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How to Run a Generator in the Rain (And Not Ruin It)

Generators are lifesavers. If your power goes out, these reliable machines are always there for us to keep our essential processes functioning. However, problems with rain and other elements can cause some serious problems.

To run a generator while it is raining, it must be covered. You can use one of these:

  • Steel enclosures
  • Plastic sheds
  • Pop-up canopies
  • Coverings

For most generators, a canopy like this one will do the trick nicely.

You can also build your own enclosure. No matter what, safety precautions should be taken.

Situations will arise where you will need power while it is raining. Read on to find out how to do so safely.

Can a Generator Get Wet?

A small red generator getting wet in the rain

You should avoid letting a generator gets wet. If one gets wet, it can easily lead to an explosion or electrocution. This could not only hurt somebody nearby, but it could permanently damage your generator and anything around it.

In particular, getting moisture into your outlets is an even worse case. To keep your generator working in good working condition, you will need to protect it from all forms of moisture.

How to Protect a Generator from the Rain.

Sometimes you won’t be able to get away from the rain. The power outage could be because of the rain, or maybe you’re camping, and you need some power in these adverse conditions.

One thing you can do to help you protect your generator is to purchase a special cover. Here is the cover that I recommend. With it, you can operate your generator while protecting it at the same time. I really love how easy it is to set up. It holds up well even when the wind is howling.

Electrical Shocks

Water getting into the outlets of the generator is hazardous. This can result in damage to the generator, and if the panels get wet themselves, then electrocution possibilities increase drastically.

Portable generators will typically have something called a GFCI. This enables the outlets to automatically shut themselves off if the outlets get wet because the outlets of the ground fault circuit interrupt.

GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter)

Even the smallest generators can give off enough power to give you a severe shock and even electrocute you.

Before you use a control panel, it is crucial that you check all the electrical components before you use it. If your generator is located outside, then it becomes even more vital that you check it.

Using a generator in the snow, rain, or even if it’s next to a pool of water or a sprinkler, the danger level becomes much higher. If you touch the machine with wet hands, you could be electrocuted instantly.

You must do everything you can to keep your generator as dry as possible. Here are ten useful tips on doing so:

  • Keep away from generator damage and electrocution
  • Never run a generator in a garage or indoors
  • Avoid lethal fumes
  • Always use only one hand whenever you touch the generator
  • Never use the generator in hurricane or adverse weather:
  • Avoid standing over the hot muffler place when refueling:
  • Avoid fuel clogging
  • Turn off the main switch before starting your generator
  • Avoid floodwaters
  • Use a transfer switch for backup

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Keep Way from Generator Damage and Electrocution

As has been said many times, never use your generator in wet weather. The only safe circumstance where you can do this is when you have a tent.

Electricity and water don’t play nice together. When this happens, you will inevitably get electrocution and generator damage. Whenever water gets into outlets or electrical panels, this will cause a short circuit in the frame.

Many portable generators are grounded to their frames. This means that the metallic sections can have a static charge. When a wet generator is plugged in or out, death may occur due to an extreme electric arc.

Related What Happens if You Don’t Ground a Generator.

Never Run a Generator in a Garage or Indoors

Opening and closing the doors or windows doesn’t matter. You should never do this. It may lead to CO poisoning, so make sure the generator stays outside and is at least 20 feet away from any building.

Keep in mind that carbon monoxide is a deadly killer. It is odorless and colorless and has a higher weight than air. It can build up anywhere and cause severe damage to anybody near it.

If the door is open in your garage, there is no guarantee that the carbon monoxide build-up will leave. The outside wind could even blow the CO right back into your garage and deeper into your home.

The wind can take it through the cracks in your doors, and it could get all over your house. It takes CO many hours to diffuse itself, so you are in a dangerous predicament in your own home until this dissipation finishes.

As many people would guess, it is dangerous to put a portable generator near a window or in a garage. Many manufacturers advise that your generator be placed at least 10 feet from your house to reduce the possibility of CO poisoning.

Joseph Mohoriv, an expert on generators, says,

It is never safe to run a generator in a garage. The door being open does not affect the outcome; CO poisoning is still a very real danger.”

