The short answer is “yes,” but doing so without protection is asking for trouble. It should be fine if you run your generator in the rain for short times and infrequently. The danger of premature corrosion, however, is in the elements your generator gets exposed to when it is not running.
The following is all you need to know about running your generator in the rain or any wet elements and how to safeguard it when running and storing the unit.
As mentioned, you can, but doing so is never a great idea. While just about every generator is water resistant, water gets into everything it can, which is not good for any of the components on your standard generator.
Unless you dry your generator every time it gets wet, standing water will eventually cause corrosion. While you might not notice it for years, eventually, if it repeatedly gets wet, everything from the gas tank to the frame will start to rust and corrode. If your generator is repeatedly exposed to water, that rust and corrosion will invade more quickly.
Another risk you run with running your generator when exposed to rain, snow, sleet, or ice is that the water can permeate and cause electrical problems. While occasional exposure to water will not usually cause a problem, standing water can seep under the electronics housing and cause problems.
In the worst-case scenario, deluged generator electronics can short, and your machine can be rendered useless.
In very humid climates, the moisture in the air can prematurely corrode your generator components, which will not likely affect its performance but can lead to rust marks and stains.
Even in climates that are not overly humid, if your generator is half protected from sun and wind, water from rain that falls on it might not evaporate and mixed with a humid couple of months, can cause rusting.
In extreme circumstances, excessive humidity, coupled with swings in temperature, can cause moisture to enter the gasoline system, resulting in misfiring and even stalling. The moisture results from condensation from temperature extremes, aided by overall dampness in the air.
Another moisture danger is snow and ice. If you live in a cold climate, snow can pile up in the winter, and if your generator is not protected, it can set on and around the generator. Snow can impede your ability to get to it and get it running, and it can lead to cycles of melting and freezing.
Melting and freezing water can saturate the electronics and other components and lead to malfunctions. If the exposure to the elements is sustained over months, snow and ice can collect on the top surface of the generator and impede your ability to get it running. In those cases, the only way to fire it up might require you to remove the snow and ice first.
If your generator is exposed to downpours, water can collect on and in the machine and lead to corrosion and operability issues. During heavy weather events, like a hurricane, it is not
uncommon to have so much precipitation and moisture in the air that everything gets soaked.
Your generator can have its electronics compromised and even destroyed when exposed to prolonged, heavy rain.
Most people need generators because of power outages, usually during heavier storms. When major storms hit, deluges are common, which can affect your equipment’s performance, appearance, and structural integrity. Fortunately, however, generators are made to withstand heavy weather.
So while your equipment might be soaked, it will still work if fully fueled. The issue is with the backend maintenance. If your generator is not covered, you must dry it off as thoroughly as possible to avoid standing water issues or problems caused by high humidity. The easiest way to avoid this is to buy a generator cover that works when stored and running.
Yes. There are always scenarios where your generator might become too moisture-saturated and malfunction, but running it is fine in most rainstorms. As mentioned, the real issue with moisture is after the event has passed. Not drying water after a weather event can lead to standing water, moisture permeation, rust, and operability issues.
If possible, you should avoid running your generator during a downpour. Avoiding running it in heavy weather means you will avoid exposing it to a saturation risk. That said, if you have no choice, most quality generators will run faithfully even in the most extreme weather.
During a deluge, if you must run your generator and do not have it covered, the more protection you can provide, the better off you will be. Throw a tarp over it when it is not running, and use a tarp to cover at least the top of it if you do have to run it in heavy weather. Be careful, though, not to cover up the exhaust system or anywhere the equipment will get hot.
The best way to cover your generator for running it in the rain is to buy a generator cover. These are usually designed for specific manufacturers, but there are many generic generator covers that will fit most models. The key to using a generator cover in the rain is that you want your cover to be operable when the equipment is running.
A cover that works when the generator runs will keep it dry throughout. You will be able to move the generator if you must, and moving it will not expose the working parts to rain or moisture.
Most covers that work when the generator is running are also made to protect against cumulative rain and moisture when you have the system stored.
When applying a cover to your equipment, make sure that you follow the installation instructions. Some require you to pull off parts of the cover when running the unit. Other covers will work fine when the machine is running, but you need to be careful if you ever move the machine so you do not damage the cover.
If you do not have a cover, you have options.
One option is to throw a tarp over it as described above. A tarp will protect the generator in everything but a sustained downpour. For everyday severe weather, however, a tarp will suffice in a pinch.
Another option is to build a cover for your equipment. You should always have your generator standing on a slab of concrete or another type of platform and should never have it exposed to the ground. Exposure to the ground can mean the base gets saturated and rusts or condensation occurs, which can lead to water in your gas line.
The following are three generator covers that will ensure your generator stays dry, whether you are storing or running it.
Porch Shield Waterproof Universal Generator Cover 38 x 28 x 30 inch – for Most Generators 5500-15000 Watt, Black
Made of 600D polyester and equipped with water-resistant undercoating, your generator will remain completely dry, even if exposed to heavy precipitation. Full cover seam seal tape lets you fully waterproof the generator double-ply fabric further protects it, even while it allows for ventilation.
An elastic hem cord and Velcro patches let you create a customized, secure fit, essentially making the unit windproof as well. This cover comes with a 3-year warranty and is extremely durable. Your generator will be protected from wind, snow, ice, rain, UV rays, sap, dust, and debris. There are five sizes available so that you can fit just about any sized generator.
Baseline dimensions are 38″ long by 28 inches wide by 30 inches high. It comes in black, is foldable for storage, and weighs a little more than one pound. The Porch Shield Waterproof Universal Generator Cover comes with a 3-year warranty. This cover is designed to be used for storage.
IGAN Generator Tent Running Cover, Ultra Heavy Duty Tarpaulin Enclosure, Portable All-weather Generator Rain Shelter for most 3500w-12000w generators, Black-1
The IGAN Generator Tent Running Cover has a patented design that covers every part of your machine. Designed to be ultra-heavy duty, the tarp is 100% waterproof and provides protection when running and in storage. A steel frame made of 5/8 inch tubes gives the cover stability, even in high winds or if the generator gets jostled.
This cover works with most 3500W to 12000W machines. The generator must have a tubular or square frame. Dimensions are 33 inches long by 25.5 inches wide by 18.5 inches high. The cover weighs 10.8 pounds.
Water resistant, this cover will protect your generator against wind, ice, snow, and rain. Another nice aspect of this cover is that you can move the generator with the cover on, making it easy to store the generator for when you need it. When that happens, you know your generator is still protected against the elements.
Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment WGen Generator Cover – Universal Fit – For Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment Portable Generators Up to 9500 Rated Watts
The Westinghouse Outdoor Power Equipment WGen Generator Cover fits all standard open-framed generators. The materials used are durable, synthetic, polyester fiber, held together with high-density stitches. A drawstring enables a tight and secure fit, and the cover is rated to fit all generators up to 95000 running watts.
It is specifically designed to fit the following gas-powered Westinghouse generators:
The polyester shell is UV resistant and provides protection against wind, rain, snow, ice, dust, debris, moisture, and UV rays. A drawstring allows for a tight and compact fit for storage. Dimensions are 28.5 inches long by 25 inches wide by 24.5 inches high. The cover weighs 4 ounces.
Generators are tough pieces of equipment. That said, moisture is one enemy a generator needs help against. Use the recommendations in this article to ensure your equipment stays dry and works when you need it the most.