One of the questions that is always asked, is can a portable generator get wet?. Portable generators are designed to be used in all sorts of conditions- even if they get wet. However, it’s important to make sure that the generator is dry before plugging it in and starting it up again. Operating a wet generator can be dangerous, especially when the wetness gets into the outlets. Risks involved in operating a wet generator include electrocution and possible damage to the generator.
Water and electricity are never a good combination. If the generator is wet, it’s important to let it dry before using it again. So, how can you operate a generator when it is rainy or snowy? How do you make sure that the generator stays dry? Read on to find out.
How to Use a Generator On a Rainy or Snowy Day
Many areas experience a high number of power outages during rain or snowstorms. During these power outages, it is common to see people using generators. If you have to use a portable generator during wet weather conditions, here are the precautions to observe:
1. Invest in an Outdoor Shelter for Your Generator
Since you cannot run a generator indoors, you have to find a safe outdoor shelter. When building a generator shelter, ensure:
- That the generator shelter is at least 15 feet away from your home’s doors and windows. The 15 feet distance is to keep your house free from carbon monoxide produced by the running generator.
- The shelter has ventilation to allow adequate airflow. Lack of airflow in the shelter could result in overheating the generator, leading to its shutting down. The lack of airflow will prevent an efficient combustion process in the generator’s engine, which can hamper the normal operations of the generator. Lastly, lack of airflow in the generator shelter can accumulate carbon monoxide, which can be poisonous to anyone who will come to open the shelter or check the generator’s running.
- The shelter has a solid floor to prevent water from entering. A solid floor will also prevent water from accumulating around the generator. This could result in your generator sinking into mud and getting damaged because of rusting or other chemical reactions.
- The shelter should be waterproof. This is because the shelter will protect your generator from rain and any other water source. Remember, building or investing in this shelter aims to protect your generator from getting wet.
- The generator shelter is fire resistant. Check the materials used to construct the shelter and ensure they are fireproof. Generators can emit sparks, which can be disastrous if the materials used to make the shelter are flammable. If wood is the only material available for constructing the shelter, ensure that the interiors of the shelter have fireproof linings or coatings.
- The shelter is of appropriate size. The shelter should be big enough to allow your generator some space and to protect your generator from rain. In addition, make sure that the shelter is big enough to allow you access to your generator.
2. Invest in a Generator Cover
If you are operating your generator during periods of heavy rain, invest in a cover. The cover will protect the electrical components on your generator from getting wet. Without this protection, water may cause these sensitive electrical components to short circuit, which can prove disastrous for the running of your generator. There are different manufacturers making rain covers for different sizes and models of portable generators.
This is a temporary solution to protecting your generator from water when tailgating, RVing, or traveling. However, these covers are not ideal for usage in an extended period, and they are not fit to be used during a storm. A permanent solution is buying an outdoor shelter for the generator, as mentioned above.
The cover should be waterproof and of appropriate size. The ideal material to make the cover is a tarp because it does not rust or corrode even when exposed to rainwater for an extended period. Vinyl material is an excellent option; it is strong, waterproof, anon-conductor, and fire-retardant.
3. Use a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Outlet
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are electrical outlets that shut off the current to detect any electrical leakage. GFCI outlets are excellent for supplying power for your generator during a storm or heavy rain. They protect anyone using the electrical outlets from any electric shocks, common when operating a generator in a wet environment. These types of outlets work by automatically shutting off the power supply when they detect any electricity leakage along the circuit. If you are looking to buy a safe generator for use during wet weather, make sure you select one with GFCI outlets.
Safety Tips for using a Generator
1. Never run a generator indoors
A running generator emits carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless gas; hence challenging to notice it. This gas can turn out to be poisonous when inhaled in large quantities. Therefore, it is essential to keep the generator outside and away from any living space as recommended by OSHA. You should also avoid placing it near vents, windows, or doors since wind can blow the fumes into your house. Placing the generator at least 10 feet from your home reduces the possibility of CO poisoning.
2. Always keep the generator dry
It is essential to operate your generator in a well-ventilated and dry place. If it gets wet, you should make sure to wipe off all the water from its surfaces before using it again. Also, try to keep it away from any spills. If the generator starts to emit smoke or a strange odor, shut off its power supply and contact a professional for an inspection.
3. Do not use the generator during a hurricane or adverse weather
Adverse weather like hurricanes and tornadoes have potent winds that can get up to 120 mph. Such powerful winds can cause damages, including blowing a generator and crushing it on a building or a person. Such an occurrence can result in injuries or even fatalities. Therefore, it is essential to avoid using the generator during stormy weather conditions.
- Avoid fuel clogging: There are specific challenges that can arise when you store your generator for a prolonged period. One such hazard is the clogging caused by fuel residue. When fuel gets old, it can thicken and lead to clogging in the carburetor. You can avoid this by:
- Allowing the generator to run until it stalls out before you proceed to store it.
- Before starting a generator that has been idling for a few months, drain the fuel tank empty and add fresh fuel.
- If you have to store fuel, especially gasoline, ensure to add fuel stabilizers.
- Run the generator at least once every 90 days to keep the engine oiled and prevent fuel clogging.
- Do not use a faulty generator: Inspect your generator for any damages before using it. If you suspect that the engine has been damaged in any way, do not use it.
If there have been any water damages or the gas tank is cracked or leaking, make sure to contact a professional for a repair.
Ensure to inspect the cords and hoses of your generator before using it and check the battery; these are the most common parts that get damaged when you use your generator in adverse weather conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a generator get rained on?
Generator manufacturers discourage their users from allowing their generators to be rained on. However, if it happens, wipe off the water before using it again or let the generator dry first.
What happens when a generator gets wet?
Using a portable generator when wet or with wet hands can cause an electric shock or electrocution. If you are looking to buy a safe generator for use during wet weather, make sure you select one with GFCI outlets.
Can a portable generator be left in the rain?
You must not leave a portable generator must in the rain. Besides posing an electrocution risk, rain can damage its components. You should not operate a portable generator in wet conditions.
Will water ruin a generator?
Yes, water can spoil your generator’s outlets and wiring and cause further damages when it gets to the alternator and other parts of the engine. If it gets wet, you should make sure to wipe off all the water before using it again. Don’t run a generator in the rain unless it has an enclosure or cover.
Do generators need to be covered from rain?
Yes, you must protect generators from rain or any water to prevent damages. You can use a generator shelter or cover to protect it from the rain. The latter is a temporary solution for anyone not in a position to build a shelter.
Portable generators are essential during emergencies such as blackouts caused by bad weather conditions. However, it is not advisable to operate a portable generator when it is wet. If you have to use your portable generator when it is raining, invest in a generator shelter, cover, and ensure it has GFCI protected outlets. Using a wet generator can lead to electrocution and damage to the outlets and internal components.