Lethal Fumes

Say that you go into your garage to refuel the engine, and suddenly you are overcome by lethal fumes in the garage because they have been slowly building up for so long.

Studies have been done recently that show portable generators produce CO with levels 1500 times higher than that of vehicle engines. This is why it’s crucial you keep your generators as far away from houses and living things as possible.

Many generators that are open-framed also emit heat at all four of its corners. If you enclose the generator too much, then the heat will be reflected back at itself, and it will run too hot. The outside structure could catch on fire, and any flash-flammable materials could melt.

Always Use Only One Hand Whenever You Touch the Generator

A man pulls the starter cord to start the generator

The circuit will never be created if you only see one hand to touch the generator. You should also try to wear rubber-soled shoes while working with a generator so that the electric current doesn’t flow where you don’t want it to.

Any metallic surfaces you touch that are near the generator should only be touched with one hand just in case. Any wet ground should be treated with the utmost caution; rubber-soled shoes are crucial in this case.

Remember that electricity will always flow freely through the path of least resistance. This could easily be your body if you aren’t careful.

Never Use the Generator in Hurricane or Adverse Weather:

Everybody is aware of the destructive power that hurricanes and tornadoes are capable of. Their speeds can reach upwards of 120 mph, and they can wreck just about anything in their path.

Trying to use a generator in these conditions can result in much more damage. One instance could be that your generator gets swept up by the wind and crashes into your house or a person.

For some people, it may sound ludicrous to even do anything outside under these conditions. For others, they simply see their power go out, and they want to get it back as soon as possible, with no care for the impending weather.

In reality, you can just wait until the wind has died down before you set up your generator. Tornadoes and hurricanes do not usually last that long, and the costs will be much less, considering the inevitable damages.

Avoid Standing over the Hot Muffler When Refueling

Keep in mind what part of the gasoline ignites the fumes. These can be small droplets from the gas. The gasoline droplets get mixed in with the air and produce fumes.

Before you start fueling, always give your generator at least 10 minutes to cool down. Also, never stand on a hot side of a muffler while it is refueling. This could be severely dangerous.

Avoid Fuel Clogging

Make sure that the fuel valve is always shut off while you’re refueling. You should also always run the generator until it stalls out. Doing so will make sure that the fuel does not clog the carburetor or fuel injectors.

If you want to store the generator for a long time, then you have to use fresh fuel. Always use a fuel stabilizer as well. Every time you use your generator, you will want it to start up immediately with no hassles.

You will find that a majority of the times that the generator refuses to start is when there are fuel issues. The gasoline will quickly gum up the engine structure if it remains unused for a long time. The generator must be run dry each and every time so that all of the gasoline in its storage is completely used up.

You may not be able to do this all the time, so instead, just try to switch off the fuel supply valve. This will allow you to let the injectors and carburetors run dry, and you will know for sure that it is dry when it stalls automatically.

After this, you can follow up by adding a fuel stabilizer in the tank. If you run the generator at least one time every three months, then you can avoid many potential start-up issues.

Turn off Main Switch Prior to Starting Your Generator

This is extremely important to do. As soon as the generator starts up and goes into its idle mode, you must then turn on the main switch. You will find that many generators that are in the market today feature a main on/off switch.

Before you start up the generator or stop it, make sure that the switch is off. Makes sure you do the same thing whenever you plug or unplug the cords that are in the generator’s electric panel.

The reason for doing this is simple; you will always ensure your own safety and make sure that the generator can take the load.

All the electrical appliances run by the generator will be kept safe because the electricity produced can sometimes spike its amperage and voltage. These dangerous circumstances are kept to a minimum with this technique.

Avoid Floodwaters

You must always keep the generator from a place that may collect pools of water or flood. Many people overlook this detail when setting up their generator. This means you should avoid putting it in downhill areas.

If the water levels are rising in your area, then be sure to check your machine frequently because if it gets flooded, you will be put in danger as well as your generator.

Related 3 Ways To Prevent Water From Coming in Under a Door.

Use a Transfer Switch for Back-Up

By using a transfer switch, you can get the electricity required from the generator without isolating the needed circuits. This means that the power will not feedback onto its closest source, which is usually the power line.

