Generators kick into action when there is a power outage and that is usually when there’s bad weather. Statistically, bad weather is among one of the top causes of power outage in the US, and this means generators are often used in times of wet weather. The next logical question that follows is, can you run a generator in wet weather? And if so, what is the correct way to run a generator in wet weather? A very important concern revolves around how safe it really is to run a generator in wet weather.
This article aims to help you understand how you can safely run your generator in times of bad weather and what precautions need to be addressed. Given that generators are often used during rain and snow, it is important for you to understand its use conditions before making any decision that could result in a fire, explosion or personal injury.
Can You Run a Generator in Wet Weather?
Ideally no, but by taking the right steps and going about it with precaution, you can. Most manufacturers add a safety label with your generator to warn against use of the generator in wet weather, however, when the weather isn’t right you are required to use some safety measures before starting the generator.
Bottom line is that you can definitely run a generator in wet weather, but it needs to be carefully placed and used. You should be good to go if you have taken the correct safety precautions. These will be discussed in detail down below.
Safety Hazards of Running a Generator in Wet Weather
Electrical Leakage Because of Moisture and Rain
The reason it is not advised to use a generator in wet weather is that generators produce high wattage current and moisture can cause fires, explosions, and electrocution. Water is a conductor which means it can cause electric current to escape from its primary path. Loose current can be very dangerous at times and can even cause death. Therefore, ideally you should not be running a generator in bad weather but as mentioned above, generators are very often necessary to use in wet weather, hence taking precautions is essential.
Touching the outer shell of a wet generator can cause an electrocution strong enough to be fatal, it is recommended that a generator should not be placed near a water sprinkler system or a swimming pool as well. Remember that electric current flows through the path of least resistance and if you aren’t careful, the path of least resistance can very conveniently be your body.
Rainwater can enter the electric panel of the generator which can cause instant electrocution upon touching the metal surfaces of the generator. Most generators come with a switch that stalls the generator when the grounding is interrupted, however, not every machine is equipped with such mechanisms and you shouldn’t rely on a switch without precaution. With snow on the other hand it may take longer for water to sit into the electric panel, but it is certainly possible.
The Dangers of Using a Generator During Hurricanes
Hurricanes on the other hand do not often pose the threat of your generator getting wet but with winds quickly going beyond 60 mph and sometimes above 100 mph, one can expect outdoor machinery to be lifted when conditions worsen. This does not warrant the use of a generator inside your home. In the Irma Hurricane in 2017, a large number of people died because of fatal emissions from their generators which were being used indoors. During a hurricane, you need to ensure that your generator is grounded outdoors and is at least 20 feet away from any openings of your living space. CO (generator emission) is heavier than air which means that it can linger around the inside of your home for many hours or days if it gets trapped inside, which is why parking it away from doors and windows is important.
Down below, I will be discussing in detail what you can do to ground your hurricane when there is a danger of hurricanes.
How to Use a Generator in Bad Weather?
Keeping in view the above discussion, I hope to have made clear that using your generator in bad weather (especially wet weather) can have many complications associated with it. I will now be discussing the use cases for different types of weather.
How to Use a Generator in Rain
Rain is among the most problematic weathers to run your generator in. What you want to ensure is that the delicate parts of your generator such as the electricity panel are not exposed to water under any circumstances.
The first thing you can do is to get a generator shed or cover for your machine. Most covers are designed to keep the essential parts of your generator dry during heavy rain. Moreover, you need to be mindful of the fact that your generator emits gasses which need ventilation so a cover that goes over the whole machine may interfere with the ventilation and this can also cause overheating.
You usually have the option between waterproof fabric covers, steel enclosures and DIY covers.
Some Generator Covers for Use When It Rains
- GenTent 10k Generator Tent Running Cover
The GenTent is a top choice for many that sits on top of your generator and offers protection from rain, snow and strong winds. It actively keeps water from running into the areas that house the electric circuits while allowing ventilation to avoid overheating.
The GenTent, as mentioned above nicely protects your generator from rain, snow and strong winds. In fact, it has been designed to last through extremely cold temperatures. One may imagine that a complete canopy on top of the generator could be a problem during strong winds, however, that is not the case. Various tests have been conducted to ensure that the GenTent holds on strongly through hurricanes and can even be left on when being towed with your RV. Moreover, it allows you to refuel your generator while leaving the GenTent assembled. Assembly is fairly easy and takes about 5 minutes.
The GenTent is although great for protection, it is rather expensive for a generator cover. You could find equally (or even more effective) generator covers for less money but with the downside that they may not be as convenient. Moreover, although it allows ventilation, the ventilation opening may allow water to seep onto the generator in the event of heavy rain. Although it fits all generators with an external frame very conveniently, it may not be assembled on most inverter generators since they come without external frames.
- Himal Generator Cover
Another great product that you can use for protection against rain is the Himal Generator Cover. The cover is designed to protect against UV rays (that can damage the surface of the generator) and extremely heavy rain without letting the engine get wet. However, the downside of this product is that you cannot use it while running your generator, since it is fully enclosed, you could encounter the risk of overheating. On the other hand, it is great for transporting your generator when towing it behind your truck and it’s quite reliable when you park your generator outside your home for long periods of time. It lets you avoid the hassle of running to cover your generator or towing it into your garage every time you see a storm coming.
