live when you fire it up which can pass the electric current through you when you go to touch something.
Even worse, the fact that it’s been left out could prevent the GFCI or ground fault circuit interrupter from working which can lead to severe electrocution.
Protecting a Generator From The Rain
It’s very important that you have a plan for running the generator outside in the rain. Even if you have a covered porch or patio, it’s still too close to your house for comfort and if you have any open windows, carbon monoxide can get in.
It’s best to have a serious plan for where you’ll put the generator outside when the time comes. You essentially have two options here:
1. Find a Dry Spot
If you find yourself in a pinch, make sure you have an extremely long extension cord that you can run from the generator to your house.
Look around the property for anywhere that is both dry and far enough away. It could be under some dense foliage, under a parking pad, or even in the trunk of a large enough SUV as long as you’re not in it.
Make sure the connection is waterproof as well. It’s great if the elements aren’t impacting your generator but you need to ensure the cord running from the generator to the appliances is waterproof as well.
2. Add a Cover or Enclosure
Your other option if you prepare ahead of time is to have a dedicated area for your generator that is covered. It can be a small plastic shed, a deck box, a pop-up canopy, or you can DIY it.
Make sure you factor in adequate ventilation to prevent overheating and to make sure the fumes don’t build up.
Recommendations From Amazon:
GenTent Generator Running Cover – This cover attaches directly to the generator’s frame and can withstand heavy winds and downpours. It’s a great and affordable option if you’re limited on space and don’t have the ability to build something larger.
Outdoor Storage Shed – An outdoor storage shed is another option but may require some customizations. These aren’t necessarily designed for generators so make sure it’s large enough for your unit and that you cut large enough holes for ventilation.
Zombiebox Metal Cover – This galvanized steel cover is a powerful option that works great for gas generators. It can serve as both a noise barrier and protection against intense storms and other forms of bad weather.
Can I Run a Generator in the Rain?
So, can generators run in the rain? Yes – if you have the right equipment to protect them. It’s important that you understand that nothing is worth your life so don’t ever run a generator indoors or even in a garage with the door open.
You can run a generator in the rain as long as you have something to cover it so start planning now and don’t actually wait for all hell to break loose before you get out there and start preparing for the worst.