Back-feeding of electricity could mean an instant fatality to those working on the power line. Using a transfer switch also ensures that the generator isn’t overloaded and works as effectively as possible.

Steel Enclosures

One of the best ways to keep your generators safe in the outdoors is to use a steel enclosure. This will make sure that the generator doesn’t overheat, and you can make good use of the strategic openings.

When steel enclosures are installed, it is best to let them be done professionally. A fitting pad for mounting enclosure is also of crucial importance.

Only some generators will be able to use these enclosures; however; If you own a generator that is not compatible, then read on because there are plenty of other ways to keep your generator safe from the elements.

Plastic Shed

If you have a larger generator, then you may need to spend a bit more to cover it. Many of the plastic sheds that work for housing generators are expensive. However, they are a great option if you want something a bit more sturdy than a cloth or plastic covering. Here is a good one that works really well for most generators.

Be careful of enclosures such as these because of the overheating issues that generators face after being used for a long time. The plastic shed could be melted through, or someone touching it could be seriously hurt.

Pop-Up Canopy

These are among the easiest to use when it comes to protecting your generator. However, they are relatively weak, and they struggle to guard against the rain that threatens its outlets. Also, winds can damage the canopies fairly easily.

It is tough to anchor these canopies on driveways, which means you have more limited space to use them. They aren’t that expensive, and you can buy one of these for not too much money, depending on how good you want the fabric and frame to be. Here is one that would work just fine. However, I’d strongly suggest going with the cover that I recommended instead.

Generator Covers

There are endless reasons why using generators in the rain is a bad idea. Covers provide a straightforward fix to this. You can buy a good quality cover, like the one I previously mentioned, that keeps your generator safe from all the elements and allow easy and safe operation the whole time.

You will be able to waterproof and offer protection anywhere you want on the generator. To top it off, you can still move the generator around while it has the cover on. Most of the time, you won’t have to worry about overheating because most covers offer natural cooling options.

The Elements

You must make sure that all of the most sensitive parts of your generator are completely protected. The outlets are the most important parts but not the only ones. Good airflow will reduce overheating, and if it is also safe from strong winds and other elements, you are good to go.

DIY Enclosure for Portable Generator

An electric generator in a metal cupboard

You may want to take something as important as this into your own hands. Maybe you cannot find a good cover or shed that will work with your particular generator; either way, here is how you make your own enclosure.

Here are some materials that you need to obtain if you want an excellent enclosure for your generator:

  • Aluminum sheet
  • Measuring tape
  • A carpentry pencil
  • Louvered vents (can be cheap)
  • Jigsaw
  • Sealant caulk
  • Railing bars
  • Some plywood
  • ½ and ¼ screws for the machine

Once you have all of these items gathered together, all you have to do is follow the step-by-step instructions to make your perfect generator enclosure.

1. Design Your Enclosure

It should go without saying that this will vary based on your particular generator.

Sketch the structure, size, and shape of the enclosure. You need to point out the exact feature that you want to include. Be detailed in your drawing, and also specify what type of material you wish to use.

Remember that not only are you trying to keep the rain away from the generator, but you also want to allow some airflow to the generator so that it doesn’t overheat.

The exhaust air should be given a clear path to exit from as well as the excess heat. The generator will be kept at a high functioning capacity, and there will be limited safety issues.

Mark out all the cooling fans, vents, monitoring systems, exhaust, and any other cooling features on your sketch. Keep in mind that you need to give 2 to 3 inches of space between the generator and the baffle box.

2. Top Panel

  1. Cut the plywood with the saw to make it line up with the overall dimensions of your top. This must also align with all of the other allowances that are arranged on your generator.
  2. The side and front panels will get fixed to the top panel later on. For the rail bars, measure 20.5 inches and chop them. Make sure that all these dimensions line up with the top panel measurements, as well.
  3. For the width, just cut off two more of these parts. The only difference is that they should be slightly smaller.
  4. Use the 1-inch deck screws to get the top panel and railing bar attached. This will help you a lot with attaching the rest of the panels so that they line up with the top.