It reliably protects against strong winds, heavy rains and extreme sun conditions. You can tow your generator anywhere without having to remove the cover every time and leaving it on for extended periods of time ensures that it will protect the engine from dust buildup which can be a hassle when you have to clean it.
You cannot leave it on while running your generator, though you could modify it to allow for ventilation near the exhaust ports, it may still cause overheating and may even render the cover less efficient in protection later on.
How to Use a Generator in Snow
Snow is sometimes less problematic than rain because it can’t seep into the electric circuits as easily as rain, but it poses other threats towards safe use of your generator. While covers offer great protection, they do not cover your generator from underneath, and this is a problem if your area has a lot of snow.
Snow tends to form in layers and just a few inches of snow can quickly bury a part of your generator if it is placed on the ground. I therefore recommend using enclosures on raised platforms if your area gets a lot of snow. However, many generator covers are available that protect your machine against extremely cold temperatures, but it is still important for you to raise your generator to higher ground in such a way that snow does not build around it.
Some Generator Covers for Use When It Snows
- Suncast Horizontal Outdoor Storage Shed
A great enclosure you can use for your generator to protect not only against snow but also rain is the Suncast Storage Shed. Although it can be used for storing a variety of outdoor objects like your lawn mower and gardening tools, you could designate it for your generator. The shed has three openings, the top lid and two doors, which can allow you to provide enough ventilation when running your generator and it also keeps snow and rain from entering the shed if you keep the top lid closed at all times. However, the enclosure is by no means portable, this means you will have to park it in one spot but if you plan to use the generator primarily for your home, it is a good idea to permanently park it somewhere and keep it safe in an outdoor shed.
It is made from highly durable resin which is also fireproof, and its doors can be locked so you don’t have to worry about theft from your property which can be the case if you leave your generator outdoors. The doors and lid can allow for great ventilation, so you don’t have to worry about overheating and since it encloses the generator, it protects from snow buildup around the generator. It is big enough to house most generators and it also gives you plenty of space to store excess fuel. However, storing excess fuel near your generator when the engine is running is not recommended because it can very easily cause a fire and the fuel can make it worse.
If you leave the doors all the way open or if the rain is strong enough, it can cause water to seep into the sensitive parts of the generator and it is also not portable. If you tow your generator with you to camping trips, then the shed may not be your solution. Moreover, with enough inches of snow, the shed can have a buildup of snow around it, although this does not directly damage your generator, it can hinder your ability to operate the generator without shoveling the snow around it.
- Porch Shield Waterproof Universal Generator Cover
Another great product for protection against the snow is the Porch Shield Cover. This product works equally well with rain and strong winds as it does with snow but the upside of it is that the polyester provides good insulation from extremely cold temperatures during snowfall and the plastic lamination on the inside ensures water is absolutely not able to seep in no matter what the conditions. However, it does not protect your generator from underneath and it also allows for the possibility of snow buildup which is why I recommend using it whilst keeping your generator elevated. You can even use bricks to elevate your generator a couple of inches from the ground and protect its bottom.
The biggest upside of the Porch Shield Cover is that it allows for good ventilation so you can leave it on while running your generator. Not only does it protect against snow, it also offers good protection from snow and strong winds given that its lamination a maintains 100% waterproof guarantee. Velcro allows for easy removal and installation as well.
Since one side has to be opened up to allow for ventilation, the possibility of water seeping in still exists. Also, the cover encloses the generator on all other sides so overheating could be a possibility since some generators use air cooling. Moreover, for complete protection against snow, you will need to elevate the generator alongside using the cover to avoid buildup around it. Even after applying the cover, the generator is exposed from underneath so if you tow it around, you have to be mindful of the terrain.
How to Use a Generator in Strong Winds
Hurricanes and blizzards are a frequent phenomenon in many places and to use your generator safely in such conditions is not a very difficult job. Strong winds pose two major threats, dust buildup inside the engine and dragging the generator due to high wind speeds. As for the dust buildup, a generator cover is a way to go but to avoid the generator from being carried with high winds, you need to ground your generator to fix its position. A ground anchor can be used conveniently by hammering it into soft ground and fixing your generator with the anchor. More than one anchor may also be used.
Some Generator Covers for Use In Strong Winds
- Champion Weather-Resistant Storage Cover
A great cover for dust protection in hurricanes is the Champion Storage Cover. It covers your generator from all sides, tightening around the bottom, ensuring that high winds and water cannot penetrate and reach the generator in any weather condition. Moreover, it also allows for trouble-free elongated storage of your generator if you are going away for vacation.
The Champion Storage Cover gives 100% enclosure for your generator and is zipped up fully to ensure that dust cannot build up in the engine and in the event of rain, the water does not penetrate the waterproof vinyl. The cover leaves the wheels out which allows you to tow the generator behind your RV without having to remove the cover.
The vinyl sometimes does not withstand highway speeds when being towed and the underneath of the generator still remains uncovered. Moreover, the cover does not allow ventilation, so you have to remove it fully for use.
I hope you’ve been to infer from this article that efficient protection of your generator is not only important for the health of your generator but also for your own safety. And that the type of protection you use for your generator largely depends on what kind of weather you are protecting it against. While rain and snow pose almost similar threats, strong winds are easier to deal with. Wet weather is your generator’s biggest enemy and therefore protecting against water should be your first priority if you own a generator in an area that receives a lot of rain or snow.