3. Side and Front

You may not know what the front panel is. This is the panel that is located around the engine air take. You will eventually build the back panel, but that is an entirely different process. However, the front and side panels are built in a very similar fashion.

  1. Measure the dimensions of the front and side dimensions and cut off three plywood segments.
  2. Measure the proper size of the louvered events, and then use your carpentry pencil to mark a rectangular outline.
  3. Keep in mind that the vents are critical to the design; they need to allow the required airflow to the generator while it is running.
  4. Use the jigsaw to cut the slots and make holes in the outline. Then cut it with a Dremel.
  5. Make sure all of your cuts are in a straight line so that they give a good appearance.
  6. Attach the vents using ½ screws to the side panels.

4. Building the Back Panel

This construction will be different from the others. The exhaust system requires a lot of complexities and intricacies to function correctly. You should not throw out the functionality just so you can keep your generator out of the rain.

  1. Make sure that your design for the back panel leaves no room for obstruction. Any build-up of exhaust fumes can cause a ton of generator damage.
  2. Keep in mind that the back panel has to be a little less than half of the front section’s measurement.
  3. All of the remaining space will be filled up with aluminum flashing sheets.

5. Fix the Sheets

At this point, use the ¼ inch machine screws to attach the aluminum sheet to the back panel. You can use the larger sheet functions of the canopy to protect your generator from damage. This can also be bent to help exhaust gases escape.

6. Put the Panels Together.

This may be the most complicated step in building your own generator covering.

  1. First, you must fix 4 of your panels to the rail bars. Use the 1-inch deck screws to do this.
  2. All the edges must be at right angles. Use the L-shaped bracket to do this part. Every corner will need two of these brackets.
  3. For all the edges that are too porous, use sealant caulk to keep them closed. If you have to, use the carpenter’s glue. Be careful about making anything to tight at this point because you may want to adjust things later on.
  4. Get your bungee cords together and wrap them all around the generator to keep the covering safe from strong winds.
  5. Configure the baffle box, and on the bottom panel, add a pallet. Make sure there is room on the pallet to attach some wheels to give it a smoother portable feature.

At this point, you have finished your covering, and your generator should be completely covered. You can now add all the extra stuff, such as:

  • Exhaust System
  • Attic vent
  • Cooling fan
  • Fiberglass installation
  • Insulation
  • Temperature regulator

Connecting a Portable Generator to Your House

Green Portable Generator Outside a Structure With Multiple Cords Coming Out

There are three main ways to connect your generator

  • Extension cords
  • Generator cords
  • Power transfer systems

Extension Cords

These are by far the cheapest way to connect your generator, but they also don’t allow you to utilize the full power of a large generator. This is similar to paying for something in full but only being able to use half of it.

You may not realize it, but extension cords can be dangerous, and they are very time-consuming. If you do something so simple as using the wrong length or gauge, then you could be shocked, or there could be a fire.

The best scenario for extension cords is if you are using an inverter and you only have simple appliances to power, such as a fridge and lights.

Generator Cords

This is a great connector for when you’re using a generator of medium size. You can use this connector in a storm and be safe with plugging in several appliances.

All you have to do is plug the gen cord into the 20 or 30-amp outlet located on your generator. The opposite end will split into many household outlets, and you can then connect many more extension cords indoors without any danger.

Power Transfer Systems

This is by far the best option. It excels in every category

  • Convenience
  • Power
  • Safety

These systems have everything you need to safely and efficiently hook your generator to your house. These power systems give energy to entire circuits instead of just appliances. They can provide power to all of your “hard-wired appliances,” such as:

  • Lights
  • Security systems
  • Furnaces
  • Air conditioners

The Takeaway

You should be able to use your generator whenever you want, except for natural disasters like tornadoes. If you need one for camping or your power goes out now, you can run it whenever you like without risking harm to yourself or your machine.

If the noise is too annoying, then there are specific enclosures and features that allow you to limit that as well. Any of the downsides form generators can be mitigated nowadays with clever techniques.

Keep all of these suggestions in mind the next time you buy or run one of your generators. You can now be well prepared for windy and stormy days, with the right generator cover, as well as sunny ones.

Thanks for reading!

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